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INNOVATION DIFFUSION THEORY Innovation Diffusion Theory Theorists: Everett Rodgers and Geoffrey Moore Everett Rogers

Dr. Everett M Rogers was a Distinguished Professor of Communication at the University of New Mexico. He received a doctorate from Iowa State University in 1957. During his career he conducted innovation diffusion research internationally, published over 500 articles, and authored over 30 books. One of his authored books is titled Diffusion of Innovation, which is considered one of the definitive works on the topic of Innovation Diffusion (Hall, n.d.). Geoffrey Moore Dr. Geoffrey Moore is a leader in the area of high-tech innovation and author of several best-selling books on the topic of innovation diffusion. His book Crossing the Chasm is considered one of the important works on the topic of innovation diffusion related to high-tech products. He is a consultant, venture capitalist, speaker, and leader in the field of technology. He holds a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Washington and a bachelors degree in literature from Stanford University (HarperCollins Publishers, 2002a). Description of Theory Overview Rogers (2003) describes diffusion as the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system (p. 11). Through this definition he identifies four key elements of the diffusion process. These elements are the innovation, communication channels, time, and social system. The Innovation Diffusion Theory has been adopted and refined in many disciplines. Surry (1997) explains: diffusion research, in its simplest form, investigates how these major factors, and a multitude of


other factors, interact to facilitate or impede the adoption of a specific product or practice among members of a particular adopter group (para. 2). This general description of the Innovation Diffusion Theory has been adopted and refined for studies in disciplines ranging from education, engineering, business, economics, and many other fields. The Innovation Diffusion Theory focuses on explaining and predicting how new ideas or products are spread and if those ideas or products are adopted or rejected by a group of people. History Rogers (2003) explains the foundational ideas of the Innovation Diffusion Theory can be traced to the early 1900s from a French sociologist named Gabriel Tarde. Tarde identified the importance of acceptance and rejection of innovations as a key element to imitation or what later became known as adoption according to the Innovation Diffusion Theory. Tardes work proposed an S-shaped curve to visualize how new ideas are adopted among a group of people over time (Rogers, 2003). In the 1940s and 1950s, building on the assumptions developed from the early work in diffusion of innovation, rural sociologists began studying the spread of innovations among farmers (Rogers, 2003). Over time, the Innovation Diffusion theory broaden to include a crossdisciplinary viewpoint of how new ideas, practices, or objects are shared among a many types of communities. In 1962, Everett Rogers published his seminal work titled Diffusion of Innovations. This book, which is currently in its fifth edition, describes the core assumptions of the theory and has been the foundation for many publications and studies on diffusion of innovations. One of these major works which further defines the Innovation Diffusion Theory is a book by Geoffrey Moore published in 1991 titled Crossing the Chasm. Moore builds on Rogers viewpoints by presenting

INNOVATION DIFFUSION THEORY a niche approach to gaining mainstream adoption for disruptive innovations (HarperCollins Publishers, 2002b, para. 2). Specifically, he focuses on high-tech innovations and identifies a chasm which must be systematically transcended before widespread diffusion of innovation can occur (Moore, 2002). Core Assumptions Elements of Diffusion of Innovations Rogers (2003) proposed that diffusion of innovations can be synthesized into four key elements. These key elements are; an innovation, communication channels, time, and the social system. Rogers (2003) defines an innovation as an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption (p. 12). Examples might include a technology, teaching technique, or management approach. These are ideas or practices that are contrary to general norms and break the pattern of common assumptions. Rogers (2003) explains that innovations are perceived by individuals as having greater relative advantage, capability, trialability, and observability and less complexity will be adopted more rapidly than other innovations (p. 16). This statement suggests that innovations which are perceived as being

beneficial are more likely to be rapidly adopted than those that may provide benefit, but are more difficult to understand or use. Simplicity of innovations is an important benefit when it comes to communicating the innovations ideas among communities because it may be easier to craft messages that are readily understood. Rogers (2003) describes the method by which a message is shared between individuals as the communication channel. The channel through which messages are sent may be auditory or visual, or communicated through electronic, print, or a combination of various

