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Diffusion of Innovations – Definition, History, Elements, and More
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Diffusion of Innovations – Definition, History, Elements, and More

Diffusion of Innovations Definition

The diffusion of innovations is a theory whose objective is to explain how and why ideas move in different cultures. The main element of this theory is innovation.

The novelty of the communicated idea arises within the scope of the diffusion of innovations of knowledge and persuasion. The adoption of an invention is critical in theory.

History of the Diffusion of Innovations

  • The concept was introduced by the French sociologist Gabriel Tarde in the 19th century and by the German and Austrian anthropologists Friedrich Ratzel and Leo Frobenius.
  • His idea initially applied in terms of internal-influence was formulated by H. Earl Pemberton.
  • The idea understood as an explanation of how innovation is communicated through individual channels in time.
  • And among the members of a communal system and how this new idea’ accept and disclosed among its members.
  • Its application became very popular in the marketing sector.

Main Elements of the Diffusion of Innovations

diffusion of innovations

Four main elements make up the theory of the diffusion of innovations.

1. Innovation

  • It is a topic, information, concept that is perceived as something new for the individual.
  • It is something subjective for the user since it may mean something new. For others, the opposite.
  • If it is perceived as something new, it means expanding the source of knowledge for that user.

2. Time

  • It is an element to consider within the theory since the so-called speed of adoption is measured as a relative speed until a certain percentage of the population adopts the innovation.
  • The speed of adopting an innovation also depends on the social system, and different social networks have different rates of adoption for the same invention.

3. Communication Channels

  • The channel is how this innovative idea share between one individual and another.
  • The fastest means that can accelerate this process are the mass media.

4. Social System

  • A social system can understand as a set of individuals related in some way to a given place.
  • The members of the social system can be individuals or groups, organizations or subsystems.
  • Until recently, it thinks that the diffusion of innovations was a theory of the past.
  • It has been recovering spaces, especially about the internet and the explosion of new technologies.
  • The fact that introducing an idea in a given context is novel makes it an innovation, for example, using a seat belt in our environment, even though we have seen it for a long time in the movies.
  • The use of the helmet, although in other times has been part of the social group’s daily life, given its disuse, can become an innovation when it is retaken.

Understanding the Diffusion of Innovations

diffusion of innovations

The theory develops by E.M. Rogers, a communication theorist at the University of New Mexico, in 1962.

Integrating previous sociological theories of behavioural change explains an idea’s passage through adoption stages by different actors. The prominent people in the diffusion of innovations are:

1. Innovators

  • People are open to risks, and the first to try new ideas.

2. Early Adopters

  • And also, people interested in trying new technologies and establishing their utility in society.

3. Early Majority

  • The early majority paves the way for using innovation within mainstream society and is part of the general population.

4. Late Majority

  • The late majority is also a share of the general population. It refers to the set of people who follow the early majority into adopting innovation as part of their daily life.

5. Laggards

  • As the name designates, laggards lag the general population in adopting innovative products and new ideas.
  • And also, it is primarily because they are risk-averse and set in their ways of doing things.
  • But the sweep of innovation through mainstream society makes it impossible for them to conduct their everyday life (and work) without it.
  • As a result, they are involuntary to begin using it.
  • Factors that affect the degree of innovation diffusion include the mix of rural to the urban population within a society, the society’s education level, and industrialization and development.
  • Different societies are probable to have different adoption rates—the rate at which community members accept an innovation.
  • Adoption rates for dissimilar types of innovation vary.
  • For example, a society might have adopted the internet quicker than it adopted the automobile due to cost, accessibility, and familiarity with technological change.

Examples of the Diffusion of Innovations

  1. While the diffusion of innovations developed during the 20th century, most new technologies in human progress.
  2. During the 16th century or the net in the 20th century, the printing media have followed a similar path to widespread adoption.
  3. And also, marketers extensively use the diffusion of innovations theory to promote the adoption of their crops. In such cases, marketers usually find an early set of adopters fervent about the product.
  4. These early adopters are accountable for evangelizing its utility to mainstream audiences.
  5. A recent instance of this method is Facebook. It started as a product targeted at students and professionals in educational institutions.
  6. The students then spread the use of the product to mainstream society and across limits.
  7. And also, the diffusion of innovations theory is secondhand to design public health programs.
  8. Again, people choose as early adopters of new technology or practice and spread awareness around it to others.
  9. However, such programs are not always fruitful due to cultural limitations.


The diffusion of innovations theory labels the pattern and speed at which new ideas, practices, or products spread through a population.

In marketing, this theory frequently applies to benefit, understand, and promote new products.

This theory application usually focuses on identifying and recruiting influential early adopters to help accelerate consumer acceptance.

Also Read: What is Nanotechnology? – History, Uses, Applications, and More

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