Diffusion of Innovations Theory: Characteristics, Types and Barriers to Diffusion

Diffusion of Innovations Theory: Characteristics, Types and Barriers to Diffusion

P Tiwari

The Diffusion of Innovations theory is concerned with the manner in which a new technological idea, product, technique, or a new use of an old one, moves from creation to use.

According to this theory, technological innovation is communicated through particular channels, over time, among the members of a social system.

The concept, first studied by the French sociologist Gabriel Tarde (1890) and by German and Austrian anthropologists such as Friedrich Ratzel or Leo Frobenius, had its basic epidemiological form described by H. Earl Pemberton. Pemberton provided examples of institutional diffusions such as postage stamps or compulsory school laws. Ryan and Gross published r a study on the diffusion of hybrid corn in Iowa.

It was the book, Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers in 1962, which popularised the idea. Rogers defines diffusion as “the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system”. He also defines an innovation as “an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption”.

A communication channel is “the means by which messages get from one individual to another”. The innovation-decision period is “the length of time required to pass through the innovation-decision process”. Rate of adoption is the relative speed with which an innovation is adopted by members of a social system. A social system is defined as “a set of interrelated units that are engaged in joint problem solving to accomplish a common goal”.

Innovation decisions may be optional (where the person or organisation has a real opportunity to adopt or reject the idea); collective (where a decision is reached by consensus among the members of a system); or authority-based (where a decision is imposed by another person or organisation which possesses requisite power, status or technical expertise).

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