INNOVATION DIFFUSION THEORY media types. Communication challenges may be informal such as office discussions or private conversations, or may involve mass media, disseminating ideas to a very large audience. Mass media channels generally have the ability to transmit information most rapidly (Rogers, 2003) which makes it a popular method for accelerating diffusion. The communication channel is needed to share the innovation and benefit of the innovation with an audience. The third element of diffusion of innovation is time. Time is a variable not commonly used in behavioral science research which makes it an important strength in this theory (Rogers,

2003). Rogers further describes how time influences the innovation-decision process, how early or late an innovation is adopted by a group, and the rate of adoption within a specific system (number of people using the innovation). The fourth element is the social system. Rogers (2003) defines a social system as a set of interrelated units that are engaged in joint problem solving to accomplish a common goal (p. 23). The social system can be thought of as a group of people that share common interests or goals. Social systems can be individuals, groups, organizations, or a combination of all three social systems (Rogers, 2003). The Innovation-Decision Process In order for innovations to be adopted, there must be a decision process that takes place (Rogers, 2003). This process helps an individual or decision-making entity decide if an innovation should be accepted or rejected. The person or entity must determine if the innovation will help them in some way. Rogers (2003) calls this five-phase process the Innovation-Decision Process. The elements of this decision process are explained in Table 1. The Innovation-Decision Process is an important component of the Innovation Diffusion Theory because it encapsulates the process through which innovations are adopted. For

INNOVATION DIFFUSION THEORY example, as a new technology is released to the marketplace, consumers must go through this process to determine if the new innovation will address their specific need and if so, to what extent. A diagram of The Innovation-Decision Process is included in Figure 1. Adopter Categories As individuals or groups progress through the process of accepting or rejecting innovations, classifications of adopters are formed based on a normal distribution as seen in Figure 2 (Rogers, 2003). The adopter categories as described by Rogers (2003) are: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards.

The adopter categories divide the social system in categories, which further describe the average time of adoption. Table 2 organizes the adopter categories and provides Rogers descriptions of each category. The Chasm One of the major contributions to the Diffusion of Innovations Theory was made by Geoffrey Moore in his 1991 book Crossing the Chasm. This book is written as a high-tech marketing model to better understand the adoption of technologies. Moore built on the notion of categories of adopters falling in a bell curve and suggests that there is a chasm in the bell curve that separates the early adopters from the early majority (Moore, 1999, p. 19). Moores (1993) version that illustrates the chasm is included in Figure 3. The Chasm is caused by a difference in the core goals of the early adopters and the early majority (Moore, 1999). Moore (2003) describes that early adopters seek out an innovation to achieve a strategic position in the market place. With this they accept the consequences that accompany being the first in their field to implement an idea, process, or product. In contrast, the early majority want to purchase an improvement to their position. They are not willing to accept

INNOVATION DIFFUSION THEORY the costs that are associated with untested innovations. They are looking for examples to model and are not willing to accept the risk associated with being an early adopter (Moore, 1999). Moore suggests that being able to cross the chasm is a critical step for an innovation to become widely adopted. Measurement and Instrumentation Based on a review of relevant literature, there are a variety of methods used to measure

diffusion of innovations among social systems. Harting, Rutten, Rutten, & Kremers (2009) used observational and focus group methods to study diffusion of innovations among physical therapists in the Netherlands. Olatokun & Igbinedion (2009) used a structured survey instrument that was administered to study the diffusion of automated teller machines in Nigeria. Frenzel & Grupp (2009) used a mixed methods approach to study diffusion models as they related to the analysis of business processes. Hull, Kester, & Martin (1973) used a Delphi study by commissioning papers from expert scholars and innovation implementer interviews to create a conceptual framework for diffusion of innovations in technical education. The techniques and approaches for measuring diffusion of innovation are broad largely to the broad implications of the theory. Select Relevant Research The multi-disciplinary nature of the Innovation Diffusion Theory provides a broad base of relevant research. Some of the most common areas of research using the Innovation Diffusion Theory are high-tech issues, business, economics, education, and human communication. Moore (1999) customized the theory to high-tech issues as they were occurring through the dotcom era of the late 1990s. Choi (2009) emphasis the importance of encouraging two-way communication channels to facilitate this technology transfer. While many studies do address the

INNOVATION DIFFUSION THEORY focus on the high-tech industry, Pvoa (2010) explored the role of patents in the process diffusion innovations from Brazilian universities and public research institutions to Brazilian firms. This would indicate a more formal method of diffusion, where other studies focus on the role of the social system and shared innovation as West (2009) describes as Communities of Innovation (p. 316). Conclusion The Innovation Diffusion Theory is well-developed, multi-disciplinary theory used to explore how ideas or products are adopted among a social group or system. The two primary theorists are Evert Rogers and Geoffrey Moore. The primary strength of the theory is its flexibility in describing how innovations diffuse across a social system and are accepted or rejected by members of that social system. The theory considers an innovation, communication channels, time, and the social system as key elements if the diffusion process.

