Diffusion of Innovation
Definition of Diffusion of Innovation
In his comprehensive book Diffusion of Innovation, Everett Rogers defines diffusion as the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. Rogers’ definition contains four elements that are present in the diffusion of innovation process.
The four main elements are:
(1) Innovation – an idea, practices, or objects that is perceived as knew by an individual or other unit of adoption.
(2) Communication Channels – the means by which messages get from one individual to another.
(3) Time – the three time factors are:
(a) innovation-decision process
(b) relative time with which an innovation is adopted by an individual or group.
(c) innovation’s rate of adoption.
(4) Social System – a set of interrelated units that are engaged in joint problem solving to accomplish a common goal.
An innovation is an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption
Characteristics of the innovation that relate to diffusion and adoption
1) Relative advantage is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as better than the idea it supersedes. The greater the perceived relative advantage of an innovation, the more rapid its rate of adoption will be.
2) Compatibility is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters.
3) Complexity is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to understand and use. New ideas that are simpler to understand are adopted more rapidly than innovations that require the adopter to develop new skills and understandings.
4) Trialability is the degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis. New ideas that can be tried on installment plan will generally be adopted more quickly than innovations that are not divisible. An innovation that is trialable represents less uncertainty to the individual who is considering it for adoption, as it is possible to learn by doing.
5) Observability is the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others. The easier it is for individuals to see the results of an innovation, the more likely they are to adopt
- Communication Channels
The essence of the diffusion process is the information exchange through which one individual communicates a new idea to one or several others. At its most elementary form, the process involves
(1) An innovation,
(2) An individual or other unit of adoption that has knowledge of, or has experienced using, the innovation,
(3) Another individual or other unit that does not yet have knowledge of, or experience with, the innovation, and
(4) A communication channel connecting the two units.
A communication channel is the means by which messages get from one individual to another. The nature of the information exchange relationship between a pair of individuals determines the conditions under which a source will or will not transmit the innovation to the receiver and the effect of such a transfer. Mass Media channels are all those means of transmitting messages that involve a mass medium, such as radio, television, newspapers, and so on, which enable one or a few individuals to reach and audience of many
It is involved in diffusion in three ways:
- The innovation-decision process
The innovation-decision process by which an individual passes from first knowledge of an innovation through its adoption or rejection
the process through which an individual passes from first knowledge of an innovation, to the formation of an attitude towards the innovation, to a decision to adopt or reject, to implementation and use of the new idea, and to confirmation of this decision. We conceptualize five main steps in the innovation-decision process:
Rogers defines the innovation-decision process as the “process through which an individual (or other decision making unit such as a group, society, economy, or country) passes through the innovation-decision process”.
- Knowledge In this stage the individual is first exposed to an innovation but lacks information about the innovation. During this stage of the process the individual has not been inspired to find more information about the innovation.
- Persuasion In this stage the individual is interested in the innovation and actively seeks information/detail about the innovation.
- Decision In this stage the individual takes the concept of the change and weighs the advantages/disadvantages of using the innovation and decides whether to adopt or reject the innovation. Due to the individualistic nature of this stage Rogers notes that it is the most difficult stage to acquire empirical evidence
- Implementation In this stage the individual employs the innovation to a varying degree depending on the situation. During this stage the individual determines the usefulness of the innovation and may search for further information about it.
- Confirmation Although the name of this stage may be misleading, in this stage the individual finalizes his/her decision to continue using the innovation and may end up using it to its fullest potential.
- Innovativeness “the degree to which an individual or other unit of adoption is relatively earlier in adopting new ideas than other members of a social system.”
Adopter categories, the classification of members of a social system on the basis of innovativeness, include
- Early adopters
- Early majority
- Late majority
- Innovators– First to adopt; they are willing to take risks, young, have financial lucidity, are social and have closest contact to scientific sources and interaction with other innovators
- Early Adopters– Second to adopt; socially forward, have highest degree of opinion leadership, slightly more discrete, interested in being established as up-to-date
- Early Majority– Adopt after a varying degree of time; have above average social status, contact with early adopters
- Late Majority– Adopt after the average member of the society; highly skeptical, have below average social status, little financial lucidity
- Laggards– Last to adopt; show little to no opinion leadership, have an aversion to change-agents, tend to be older, tradition-focused
III. Innovation’s rate of adoption
The Adoption Process
In his book Diffusion of Innovations, Rogers defines the diffusion process as one “which is the spread of a new idea from its source of invention or creation to its ultimate users or adopters”. Rogers differentiates the adoption process from the diffusion process in that the diffusion process occurs within society, as a group process; whereas, the adoption process is pertains to an individual. Rogers defines “the adoption process as the mental process through which an individual passes from first hearing about an innovation to final adoption”.
