Sowing seeds: What is technology evangelism, anyway?

Today, I want to talk about grassroots adoption, when you’re trying to influence people around you to try out something new–a new tool, a new idea, a new way of working–without dictating to people. I hope that I can help you get a better sense of where other people are, what might be stopping them from moving forward, where you are, and how you can get better at helping other people learn.

I’m interested in this because as a technology evangelist, I’ve talked to a lot of people about social tools like blogging and wikis. Over the next few blog entries, I want to share some of the objections that I’ve come across. I also want to share some of the methods I’ve tried and observed.

But first, let’s talk about what technology evangelism is. You might be wondering why I use the term “evangelism”, considering its religious roots and sometimes negative connotations.

For me, evangelism has that hint of being more than just a dry list of facts. You want to inspire people to action, and you want to do this in a way that sticks even when you’re not around.

The technology you want to promote is not going to be a perfect fit for everyone or every time. Technology evangelism is not about convincing people that your way is the right way. It’s about showing people what their options are, helping them find something that fits them, and helping them learn how to make it part of their work or their lives. (I forget this sometimes, too.)

So if a technology isn’t going to be a perfect fit for everyone immediately, how can you encourage grassroots adoption?

One way is to scatter the seeds as widely as possible. If you reach out, you might find a lot of people who can benefit from the technology you want to promote. Help them, and their success stories and influence will help you reach out to even more people.

You might not have that option. You might have been asked to help a team get up to speed on a tool. You might want to explore a collaborative tool, but before you can take advantage of that tool, you’ll need to get other people on board too. (After all, you can’t collaborate on your own.)

This is where it can get frustrating.

Next post on Monday (or earlier =) ): Sowing seeds: Five common objections

  • Steve Meacham

    I, too, am an evangelist, both on religious issues and technological.

    Technologically, I am an SDLC (System Development Life Cycle) evangelist, for a US Government agency. The government has MANY standards, mandates, and directives. We also have many contractors doing software development. These contractors are bound by regulations (including contracts) to follow a particular SDLC.

    I try and try and try to do evangelism in the way you explain it – making it a part of how they work, rather than an impediment. I certainly want their assent, rather than their surrender. Nonetheless, surrender is what I get as often as not – we developers are a stubborn lot.

    Grassroots evangelism is never a 100% successful approach, but it is the friendlier of the options that I have available.

  • Yep. I totally agree with what all you have written!

    I have faced similar things, when I advocate about certain tools . Look forward, to reading about Sowing seeds.. Five Common objections