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Introducing technology and innovation management
Introducing technology and innovation management

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9 Innovation diffusion process

Another definition of innovation that we consider is from the work of one of the most influential writers on the diffusion of innovations, Everett Rogers. This definition is concerned primarily with how innovations spread, or ‘diffuse’, through markets and contexts over time. It recognises that the novelty of an innovation is not the only determinant of ‘success’.

An innovation is an idea, practice or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other object of adoption. It matters little, so far as human behaviour is concerned, whether or not an idea is ‘objectively’ new as measured by the lapse of time since its first use or discovery.

(Rogers, 2003 p. 12)
Described image
Figure 6: Diffusion of contrails in the air above Schipol (NL) airport.

As Rogers is concerned primarily with why people and organisations decide whether or not to adopt an innovation, it matters more to Rogers that an innovation is new to potential adopters and the circles in which they move than it is novel in some objective sense.

Crucially, an understanding of how and why a target audience of people or organisations decides about an innovation over time can be critical to its success or failure. The characteristics of people or organisations (adopters and users) and their perception of innovations, as well as market contexts and other success factors, such as effective communication channels, good timing and a supportive social structure, will have an influence on how quickly and widely innovations will diffuse.

Diffusion is an essential and recognisable aspect of the product innovation process. Diffusion works differently with process and system innovations where the issue is introducing innovations to industrial and socioeconomic contexts (rather than into markets). So this requires a different way of thinking about the application of diffusion theory to product, process innovation or system innovation.