I’m an innovator, Who are you?

by Mr. Sheehy

My mom has always loved those personality tests – those deals where you answer long questionnaires and then see your whole life revealed in four common categories. I recognize the validity and value of them, so I don’t knock them; though because it’s my mother who had the enthusiasm for them, and because she was so into them, I tend to tease them a bit. It didn’t help that I can never remember the names of the four types and she and one of her best friends speak of them to each other in short-hand, they know them so well.

There was a stretch when she and her friend were visiting us here on the Great Plains and while we were hanging out, I’d be saying something that gave my personality trait a classic category; they’d exchange knowing glances before saying, “he’s definitely a IRQT.” Or whatever it was they’d say. It was like an educated version of IM speak, which, by the way, I’ve noticed students have begun to use in normal conversation. Usually when I hear it they’re stating the shorthand because the real version is not appropriate for school, but at times I’ll hear someone affirm a joke with a verbal “LOL” instead of actually laughing out loud. Does anyone else see a problem with this? They’re admitting outright that they’re not laughing out loud when they write that! The gig is up! Your secret has been revealed!

Back to my topic – the personality tests. I continue to read Everett Rogers’s Diffusion of Innovations and the chapter I read this morning on “Innovativeness and Adopter Categories” intrigues me in the same way the Myers-Briggs personality tests intrigued my mom and her friend, especially when I think of the people with whom I associate in the blogosphere and in educational technology circles. If you’re reading this, see if you can find yourself in the two paragraphs I’m going to share here. My own blurbs and editorial commentary are inserted, but I have edited little out of the original paragraphs :

Innovators: Venturesome

Venturesomeness is almost an obsession with innovators. This interest in new ideas leads them out of a local circle of peer networks and into more cosmopolite social relationships.

Like, maybe to the Internet and an online community of practice? I’m not sure I’d call this cosmopolite, but the behavioral pattern strikes me as true.

Communication patterns and friendships among a clique of innovators are common, even though the geographical distance between the innovators may be considerable.

For me, this is revealed especially by my close communication with my district’s full time technology staff developers, despite their being in a different building than me, and my seeing them only once a month.

Being an innovator has several prerequisites. . . . The ability to understand and apply complex technical knowledge is . . . needed.

I’d like to think this is true, but for me it goes too far. For others I know, however, I’d apply this.

The innovator must be able to cope with a high degree of uncertainty about an innovation at the time of adoption.

The salient value of the innovator is venturesomeness, due to a desire for the rash, the daring, and the risky. The innovator must also be willing to accept an occasional setback when a new idea proves unsuccessful, as inevitably happens.

Will it work? Who cares? We’ll give it a go and throw out what fails spectacularly. Anyone who has attempted any use of Twitter in the classroom automatically qualifies for this. If this doesn’t apply to you, I do wonder if maybe it applies to the person who introduced you to blogs?

While an innovator may not be respected by the other members of a local system,

Okay, my colleagues are too kind not to respect me. But they definitely think I’m in my own little world over there.

the innovator plays an important role in the diffusion process: That of launching the new idea in the system by importing the innovation from outside the system’s boundaries. Thus, the innovator plays a gatekeeping role in the flow of new ideas into a system.

I love the gatekeeper idea, because I think it’s an awful metaphor for what Rogers just described. He just pointed out that we let practically every idea through the gate and only later toss out the seedy intruders. Metaphorically, innovators are the worst gatekeepers possible. We’re more like the inquisitors on the outside of the gate, and the Early Adopters are the gatekeepers. But, I understand what Rogers is trying to say, so I won’t harp on this one too much.

Kind of fun to play the “Where are you?” game in those paragraphs, isn’t it? I want to share more about the next category on the bell curve – the early adopters – which I suspect is where many of the new blog writers and readers are, but I want to save some of that for another post I’ve got written down in my notebook and plan on typing later.

Thanks for reading.