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Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition Paperback – Aug 16 2003
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Choice The name of Everett Rogers...is virtually synonymous with the study of the diffusion of innovations....His coverage is comprehensive, ranging from the elements of diffusion and the history of diffusion research to generators of innovation, change agents, and the consequences of innovations. Among the many features that make this an exemplary interdisciplinary effort are Rogers's clear, literate style and his ability to stay in touch with social realities. He sets a high standard for social theorists.
Technology and Culture A classic work....Full of interesting insights, solid examples, and good common sense.
Journal of Communication Incorporates important advances...presented in the usual clear, didactic, and often light-spirited style of the author, who also offers choice examples of his wide cross-cultural experiences. The result is a highly readable and discussion-provoking text.
Engineering Management Society Holds several important lessons for anyone planning the introduction of new ideas in a firm....Introduces the latest and probably some of the best thinking in that area.
About the Author
Dr. Everett M. Rogers is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of New Mexico (UNM), where he teaches and conducts research on the diffusion of innovations.See all Product Description
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One caveat. Whether you are going to respond to D of I as positively as I did will depend in part on your cognitive style. If you are comfortable reading about abstractions that grew out of research from largely non-business fields of study and are comfortable personally having to make the leap from theory to practical application, you will value this book. If on the other hand you need a clearly defined process for applying the framework and have a hard time generalizing non-business research to your own world, you probably want to look elsewhere. Though Diffusion of Innovation is more abstract and less business focused, I personally find D of I to have more practical value than works such as Daryl Conner's Managing at the Speed of Change or John Kotter's Leading Change, both of which I feel are better at creating a sensitivity to change management concepts and fueling a sense of need for "expert" consulting resources than they do providing tools and knowledge.
I have used Rogers' framework to craft change programs in corporate and consulting environments and can confirm that, if you are willing to make an investment in understanding how its concepts can be applied within your context, D of I is an invaluable resource.
Bottom line: a great framework based on sound research, well written and entertaining, and, if you can make the leap from abstraction to application, eminently practical.
The problem with this book for entrepreneurs is two-fold in that: 1) the book is written for a large audience that includes everyone from newbies to the "invisible college" that dominates this field of study in universities and the like, and 2) it's written in a semi-academic tone that may be a bit of an intense read for some. For this reason I am offering a little "tour guide" for entrepreneurs that may help them in getting through this book and getting the most out of it, along with summaries of some of the best things that I learned from this book, and some commentary and criticisms as well.
Here we go:
CHAPTER 1: Elements of diffusion.
This is a little intro to the basic anatomy of the diffusion of a product or idea into a culture. The thesis is: "Diffusion is the process by which 1) an INNOVATION 2) is COMMUNICATED through certain CHANNELS 3) over TIME 4) among members of a SOCIAL SYSTEM." (p. 11). It then takes you on a quick tour of all four of those things. It's got some great stories about innovations that failed, such as the Dvorak keyboard, which was supposed to replace the QWERTY keyboard but didn't, and why that didn't happen.
CHAPTERS 2 & 3: A history of diffusion research; Contributions and criticisms of diffusion research.
This is more for the academics, so I would just recommend reading the summaries of the chapters, and go to the individual sections if you need anything in particular. Take heart in knowing that the the author, the late Everett C. rogers, was completely NON-SNOBBY and takes on the "Invisible College" of Diffusion Research and some of their staid ways of doing things. Nothing like having a new edition of the snobs' own Bible calling them out! What a guy.
CHAPTER 4: The generation of innovations.
Things start cooking here for entrepreneurs, especially in the first part of the chapter. This chapter shows the full life cycle of an innovation, from the perception of a need to the completed and fully diffused product's consequences on society. One really important point here is that that chapter seeks to not only show the full life cycle of an innovation, but also looks at the "decisions and events occurring previous to" the introduction of the innovation (p. 136), starting with the recognizing of a problem or need.
This part may help you in thinking through how your product meets people's needs. Don't be like a bad rock band or a self-centered neo-burlesque dancer that is going out and doing whatever they are doing just to meet their own needs without thinking twice about the needs of their audience! Do you care about being on stage or being the first to do something or whatever, or do you care about meeting other people's needs?
CHAPTER 5: The Innovation-decision process.
