Winning the Hardware Software Game Winning the Hardware-Software Game - 2nd Edition

Using Game Theory to Optimize the Pace of New Technology Adoption
  • How do you encourage speedier adoption of your product or service?
  • How do you increase the value your product or service creates for your customers?
  • How do you extract more of the value created by your product or service for yourself?



  • The US medical cannabis market is currently in its early stages of adoption: the market has gained some penetration, but not enough to warrant adoption by the early majority, that is, more mainstream users. My book, Winning the Hardware-Software Game, describes the technology adoption lifecycle in detail. A brief summary and illustration (Figure 1) of the technology adoption process taken from the book indicates:

    [T]he consumption lifecycle of a new innovation entails adoption by four general groups of users: (1) innovators and early adopters, risk takers, who are attracted to novel innovations that offer new and different features and capabilities; (2) the early majority, who are more deliberate in their purchasing decisions, requiring bug-free products whose value has been validated by early adopters; (3) the late majority, a skeptical lot, who demand low prices and large amounts of product support; and finally (4) laggards, the traditionalists, who adopt new innovations only when forced to do so.

    Figure 1

    tech adoption

    By understanding the wants and needs of majority adopters, we can ask: how must the medical cannabis market evolve to become amenable to adoption by more mainstream users?

    Our goal is to surmise the wants and needs of more mainstream adopters. We can achieve this, first, by considering how cannabis provides value to those adopters. Once we understand the value proposition, we can then determine how the market will evolve to increase value to users.

  • In 2005, a physician-scientist research pioneer, John Ioannides, published what has come to be a widely circulated paper, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” The replication crisis we’re having in science embodies the concern voiced by Mr. Ioannides. Yet, despite much evidence that so many studies are not valid, scientific professionals continue to rely almost exclusively on study results when deciding on best practices.

    So many studies are flawed. As a simple example, please take my survey by answering the following question:

    Over the past 12 months, how many times have you visited a doctor?

    Take as much time as you need to answer the question…

    Got your answer?

    Okay, now let me ask you a few questions about the number of visits you just “reported” for my study.

    First, to answer my question, did you just think back in your mind, or did you actually check your records? Most people will probably come up with a “good estimate” based on what they can quickly recall. Relatively few people will make the effort to reference records to help them come up with a more accurate estimate.

    As for what we remember, researchers continue to discover new ways in which our memories paint an inaccurate portrait of “the truth” (to the extent the truth exists). For example, the telescoping effect is a common cognitive bias affecting our memory, where we tend “to displace recent events backward in time and remote events forward in time, so that recent events appear more remote, and remote events, more recent.” The telescoping effect is just one of many different cognitive biases – Wikipedia lists 42 different cognitive biases that affect our memories – any one of which may cause your reported number of visits to the doctor over the past 12 months to be more or less than the “true” number.

    Second, what types of providers did you include in your estimate? Did you include any visits to a dentist, nurse practitioner, therapist, optician, optometrist, pharmacist, herbalist, or other allopathic provider? Different people will have different interpretations of what’s included in the category “doctor.”

  • The Separate Worlds of Science and Technology

    Throughout most of human history, science and technology existed within completely separate realms of society. Science, or natural philosophy, fell within the realm of the upper ranks of society. Natural philosophers were “uncommitted to any program of useful knowledge,” developing “abstract speculations about the natural world.”[1] Joel Mokyr calls science the sphere of savants.[2]

    In contrast, technology historically fell within the realm of the working classes, those who used their hands to earn a living, so-called fabricants: physicians, engineers, and skilled mechanics. Technology was developed as a tinkering, or learning-by-doing, process, without any understanding of the scientific underpinnings of how things worked.

    Historians James McClellan and Harold Dorn describes the worlds of science and technology as being completely separate, with only a small overlap of applied science:

    Only in those handful of subject areas where societies required and patronized specialized knowledge – astrology/astronomy, literacy, numeracy, aspects of engineering, and medicine for example – is it at all meaningful to speak of a limited existence of applied science. Otherwise, worlds of technology and learned science remained sociologically and institutionally poles apart. The vast bulk of technology was not applied science and had developed according to sociologically distinct craft traditions.[1]

    The Shift to Anticipating a Better Future

    Throughout history, society served gods and kings. New information was presented authoritatively and simply accepted by the masses as being true. During this time, society tended to be backward-looking; that is, people looked to the past and the ancients as the ideal, rather than looking to the future as inspiration as a better time, when society would progress.

    It was the Scientific Revolution (1543 – 1687) that finally ushered in a change in perspective, from a backward- to a forward-looking society: “At the deepest level, the common denominator was the belief in the possibility and desirability of human progress and perfectability through reason and knowledge.”[2] The fundamental features of the Scientific Revolution were: (i) the social utility of science, that is, that science and knowledge could be used to improved man’s well-being, and (ii) the emergence of the scientific method, where new information was gained through experiments that explained natural phenomena.[1]

  • Based on the incentives facing different players in the US medical cannabis market, I believe the market will not achieve mainstream adoption unless or until the US overcomes several hurdles: (i) the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug, (ii) cannabis’s lack of FDA approval, (iii) the lack of clear information about and trust in cannabis as a safe and medically efficacious product, and (iv) the social disapproval of cannabis use by a significant portion of society.

    Players in the Medical Cannabis Game

    Let’s start by examining the incentives facing the main participants in the medical cannabis market.

    hurdles to adoption