Recently Dr. Ronald Rice, our visiting professor whom we introduced recently on the blog, conducted an interactive workshop on the topic “Diffusion of Innovations: Central Concepts and Approaches”. The participants were from all communication tracks and they had the opportunity to discuss the application of the theories in the field of marketing, entertainment and public relations. See the highlights of the lively meeting below.
The workshop provided an overview of the diffusion of innovations model, based on Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press. It involved lecture, discussions, small group activities, and a simple online diffusion game. Dr. Rice started off by explaining the four main elements of diffusion:
- Innovation – it includes technological innovations, technology clusters, perceived attributes of innovation or re-innovation
- Communication channels – mass media, interpersonal, digital, etc.
- Time – the period it takes for the innovation-decision process to happen, how it defines adopter categories and rate of adoption
- Social system – the impact of formal/informal structures, system norms, opinion leaders, consequences of decisions, etc.
This topic was followed by a brainstorming session where the participants had to reflect on how innovations may be reinvented, and then suggesting ideas for reinventing the traditional business cards. They applied their knowledge about the factors that influence the diffusion of innovation to come up with some intriguing ideas. For instance, business cards that would be sought after by people who are interested in cutting edge technology, like a wearable chip. Or introducing regular paper business cards that are likely to have a stronger impact in formal contexts where people prefer to stick to tradition but with a modern twist like a QR code with contact information and link to a website.
The workshop continued with an overview of adoption categories. Sometimes the diffusion of innovation happens in organizations and social systems so it is not a result of each individual’s independent decision. Several characteristics influence the adopter types, for instance, socioeconomic characteristics, personality variables or communication behavior. The ideal types of adopter categories are:
- Innovators – venturesome and having resources to understand complexity and cope with uncertainty
- Early adopters – respected opinion leaders, integrated members of the system
- Early majority – deliberate and interconnected, seldom opinion leaders
- Late majority – skeptical and cautious, under pressure from peers to adopt the innovation
- Laggards – traditionalists, suspicious of innovations, resistance to adopt innovation may be entirely rational from their perspective
Based on this information the participants had the opportunity to test whether they can successfully influence the diffusion of an innovation. Everyone played an online game to introduce an innovation in a small village. The gamers were presented with initial information about the characteristics of the village and its inhabitants – the influence of certain opinion leaders, their network reach, the literacy levels and media use of the villagers, etc. Afterwards the participants developed a strategy and chose how to approach the situation – whether to use mass media and what type (radio or newspaper), to organize demonstrations of their innovation, or to contact the village elders with request for help. At the end they can see what percentage of innovation diffusion they have achieved.
If you want to learn more about the diffusion of innovation, here are some selected readings that were selected for the participants in the workshop:
Rice, R. E. (2009). Diffusion of innovations: Theoretical extensions. In R. Nabi & M. B. Oliver (Eds.), Handbook of media effects (pp. 489-503). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Rice, R. E., & Pearce, K. E. (2015). Divide and diffuse: Comparing digital divide and diffusion of innovations perspectives on mobile phone adoption. Mobile Media & Communication, 3(3), 401-424.
Wirth, W., Von Pape, T., & Karnowski, V. (2008). An integrative model of mobile phone appropriation. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(3), 593-617.