Today technology is evolving at an ever rapid pace (as are the strategies) and is impacting every facet of an organization from HR to the supply chain. We see this especially in the social business space where new tools and networks emerge regularly, however, regardless of the medium, the technology, or the areas of the business that are affected; the organization still needs to ask itself a very important question: ”Is it worth investing in new technologies to stay on the bleeding edge or is it better to wait for other companies to deploy these technologies and instead be a fast follower?”
Oftentimes you hear people talking about the “first mover advantage,” meaning if you get there first you win. Organizations that follow closely behind the “first movers” are the “fast followers.” As organizations venture into the world of social business this discussion becomes quite relevant. Perhaps it is easy to dip your toe into the water with a twitter account, a corporate blog, or a facebook fan page. But what happens when we start to look at more significant business investments such as deploying costly internal collaboration tools, re-training departments, changing business processes to deal with social technologies and customer demands, integrating multiple new social technologies with legacy systems, and the like? Now all of a sudden the decision becomes much more significant. Many companies today actually are doing just fine without investing in social or collaborative technologies. Other companies suffer from the “shiny toy” syndrome and feel the need to invest in the latest and greatest technologies. So the question becomes, is it better to be a “first mover,” or a “fast follower?” (yes I know there are other options such as being a laggard, etc, I’m just focusing on just these two).
I don’t think there is a better or worse option here as there are examples to support both; not to sound cliche but I think the type of organization and culture will largely dictate this decision as well as the success.
The first mover has the opportunity to define and own a market but also has the greatest risk of failure which can mean the demise of the organization. The fast follower can observe the first mover and get a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t but also risks not being able to innovate fast enough and may lose market share and customers to the first mover.
What do you think? Is it better to be a first mover or a fast follower?