We're getting hotter! This explains how an individual decides to adopt (or reject) a new innovation. It's a five stage process, consisting of: 1) Knowledge of the innovation, 2) Persuasion (i.e. forming a favorable or unfavorable attitude toward it), 3) A Decision (to accept or reject), 4) Implementation of the innovation, and 5) Confirmation (i.e. seeking reinforcement of the decision from others). Between 3 and 5 (the Decision and the Confirmation), the individual may decide to stop using the innovation; this is called "Discontinuance". Or, they may reject initially and then adopt later when they have different information.
One interesting thing that you will read about in this chapter is about re-invention, which happens at the Implementation stage (Stage 4). A lot of people actually adapt or alter innovations to suit their own needs, and the book suggests that this is OK and that it shouldn't be frowned upon. It even suggests that the more that people can reinvent an innovation to suit their needs, the more likely that the innovation will succeed in being accepted. Another concept that this chapter introduces is the difference between mass media versus interpersonal channels. Actually the media is the initial way that innovations get noticed, and over time, the media influence drops and interpersonal channels take over.
CHAPTER 6: Attributes of innovations.
Here we get a look at the characteristics of innovations that "make it" in the marketplace. The five things that successful innovations have in common are: 1) Relative Advantage (i.e. the perception that the new item or idea is better than an existing, established one), 2) Compatibility (it fits in with the existing way of doing things), 3) Complexity (the amount of complexity is not too much for the user to handle), 4) Trialability (they can try the item out without much consequence if they decide to back out), and 5) Observability (they can gauge the idea's positive effects for themselves). All of these attributes must be perceived THROUGH THE EYES OF THE ADOPTER, not the person offering the innovation (that's a big mistake that's made a lot).
It is important that an innovation (or group of innovations) be named properly. The book says, "Words are the thought units" that structure people's perceptions, and "The Word symbols for a new idea [must have] the desired meaning for the intended audience" (p. 251). It's surprising how many times this important aspect is overlooked.
CHAPTER 7: Innovativeness and adapter categories.
This is the heart of the book; all of the book up to this point funnels into this one chapter. Here we see the innovation "bell curve" for the acceptance of a new idea, and the five categories of adopters: 1) innovators, 2) early adopters, 3) early majority, 4) late majority, and 5) laggards. We get a look at what all of these groups are like, and, most importantly, get a really good look at the characteristics of early adopters versus those of later adopters.
The one thing that this section in particular points out is that it's the very early adopters, not the innovators, who have the most effect on others adopting an innovation. The reason why is that the innovators are usually perceived as too far outside of the existing social system and therefore not good role models.
A good way to think of this is via the sitcom "Seinfeld". Kramer was the innovator, always trying kooky ideas that may or may not work. Seinfeld was the early adopter; he was liked and looked up to in his social system. If he tried something Kramer did, and it worked, then other people would look at Seinfeld and do it too.
CHAPTER 8: Diffusion networks.
THIS CHAPTER IS REALLY, REALLY ESSENTIAL. Another name for the Seinfelds of the world (as denoted above) is "opinion leaders". They are the people looked up to in a social system for info on new ideas. If they do it, others are willing to try it as well. This chapter opens up the secrets of opinion leaders and the way that they work, and demonstrates that the way to REALLY get an innovation to take off is to locate and work with these opinion leaders. This requires focused, deliberate networking, so brush up on those networking skills so that you can make those connections.
CHAPTER 9: The change agent.
Here the book starts to wind down and we get into what could possibly be some superfluous information for entrepreneurs. The info about change agents seems to be written more for non-profit organizations that are seeking cause-related change. Although if you have a street team or do some type of decentralized marketing, this might be good info for making disciples for your new product or idea.
CHAPTER 10: Innovation in organizations.
If you are looking to sell your product or idea to businesses or other types of organizations instead of to individuals, you will want to read this; if only individuals are your clients, skip it. You will need networking skills here too because the info about opinion leaders becomes especially pertinent in organizations; there you will be looking for people who champion your product and convince the rest of the organization to buy in.
CHAPTER 11: Consequences of innovations.
