Can Occupy Wall Street cross the chasm?

Occupy Wall Street is exciting, but can it cross the chasm?

In 1991, Geoffrey A. Moore wrote a book for technology marketers called Crossing the Chasm. The idea behind the book is that early adopters of technology, who he calls visionaries and enthusiasts, will adopt a new piece of technology simply because it’s new, no questions asked.

If the world were made up of early adopters, then technology diffusion would be a cinch. Simply create something cool and novel, and everyone  would buy it. The problem for technology marketers is that these early
adopters make up a very small percentage of the entire market.

The world is not made up of early adopters. Most of the world are later  adopters, or what he calls the early and late majority. These people are pragmatic, and unfortunately, they don’t trust early adopters at all.  They think they are quirky and weird, and to the early and late
majority, the appearance of normality is critical to their identity, and informs their behaviour.

This is the paradox of the chasm. Early adopters will adopt almost anything  new, but the majority will only adopt things based on trusted  recommendations from other members of the majority.

Most of the folks involved seriously with Occupy Wall Street are early adopters.

These inspired young people are, to the majority, interesting but wacky. So, the question now is whether they can cross the chasm, and draw the
mainstream into their story.

There are forces working against them. The fact that the main high-profile  spokespeople for the movement seem to be people like Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Michael Moore, and Naomi Klein, should concern the movement.

It’s not that these aren’t super smart, passionate people. It’s that  these people are viewed as left-wing radicals by most Americans. They  are fringe critical campaigners for fundamental socio-economic change.  Most people fear that kind of rhetoric.

Next time you see Occupy Wall Street on one of the major news networks, look to see who’s being interviewed. Then ask yourself -- would the silent  majority trust this person?

If the answer is no, then it’s likely that the movement is still staring into the yawn of the chasm.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeremyosborn

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