What is Diffusion?

The process of communicating
innovation through certain channels
over time through members of a social
system.
Diffusion of Innovation Theory

How new ideas, products, and
behaviors become norms

All levels: individual, interpersonal,
community, and organizational

Success determined by: nature of
innovation, communication
channels, adoption time, social
system
Source: Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations, 4th ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1995).
Use of an innovation requires

Consideration

Adoption

Implementation

Sustainability
Diffusion Curves
Key components of Diffusion
Theory
 Innovation (attributes)
 Adopter (degree of innovativeness)
 Social system
 Individual adoption process
 Diffusion system
Program (Innovation) Characteristics


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Relative advantage
Compatibility
Complexity
Observability of the results
Impact on social relations
Reversibility
Communicability
Required time and commitment
Risk and uncertainty
Ability to be modified
Oldenburg, et al., 1997; Rogers, 1995
Characteristics of individual adopters

Innovators
venturesome; shortest time between awareness and
adoption

Early adopters
opinion leaders

Early majority
deliberators

Late majority
skeptical

Laggards
traditional; need more potent outreach and incentives
Social System
Concerned with the structure of the
system:
 Opinion Leaders
 Potential adopter perception of social
pressure to adopt
Innovation-Decision Process

Knowledge

Persuasion

Decision

Implementation

Continuation
Diffusion System
Defined as the external change agency
including
Change agents-seek out and intervene with
opinion leader and innovation champions
Organizational Characteristics
Other influences on developing active diffusion
must take into account the organization’s
1) Goals
2) Authority structure
3) Roles, rules & regulations
4) Informal norms and relationships
Diffusion of Innovation
Communication channels

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Mass media (enhanced by listening
groups, call-in opportunities, and faceto-face approaches)
Peers
Respected leaders
Classical diffusion model

Focus on adopter innovativeness
 Individuals as locus of decision
 Communication channels
 Adoption as primary outcome
Diffusion of innovation
theory
Dissemination of
interventions
Dearing JW.. J Public Health Management Practice, 2008, 14(2), 99–108
Dissemination of innovations changes
highlighted by Dearing (2008) include:
 A shift from how we conceive social systems from focus
on a physical community to focus on societal sectors &
social networks
 The nature of diffusion systems we create to interface
with social systems where we want to intervene (more
decentralized, multifaceted, yet retaining some
centralized efficiency)
 Increased interest in dissemination innovations in
complex organizations --attn. to what goes on
‘upstream’ to affect change.
Diffusion Theory in Social Sectors and
Social Networks
Benefits
Organizational adoption rather than
individual adoption
Homophilous community
Organizational structure facilitates:
communication, competitiveness
(monitoring and mirroring)
Diffusion Theory in Social Sectors and
Social Networks
In organizations, those who decided
on the innovation are not always
those who implement the
innovation.
Summary: Current Dissemination
Research
 Tests interventions that operationalize concepts
rooted in diffusion theory & other approaches
 Unit of adoption is complex organizations
 Focus on implementation issues
Lessons for Dissemination Science

Timing: Windows of Opportunity

Clustering of decisions to adopt
innovations

Environmental policy and media
should agree with (or at least not
contradict) the changeportunities