I decided to read Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition by Everett M. Rogers and Everett Rogers after seeing Geoff Sheehy mention it on his blog a while back. I figured if he found it relevant to his research into knowledge management, maybe I’d find it relevant as well.
Everett M. Rogers spent most of his life studying how new ideas and/or practices spread through groups of people. Diffusion of Innovations, first published in 1962 and revised and updated five times, summarizes Rogers’ extensive research and provides insight into the application of his findings.
Rogers is extremely throrough in his coverage of topics related to the diffusion of innovations and diffusion research. He begins by outlining the elements of diffusion and defining the basic terminology that he uses through the book. In fact, you could get a good understanding of diffusion theory after reading only the first section of the book. However, in later chapters he elaborates on his points with out seeming redundant. Rogers also includes many illustrative examples, mostly drawn from his extensive research experience, which add interest and variety to book.
After defining the elements of diffusion, Rogers provides an overview of the provenance of diffusion research before identifying the major contributions of diffusion research and addressing some of the critics of diffusion research. The most important criticism of diffusion research is that most diffusion researchers are biased in favor of change. The remaining chapters explain the origin and spread of diffusions through society in general and in organizations, paying special attention to the role of opinion leaders and change agents. The book concludes with a look at the consequences of innovations, once again addressing the pro-change bias of diffusion research. I found the book fascinating and was disappointed to have to return it to the library. I want to purchase my own copy soon.
As I read the book, I tried to place myself in one of Rogers’ innovation categories. I’m not sure where I fall. In the past, I have thought of my younger brother as an early adopter of technology because he always seemed to have the latest gadget. By comparison, I used feel that I was in either the early or possibly even the late majority. Now I am frequently one of the first in my social circle to know of new technologies and sometimes try out applications in their beta stages. Is is possible that I have become an early adopter?
If I have become an early adopter, I wonder how the transition has taken place. Rogers described the characteristics of early adopters compared to their peers. They tend to have more education, more money, and to be more cosmopolite. Over the last decade, I’ve earned 2 and 2/3 graduate degrees, left behind “student poverty”, and traveled to eight foreign countries on three different continents. Rogers compared characteristics between individuals not between time periods in the life of a single individual, so his conclusions can’t be generalized to my situation. Still, I wonder how many individuals become more open to innovation over time and by what process individual changes in innovativeness take place? Does anyone know of a study that addresses these questions?