Characteristics of First Wave and Second Wave People


How are First Wave people and Second Wave people different?

Ever since I first made contact with Michael Sampson I have been a fan of his work.

Michael is a Collaboration Strategist and has written several books on the subject.

In his book “User Adoption Strategies (2nd Ed.)” he discusses First Wave People and Second Wave PeopleI wrote an earlier post on Second Wave People, but now would like to republish something from Michael’s book that helps expand on the difference between “First Wave” and “Second Wave”:




Essential differences between First Wave people and Second Wave people.

What-why reversal.

activity-trackerA first wave person is attracted to the “what” of new collaboration technology, but may struggle to articulate the “why” – the future-oriented picture – to other people. They may “get it” implicitly, but struggle to put it into words.

analyze-performanceA second wave person gets the “why” (if it’s conveyed in terms of their work), but will need help with the “what”.

Different reference groups.


A first wave person sees the use of the tool within a self-created reference group, usually outside of their organisation.


businessmenA second wave person sees their own work and the use of tools contextualised within an internal reference group.

Different rewards.

employee-of-the-monthGetting to use new tools is reward enough from first wavers.


performance-chartSecond wavers have to understand where and how the new tools will improve their current work.

Speed of adoption.

desktop-computerFirst wavers will quickly embrace new tools, and will learn how to do so through trial-and-error.


school-chairSecond wavers need greater external help and hand-holding to make the transition from current tools and approaches to work.

Nature of involvement.

business-ideaFirst wavers have a high degree of involvement in defining what could be done, what should be done, and how to do it.



Second wavers are generally expected to follow along and do what they’re told.

Dealing with the old.

junkFirst wavers will be quick to call the old stuff “dead” and will move away from it as quickly as possible.


recyclingSecond wavers want to embrace new things within the context of what they know and have.

It is their job vs. It could be used for their job.

microscopeFirst wave people often have an organisational responsibility to try out new things, and see what could be useful to the way work gets done. It’s part of their job to explore the new.

emailFor second wavers, they actually have a “real job” to do – that’s how they describe it – and the specific technology to enable interaction and collaboration is, at best, tolerated.


Want to learn more?

Below is a selection of resources that I personally feel are relevant to this blog post, and will allow you to get more in-depth knowledge. I do earn a commission if you purchase any of these, and for that I am grateful. Thank you. (Important Disclosure)


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    1. Michael Sampson 25/07/2013

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