For any society to make tangible progress there must be an inclusion and adoption of innovation. Innovation is a behavior, an idea, or object that is perceived to be new and of benefit to a population.
Innovation diffusion may then be defined as the spread of innovation from one society to another, or from one focus point of society to other parts of that society. It is perhaps one of the most important processes in cultural evolution.
The diffusion of innovation takes place based on individual decisions rather than collective or general agreements. As such, this decision-making process for the diffusion of innovation has been broken down into six steps.
- Knowledge – This is where the person becomes aware of an innovation and how it functions.
- Persuasion – Here, a person forms a good or negative attitude toward the innovation.
- Decision – A person will then engage in activities that will lead either to the adoption or rejection of the innovation.
- Implementation – This is where the innovation is put into use and assimilated into the cultural system of the person.
- Confirmation – After its use and assimilation, the person then evaluates the performance based on the results produced by the innovation.
- The innovation – decision is shaped by the people’s perception of whether or not the innovation will enhance their utility. For most people, the innovation-decision largely depends on or is influenced by other members of society.
In the innovation diffusion process, scholars have identified five characteristics of society members with relation to how fast they adopt an innovation. These are:
- Innovators – These are visionary, venturesome, and imaginative people. They are well educated and risk-loving. They envision the benefits of the innovation and are quick to try it out. Their implementation and confirmation of the innovation is key to the decision of subsequent groups.
- Early adopters – These are usually the local leaders and the prestigious people within a society. They are the first group to leap in once they assess the benefits following the use of the innovation by the innovators. They are considered good decision makers and opinion leaders and therefore, influence the decision of others in society.
- Early majority – These are people who are comfortable with progressive ideas but act only in cases where there is evidence of benefits. Most of the early majority group is cost sensitive and risk averse.
- Late majority – They are conservative and tend to have fewer resources. They follow already established standards and norms.
- Laggards – They are even more risk averse and more conservative than all other groups and are often the last of the pack in making a favorable innovation decision.
Factors Affecting Diffusion of Innovation
Comparative advantage: This is the degree to which an innovation is considered superior and more advantageous than preceding innovations. The more and better it is perceived to be, the higher and faster its rate of diffusion will be.
Compatibility with existing norms, values and practices: The more the compatibility, the more the rate of diffusion. Innovations that are incompatible take more time in diffusion as they would demand a complete overhaul of the cultural system.
Ease of use: Innovations that are simple and easy to use and understand by the majority population have a much higher rate of diffusion as opposed to those that are complex.
Tangible results: When the benefits of using the innovation are easily observable and quantifiable, the innovations are diffused faster than those with abstract or unquantifiable results.