WRAL Tech Wire

RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina Technology Association’s (NCTA) first program in its 2011 Leadership Series First Droppers: Leaders Daring to be Different is set for next week in Raleigh.

While “early adopters” have traditionally garnered attention as forward-thinking and innovative – especially in technology circles – this event focuses on “First Droppers.” First Droppers are characterized as those individuals who make the bold decisions that make or break companies.

Greg Behr and Billy Warden are featured speakers for the event, and will discuss the First Droppers concept they pioneered.

WRAL Tech Wire recently spoke to Behr and Warden about their First Droppers idea.

Explain First Droppers and why it is relevant to the tech sector?
Behr/Warden: The true kings and queens of business and culture are not the much-hyped first or early adopters, but the much more shadow-y and dangerous First Droppers. In marketing circles, it’s the first adopters – those trendy consumers standing in line for iPads – who receive loving attention. But businesses, political strategists, and culture vultures need to carefully consider the importance of the disgruntled and defiant – the First Dropper. The concept is especially relevant to the tech sector. Much of technology aims to satisfy a human striving for a “heightened experience.” That’s exactly the trigger for First Droppers to stick or move on – potentially taking a whole generation with them. When First Droppers make a “divergent decision,” an elite group becomes the innovators striving for something better. That’s where next big things come from.

Do you have some examples from the product side of the tech industry?
The Details Magazine piece on our First Droppers concept looks at Facebook and how the company may have learned from droppers. Let’s look at Twitter. It promises the heightened experience of constant contact with friends, celebrities, and the world! And for many, that experience is real and rich. But the vast majority of Tweets are generated by a tiny percentage of users. That suggests many are turning away. This was foretold by First Droppers. Think about the Time Magazine cover story, “How Twitter Will Change The Way We Live,” published in June 2009 – six months BEFORE it came out, a noted marketing blogger explained he was leaving Twitter because it was not enhancing the way he lived. First Droppers are after a heightened experience. They drift away when dealing with the new product or idea overtakes the heightened experience it offers. It’s not so much that some technology has run amok as that it’s running users ragged. Twitter may have something to learn from its droppers. Dan Neil, the Pulitzer-winning auto columnist for The Wall Street Journal, will discuss examples of how First Droppers have impacted an innovation-dependent industry.

How does this thinking translate to the operational side of business?
Companies are often tempted to go with what’s ‘hot’ rather than what works. The critical thinking of the First Dropper means that any and all operational moves are subject to rigorous review and maybe the heave-ho. The last thing a company wants is to invest time and money in something that isn’t the right fit, but that’s exactly what happens when the early adopter rather than the First Dropper mentality carries the day. Southwest Airlines can be seen as an operational First Dropper that turned its critical thinking into a brand. Southwest jetted away from the cold-eyed institutionalism of the major airlines. No frills. No arrogance. Much better prices.

What are some expected trends by First Droppers?
What’s next is precisely part of what we’ll talk about with the folks at our NCTA presentation. There are all sorts of possibilities – perhaps your company’s products. Here’s what we know for sure: the First Dropper is only going to become more influential. Our digital world makes it possible for the independent thinker who used to be a lone wolf going his own way in relative isolation to be the leader of a movement.

NCTA’s event, sponsored by Deutsche Bank Global Technology Inc., is set for Wednesday, Feb. 23 from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Arena Club in the RBC Center.

The event is open to NCTA members and non-members.

Tickets are $45 for members or $65 for non-members. Tables of 6 are $250 and available to members and non-members. To register, contact Michelle Calton at mcalton@nctechnology.org or call (919) 890-0771.

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