Unfortunately, this is the worst-researched part of the book, which they admit to initially. Read this section with a grain of salt because if you don't, then you may end up walking away paranoid about rocking the boat and end up not introducing an innovation that may help alleviate someone else's misery. This part of the book seems to value stable, equally-distributed misery over the unstable growing pains of progress, and obsesses over the divide that an innovation could create between those who have it and those who don't. The horror stories that they tell, such as an Australian aboriginal tribe's decline upon receiving the technology of the steel axe (over the traditional stone axe), demonstrate that a new technology and the new freedom that comes with it also bring a new responsibility with it, which the recipients of the new technology may or may not be ready for. They admit under their breath that innovations actually help enrich everyone's lives (p. 457: "[T]he earlier adopters get richer, and the later adopters' ECONOMIC GAIN [emphasis added] is comparably less"), blatantly contradicting themselves when they say, "usually new ideas make the rich richer and the poor poorer" (p. 444) a few pages earlier. Also, they ignore that it may be the habits of late adopters, such as their tendency toward dogmatism and fatalism, that actually put them on the short end of the stick. This brings into the equation the importance of packaging a responsible mindset into one's new innovation and thinking ahead. It would be wise to eliminate as many foreseeable bad consequences from the innovation as possible; these bad consequences could sift the innovation out during its diffusion process if you are not careful. Avoid paranoia about upsetting the bowl of marbles just because someone else can't get their own marbles together, and do the very best you can.
Hope this helps, and bon voyage in reading this overall very helpful and fascinating book!
The book is not a how-to guide, but rather an unbiased view of innovations. By examining the unintended consequences of innovations, Rogers cautions leaders to exercise prudence when pushing others to change. Leaders who do not understand the history and culture of the people they are seeking to change, even though well-intended, can instead cause irreparable damage. While his own efforts in agricultural extension were a massive success, he examines unintended consequences such as the loss of the family farm, over production of food and loss of bio-diversity that were not considered when farmers were being pushed to adopt a new way of doing business.
For education leaders who wish to affect change within their organization and broadly throughout their state, nation and world, Rogers' book will provide reference points and terminology to describe critical factors they will encounter when trying to get their new idea adopted. Perhaps the book's opening quote from Machiavelli's The Prince (1513) serves as a warning. "There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new order of things... Whenever his enemies have the ability to attack the innovator, they do so with the passion of partisans, while the others defend him sluggishly, so that the innovator and his party alike are vulnerable." The natural reaction of many people is to fear change and leaders who consistently advocate for change may become outliers, unable to influence the group.
The book uses well-written narratives to explore diffusion case studies making the material easy for the reader to understand. The stories are engaging and interspersed throughout the book, surrounded by Rogers' discussion of terminology that at times can bog the reader down a bit. Unlike many popular business titles like Collins' Good to Great, Rogers resists the temptation to use inductive reasoning to prove his points. By examining failed innovation implementations, the book points out that sometimes leaders do everything in their power and still do not get the desired result. Studying successful innovation adoptions as well as unsuccessful diffusions demonstrates the complexity of the subject. For example, Rogers' examines great ideas that failed to catch on such as the Dvorak keyboard, which is far superior to the QWERTY keyboard. New typists learn much faster on the Dvorak keyboard and achieve faster and more accurate typing skills. The QWERTY keyboard was developed to accommodate mechanical typewriters whose designers didn't want typists hitting the keys too quickly lest they jam the machine. Obviously we no longer have this problem... but the QWERTY keyboard remains the English language default keyboard.
While scientific study of this topic is possible, in some respects it may be easier to study how a musician creates a hit song. However, I recommend this book to those aspiring to become leaders in the field of education. Whether the change is external or from within the organization, today's education leaders face a great deal of change and their ability to successfully manage, control and in some cases resist change will determine their success. As Rogers points out in the book, leading change does not necessarily make one popular. Froebel, the inventor of Kindergarten was labeled a socialist and revolutionary by the German government and was banned from his home country.
Rogers presents a history of Diffusion Theory and summary of the current concept's principles, it seems to serve mainly as a comprehensive introduction to the discipline. Presents a detailed theory, with excellent and numerous examples of Diffusion, illustrating the various principles presented.
Rogers focuses on the dynamics of Diffusion as a process. There is not much here on synthesis and trends. Rogers focuses on the dynamics of Diffusion itself. The principles developed by Rogers here, however, will enable even a new initiate to Communication or Marketing to better understand the factors involved in analyzing target audiences and developing communication and marketing approaches appropriate to the situation.
This should be a shelf reference for anyone involved in crossing cultural or economic boundaries, as well as introducing new ideas or facilitating cultural change, whether economic or otherwise.
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