I was recently sitting through a technical discussion and was thinking about how different people were reacting to the information in the presentation. From this I started to think about how a two pairs of related factors seem to influence how people react to new technology. Here's a quick chart showing them as well as examples of prototypical statements a person at each extremes in each quadrant might speak about Source Code Control:
For a bit of definition:
- The Conservative - Liberal continuum is a measure how inclined you are to try new technologies. An extreme conservative feels no need to use anything new and will never use anything new unless the old thing completely fails to work any more. An extreme liberal would be compelled to change technological approaches before even finishing a prototype because a new shine technology showed up on their radar.
- The Skeptic - Believer continuum is a measure of how much critical thinking you put into a new technologies capabilities. An extreme skeptic would tend to disregard pundits and anecdotal evidence and require solid proof. An extreme believer will have a religious-like believe in a technology that has no basis in fact.
The reason I put this chart together is to help understand that these things are not binary switches. In addition, some traits are orthogonal (Skeptic and Conservative), but some are in opposition (Skeptic Believer). Moreover, different techniques are necessary to understand how to interact with folks depending on where they fall in both continuums.
Conservatives will generally require a lot of selling or you will need to burn the bridge behind them or they will continue falling back into the "good ol way of doing it". Conservative Believers will be the hardest lot to convince because the sheer amount of time they've been doing something (no matter how stupid it might be) will actually be a reenforcing factor and no amount of factual evidence to the contrary will sway them. On the other hand, a conservative sceptic can often be swayed with evidence and a good business case for doing things "the new way".
Liberals will generally require more oversight as they will tend to embrace and proliferate new technologies. Liberal believers are the most difficult because they will do it just because they read about it on hacker news and it sounded cool. These guys often need to be brought back down to earth lest your systems be riddled with one-off science experiments. Liberal skeptics (I'd put myself largely in this camp) are easiest for me personally to deal with, but I think that's because I'm one of them. For the most part, the closer to each other on the quadrants your team is, the more likely you are to get consensus on what to do (or NOT for some groups.