Report Prepared by: Bucky Dodd

References Choi, H. J. (2009). Technology transfer issues and a new technology transfer model. Journal of Technology Studies, 35(1), 49-57. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. Frenzel, A., & Grupp, H. (2009). Using models of innovation diffusion to forecast market success: a practitioners guide. Research Evaluation, 18(1), 39-50. doi:10.3152/095820209X393172. Fryer, W. (2008, June 9). Rogers diffusion of innovation graph [Image]. Retrieved from

INNOVATION DIFFUSION THEORY Hall, B. (n.d.). Everett M. Rogers, 19312004 [Web log post]. Retrieved from HarperCollins Publishers (2002). Geoffrey A. Moore. Retrieved from HarperCollins Publishers (2002). Geoffrey A. Moore on Crossing the Chasm. Retrieved from 6863&displayType=bookessay Harting, J., Rutten, G., Rutten, S., & Kremers, S. (2009). A qualitative application of the Diffusion of Innovations Theory to examine determinants of guideline adherence among physical therapists. Physical Therapy, 89(3), 221-232. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. Moore, G.A. (1999). Crossing the Chasm. (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: HarperBusiness Olatokun, W., & Igbinedion, L. (2009). The adoption of automatic teller machines in Nigeria: An application of the theory of Diffusion of Innovation. Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology, 6373-393. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. Rogers, E. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations (Fifth Edition) New York, NY: Free Press Surry, D.W. (1997). Diffusion Theory and instructional technology. Instructional Technology Research Online. Retrieved from Watson, P. (2006, July 3). Crossing the chasm. [Image]. Retrieved from West, R. (2009). What is shared? A framework for understanding shared innovation within communities. Educational Technology Research & Development, 57(3), 315-332. doi:10.1007/s11423-008-9107-4.

INNOVATION DIFFUSION THEORY Table 1 Elements of the Decision Process Stage 1. Knowledge Description

Occurs when an individual (or other decision-making unit) is exposed to an innovations existence and gains an understanding of how it functions 2. Persuasion Occurs when an individual (or other decision-making unit) forms a favorable or an unfavorable attitude towards the innovation 3. Decision Takes place when an individual (or other decision-making unit) engages in activities that lead to a choice to adopt or reject the innovation 4. Implementation Occurs when an individual (or other decision-making unit) puts a new idea into use 5. Confirmation Takes place when an individual seeks reinforcement of an innovationdecision already made, but he or she may reverse this previous decision if exposed to conflicting messages about the innovation (Rogers, 2003, p.169)

INNOVATION DIFFUSION THEORY Figure 1 The Innovation-Decision Process


(Rogers, 2003, p. 170)

INNOVATION DIFFUSION THEORY Figure 2 Classifications of Adopters


(Rogers, 2003, p. 281) adapted from Fryer (2008).



(Moore, 1999, p. 17) adapted from Watson (2006).

INNOVATION DIFFUSION THEORY Table 2 Adopter Categories Percent of Social System 2.5 Generalizations of Category Venturesome


Stage Innovators

Description Their interest in new ideas leads them out of a local circle of peer networks and into more cosmopolite social relationships (p. 282). The innovator plays a gatekeeping role in the flow of new ideas into a system. (p. 283). has the highest degree of opinion leadership in most systems (p. 283). Early adopters help trigger the critical mass when they adopt an innovation (p. 283). adopt new ideas just before the average member of a system (p. 283). may deliberate for some time before completely adopting a new idea.. (p. 284). adopt new ideas just after the average member of a system (p. 284). The pressure of peers is necessary to motivate adoption (p. 284). last in a social system to adopt an innovation (p. 284). Decisions are often made in terms of what has been done previously, and these individuals interact primarily with others who also have relatively traditional values (pg. 284).

Laggards 16 Traditional

Early Adopters



Early Majority



Late Majority



(Rogers, 2003)