Five Stages of Adoption
Rogers breaks the adoption process down into five stages. Although, more or fewer stages may exist, Rogers says that “at the present time there seem to be five main functions”. The five stages are:
(4) Trial, and
In the awareness stage “the individual is exposed to the innovation but lacks complete information about it”. At the interest or information stage “the individual becomes interested in the new idea and seeks additional information about it”. At the evaluation stage the “individual mentally applies the innovation to his present and anticipated future situation, and then decides whether or not to try it”. During the trial stage “the individual makes full use of the innovation”. At the adoption stage “the individual decides to continue the full use of the innovation”.
Rejection and Discontinuance
Of course, as Rogers points out, an innovation may be rejected during any stage of the adoption process. Rogers defines rejection as a decision not to adopt an innovation. Rejection is not to be confused from discontinuance. Discontinuance is a rejection that occurs after adoption of the innovation.
Rogers synopses many of the significant research findings on discontinuance. Many “discountenances occur over a relatively short time period” and few of the “discountenances were caused by supersedence of a superior innovation replacing a previously adopted idea”. One of the most significant findings was research done by Johnson and Vandan Ban (1959):
The relatively later adopters had twice as many discountenances as the earlier adopters. Previous researchers had assumed that later adopters were relatively less innovative because they did not adopt or were relatively slow to adopt innovations. This evidence suggests the later adopters may adopt, but then discontinue at a later point in time.
Rogers identifies two types of discontinuance:
(1) Disenchantment discontinuance – a decision to reject an idea as a result of dissatisfaction with it’s performance, and
(2) Replacement discontinuance – a decision to reject an idea in order to adopt a better idea.
- Social System
- “a set of interrelated units that are engaged in joint problem solving to accomplish a common goal.” (Rogers, pp.37)
- Every system has a structure, a patterned arrangements of the units in a system.
- “The social and communication structure of a system facilitates or impedes the diffusion of innovations in the system.” (Rogers, pp.37)
- An important aspect of social structure is norms, which is “the established behavior patterns for the members of a social system.” (Rogers, pp.37)
- Opinion leadership is an “individual able to influence informally other individuals’ attitudes or overt behavior in a desired way with relative frequency.” (Rogers, pp.37-38)
- Change agent is an “individual who attempts to influence clients’ innovation-decisions in a direction that is deemed desirable by a change agency.” (Rogers, pp.38)
- Aide “is a less than fully professional change agent who intensively contacts clients to influence their innovation-decisions.” (Rogers, pp.38)
Four main types of innovation-decisions:
- Optional innovation-decisions
A choice to adopt or reject a new idea made by an individual independent of the decisions from other members in the system.
- Collective innovation-decisions
A choice to adopt or reject a new idea made by consensus of the majority in the social system.
- Authority innovation-decisions
A choice to adopt or reject a new idea that is made by few individuals in a system who possess power, status, or technical expertise.
- A fourth type innovative-decision can be considered where it is a combination of two or more of these three types called, Contingent innovation-decisions, which are choices that are either adopted or rejected made only after a prior innovation-decision.
Consequences are “changes that occur to an individual or a social system as a result of the adoption or rejection of an innovation.” (Roger, pp.38
The New Learning about Innovation
Mark Dodgson and John Bessant in their book “Effective Innovation Policy: A New Approach” recognize that `success’ in innovation is not simply a matter of moving a resource from A to B, but “the capability on the part of the recipient to do something useful with that resource”, in other words, to innovate effectively.
Dodgson and Bessant acknowledge that innovation is not an “instantaneous event, but a time-based process involving several stages”. They have identified these stages as:
(1) Initial recognition of opportunity or need,
(6) Implementation, and
(7) Long-term use (involving learning and development).
The diffusion of innovation process consists of four main elements: the innovation, communication through certain channels, over time, and among the members of a social system. Research concerning the diffusion of innovation process has increased significantly the past several decades due to its’ versatility. A universality or similarity found amongst the various research studies on the diffusion of innovation process is that the adoption process or the rate of diffusion can be charted on an S-shaped curve.
Of vast importance to those in the advertising field is the innovation-decision process. Rogers defines the innovation-decision process as the process through which an individual passes from first knowledge of an innovation to forming an attitude toward the innovation, to a decision to adopt or reject, to implementation and use of the new idea, and to confirmation of this decision.
The diffusion of innovation process can be tracked on a micro level as is the case of an individual who is a targeted member of an audience, or traced at the macro level when considering economic development or technological advances. In either instance, during the course of the twentieth century the diffusion of innovation theory has proven to be versatile, universal, but most important relevant.
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