Diffusion of Innovation Theory

"Diffusion of Innovations is a theory that seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. Everett Rogers, a professor of rural sociology, popularized the theory in his 1962 book Diffusion of Innovations. He said diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. The origins of the diffusion of innovations theory are varied and span multiple disciplines...The book proposed 4 main elements that influence the spread of a new idea: the innovation, communication channels, time, and a social system. That is, diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system."[1]

History of Diffusion of Innovation Theory[2]
The concept of diffusion was first studied by the French sociologist Gabriel Tarde in late 19th century and by German and Austrian anthropologists and geographers such as Friedrich Ratzel and Leo Frobenius. The study of diffusion of innovations took off in the subfield of rural sociology in the midwestern United States in the 1920s and 1930s. Agriculture technology was advancing rapidly, and researchers started to examine how independent farmers were adopting hybrid seeds, equipment, and techniques. A study of the adoption of hybrid corn seed in Iowa by Ryan and Gross (1943) solidified the prior work on diffusion into a distinct paradigm that would be cited consistently in the future. Since its start in rural sociology, Diffusion of Innovations has been applied to numerous contexts, including medical sociology, communications, marketing, development studies, health promotion, organizational studies, knowledge management, and complexity studies, with a particularly large impact on the use of medicines, medical techniques, and health communications. In organizational studies, its basic epidemiological or internal-influence form was formulated by H. Earl Pemberton, who provided examples of institutional diffusion such as postage stamps and standardized school ethics codes. In 1962, Everett Rogers, a professor of rural sociology, published his seminal work: Diffusion of Innovations. Rogers synthesized research from over 508 diffusion studies across the fields that initially influenced the theory: anthropology, early sociology, rural sociology, education, industrial sociology and medical sociology. Using his synthesis, Rogers produced a theory of the adoption of innovations among individuals and organizations. Diffusion of Innovations and Rogers' later books are among the most often cited in diffusion research. His methodologies are closely followed in recent diffusion research, even as the field has expanded into, and been influenced by, other methodological disciplines such as social network analysis and communication.

See Also

The Diffusion of Innovation Theory, developed by Everett Rogers in 1962, explains how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. The theory is widely used across disciplines, including marketing, sociology, and public health, to understand the adoption of innovations. It categorizes adopters into groups based on their openness to adopting new innovations and outlines factors influencing the adoption process.

  • Innovators: The first individuals to adopt an innovation. They are willing to take risks, the youngest in age, have the highest social class, have great financial lucidity, are very social, and have the closest contact to scientific sources and interaction with other innovators.
  • Early Adopters: This group represents opinion leaders. They enjoy leadership roles, embrace opportunities, and know the need to change. They are more discreet in adoption choices than innovators.
  • Early Majority: Individuals in this category adopt an innovation after a varying degree of time. This group is typically slower in the adoption process than the innovators and early adopters.
  • Late Majority: Individuals in this category will adopt an innovation after the average member of society. They approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism after most of society has adopted it.
  • Laggards: The last to adopt an innovation. Unlike some of the previous categories, individuals in this group show little to no opinion leadership. They typically have an aversion to change agents and tend to be advanced in age.
  • Adoption Process: The stages an individual goes through in the decision-making process to adopt or reject an innovation. This typically includes awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, and adoption.
  • Rate of Adoption: The relative speed at which social system members adopt an innovation. It is influenced by perceived advantages, compatibility with existing values and practices, and complexity.
  • Social System: The context within which innovation diffusion occurs. Certain boundaries can define it and include all the interrelated units engaged in solving a certain problem or achieving a certain goal.
  • Communication Channels: How information about the innovation is transmitted to social system members. This can include mass media, interpersonal channels, and digital platforms.
  • Change Agents: Individuals or entities that influence clients' innovation decisions in a direction deemed desirable by a change agency. They can facilitate the adoption process by providing information and support to potential adopters.
  • Bass Diffusion Model

The Diffusion of Innovation Theory offers a comprehensive framework for understanding how new ideas and technologies spread within a society or among groups, providing valuable insights for managing change, marketing new products, and promoting social innovations.


  1. Defining Diffusion of Innovation Theory Creative Emergence
  2. History of Diffusion of Innovation Theory Wikipedia