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Mark Twain – User Adoption Specialist?

Originally published on Tri Tuns blog Insights.

Recently I stumbled on a page of Mark Twain quotes. I realized that the insights and teachings of a man who died decades before modern information systems were even conceived may hold some of the greatest lessons for how to deliver successful technology adoption programs.

While Mark, who never had a smart phone (a term I am sure would have amused him to no end), who never faced a full email inbox, who never Tweeted (is that really a verb?), and who would probably laugh at the notion of an online social community, had some of the keenest insight about the nature of man.

Sadly, it is often a lack of understanding about the nature of man that leads many IT projects to plunge into great depths of despair and poor adoption.

Over the next few weeks, let’s take a look at Mark’s words in relation to IT user adoption programs.

When examined in the context of various aspects of effective user adoption programs, Mark shows us some of the common mistakes and misplaced assumptions that often plague many IT projects.

How can you use Mark’s insights to deliver a more effective user adoption program?


When talking with new and prospective clients, one of the biggest problems we see is that people often believe they already know all of the specific challenges they need to overcome in order to deliver effective technology adoption.

Given this, they believe that there is no need to spend time or money assessing the drivers or barriers of user adoption within their organization, much less devising an actionable strategy to move forward successfully.

Unfortunately, we have found – without exception – that there always critical items that are missed when you don’t investigate before your take action. These issues typically take the form of either key factors that were missed or the form of faulty (unverified) assumptions that led to great mistakes and wasted time or resources later.


Before you assume you don’t need a user adoption strategy, consider Mark’s words:

  • “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

  • “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”

  • It is wiser to find out than to suppose.”

  • “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.”

Sound familiar? Take our free quiz to see how at risk your project may be, sign up for our weekly Quick Tips, or contact us to learn more.

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Josh Nankivel

I love Mark Twain.

The curse of knowledge abounds. And user adoption is tied of course to making sure you built the right thing in the first place too.

Through all phases of development of a new product including user adoption of a new tool, assuming that you know without validating that assumption is a bad idea.

Since I focus on product development, things like user stories, lean/agile iterative development, set-based design, etc. are very important. If you develop the product right and it meets the needs and wants of the end user, getting adoption of it is much less of a challenge. People should WANT to use it not only out of necessity but because they like it so damn much.

Chris Cairns

Great post. You’re absolutely right that you must understand the drivers to adoption if you’re to be successful in implementing new programs or technologies.