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.


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