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April 22-25, 2003, Santa Clara -Explore. Invent. Connect.


Demand for Innovation
Cheri Anderson, SRI - VALS Program

Track: Untethered
Date: Friday, April 25
Time: 1:15pm - 2:00pm
Location: Winchester

What role does personality play in bringing about the success or failure of innovations such as new ideas, movements, or products? In this session, Anderson explores how personality traits can be systematically used to deepen our understanding of (and ability to anticipate) the adoption and rejection of innovations. Today, researchers are plugging away at evolutionary or biological models of adoption that explain particular instances of innovation. As an alternative, Anderson presents a stable segmentation of people, based on a weighted combination of personality traits and demographics, that can be applied across time and innovations to model differences in the demand for innovations. In addition, she uses the segmentation to grapple with questions such as: What kinds of people play what kinds of innovation adoption roles, e.g. loosening social norms, being early with status symbols? What types of innovations are likely to predominate in ten to twenty years? What kinds of forces could radically change demand for innovations?

Anderson describes how she became involved with this subject: "In grad school, I worked on a project to evaluate the usefulness of using narratives (such as non-news, non-reality TV stories) in behavior research to cross-check and extend findings from traditional sources such as experiments, surveys, and interviews. The basic idea is that narratives and traditional data sources have offsetting assets and liabilities and so much can be gained by bringing both narratives and traditional data sources to bear on the same research questions. As a function of my program of study, one of my research questions was: How closely do the personalities of well-known but fictional TV characters resemble the personalities of real people? After grad school, I went to work at an advertising agency, where I continued analyzing patterns of similarities and differences between people. However, at the advertising agency, the interest was in current lifestyles and in groups of people such as heavy uses of Hamburger Helper or those who use credit cards that offer bonuses -- as about applied as it gets! In 1998, I came to work at SRI and the VALS program. In the VALS program, we develop and apply tools that bring the interpretative power of stable attitudes and personality traits to an accessible and market-ready level for a variety of end users. The role of personality and individual differences in bringing about innovation in new ways of living, new social movements or new products and services is important and compelling. This story focuses on the aggregate power of individuals or even the power of a single individual to disproportionately affect large numbers of people in bringing about innovation.

"Much of the content of the presentation is intuitive; however, many people have not put the pieces of the puzzle together in the same way as we have. Perhaps I can compare this presentation to a caricature. Sometimes we need a caricature of ourselves to be reminded of the subtle things that are so pervasive in shaping our lives."

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