Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers


  1. This book is about social change, moving from information to innovation. “Information is a difference in matter-energy that affects uncertainty in a situation where a choice exists among a set of alternatives. One kind of uncertainty is generated by innovation, defined as an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or another unit of adoption. An innovation presents an individual or an organization with a new alternative or alternatives, as well as new means of solving problems. However, the probability that the new ideas is superior to previous practice is not initially known with certainty by individual problem solvers. Thus, individuals are motivated to seek further information about the innovation in order to cope with the uncertainty that it creates. Information about an innovation is often sought from peers, especially information about their subjective evaluations of the innovation. This information exchange about a new idea occurs through a convergence process involving interpersonal networks. The diffusion of innovations is essentially a social process in which subjectively perceived information about a new idea is communicated from person to person. The meaning of an innovation is thus gradually worked through a process of social construction.”

Key Takeaways

  1. Diffusion a social matter even more than a technical one – how potential adopters view a change agent affects their willingness to adopt new ideas
    1. Lateral Networks, Culture, Hierarchies, Galilean Relativity
  2. A technological innovation embodies information and thus reduces uncertainty about cause-effect relationships in problem solving
  3. Attributes that help speed diffusion 
    1. (Perceived) Relative advantage – the improvement one innovation vs. what precedes it, perceived > objective advantage 
      1. Many adopters want to participate actively in customizing an innovation to fit their unique situation. Innovation diffuses more rapidly when it can be reinvented and that its adoption is more likely to be sustained
      2. Taking into account people’s perception of an innovation cannot be overstressed
      3. Rationality = using most effective means to reach a goal
      4. Fastest routes to adoption come when felt needs are met
      5. Mass media has a short, spiky effect on adoption whereas interpersonal communication is more sustainable 
    2. Compatibility – degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters
      1. This dependence on the experience of near peers suggests that the heart of the diffusion process consists of the modeling and imitation by potential adopters of their network partners who have previously adopted. Diffusion is a very special process that involves interpersonal communication relationships 
      2. One of the most distinctive problems in the diffusion of innovations is that the participants are usually quite heterophilous. Homophilous situations slows the spread of the innovation as these groups tend to socialize “horizontally” and don’t break through to other groups/classes
        1. Strength of Weak Ties
      3. The structure of a social system can facilitate or impede the diffusion of innovations. The impact of the social structure on diffusion is of special interest to sociologists and social psychologists, and the way in which the communication structure of a system affects diffusion is a particularly interesting topic for communication scholars. Katz remarked, “It is as unthinkable to study diffusion without some knowledge of the social structures in which potential adopters are located as it is to study blood circulation without adequate knowledge of the veins and arteries.”
        1. Opinion leaders thus exemplify and express the system’s structure. These are incredibly powerful and valuable members to have on your side
        2. A communication network consists of interconnected individuals whoa re linked by patterned flows of information 
    3. Complexity – degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to understand and use
      1. There are 5 main steps in the innovation-decision process – knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation
    4. Trialability – degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis
    5. Observability – degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others
      1. Salience = degree of importance to an individual, want more information and will tell others about it
  4. Social marketing – segmentation and formative research lead to effective messages, positioning, price, communication channels
  5. Tactics to reach critical mass 
    1. Highly-respected individuals in a system’s hierarchy for initial adoption of the interactive innovation should be targeted
    2. Individuals’ perceptions of the innovation can be shaped, for instance, by implying that adoption of it is inevitable, that it is very desirable, or that the critical mass has already occurred or will occur soon 
      1. Chicken and egg…
    3. Introduce to intact groups whose members are likely to be relatively more innovative
    4. Incentives for early adoption of the interactive innovation should be provided, at least until critical mass is reached 
  6. Look for change agents and innovation champions who stand behind your product and who throw their support behind you, thus overcoming the indifference or resistance that the new idea may provoke
    1. “One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea. It…makes you think that after all, your favorite motions may be wrong, your firmest beliefs ill-founded…Naturally, therefore, common men hate a new idea, and are disposed more or less to ill-treat the original man who brings it. – Walter Bagehot, Physics and Politics
  7. Routinization occurs when the innovation has become incorporated into the regular activities of the organization and loses its separate identity. Sustainability, a closely related concept to routinization, is defined by the degree to which an innovation continues to be used after the initial effort to secure adoption is completed. Sustainability is more likely if widespread participation has occurred in the innovation process, if reinvention took place, and if an innovation champion was involved. This fifth stage, routinization, marks the end of the innovation process in an organization
  8. As much as change is about adapting to the new, it is about detaching from the old – Ronald Burt
  9. Stages in the Innovation-Decision Process
    1. Knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, confirmation

What I got out of it

  1. Seems like the “godfather” to such books as Geoffrey Moore and others have written. Learning about the attributes that help speed innovation – perceived relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability – were worth the price of admission