Lots of success stories show us that the early adopters of new techniques and methods are able to stay ahead of the competition and the rest plays a catch up game. There are many companies and individuals today who consistently assess, try and adopt new technologies. There is also a significant effort involved to be on the cutting edge. The adoption is a time consuming process and the adopters are at the mercy of the fallibility of the new technologies or process. During the format wars of VHS and BetaMax, BetaMax adopters had to suffer the failure of that format. A stand-up comedian Steven Wright pointed out that “The second mouse gets the cheese”, making fun of expensive early adoption.
De Havilland decided to make commercial jet aircrafts with many firsts like comfortable seating, large windows, pressurized cabins. They came up with a great plane “Comet”, the world’s first commercial jetliner. It also flew very high which was also one among the firsts but metal fatigue caused the planes to crash. Crashing due to metal fatigue was one of the firsts as well, the other companies like Boeing got the lessons from Comet’s failure and produced better designs. After the failure De Havilland struggled to catch up and eventually became defunct in just 12 years after its state of the art jetliner made its first commercial flight.
The story about Comet is not that early adopters fail, we should always back early adoption with enough financial/human resources, tolerate risks & fail safe; above all a strong need with significant business gains. Businesses backed with strong research departments; the culture of trying, assessing & using new techniques & methods; a good vision about the future will continue to make early adoption look easy. We should be careful enough not to be on the bleeding edge as it looks like an easy job from the success stories on the other side.