Innovation Diffusion Basics

Innovation Diffusion Basics

Do you wonder why some innovations diffuse, while others don’t? These days, we like to use trendy buzz words like scaling, getting traction and going viral, but the meaning is the same. But, there are many terms and concepts that are being used that are confusing , so here are some basics to set you straight:

  1. Who, when, why and how people adopt new ideas goes back to Everett Rogers and his book, Diffusion of Innovations
  2. Implementation science is the systematic study of strategies and factors associated with the successful integration of evidence-based interventions and policies into practice (and de-implementation of wasteful and ineffective programs). Adoption is another term describing the same thing.
  3. Dissemination research involves the study mechanisms and approaches to communicate and spread information targeted to potential users to accelerate adoption and implementation (going to scale). Another term for it is penetration.

4. The five stages of the adoption process are:

  1. Knowledge (Awareness): In this stage the individual is first exposed to an innovation but lacks information about the innovation. During this stage of the process the individual has not been inspired to find more information about the innovation. Hint: How can social media drive curiosity?
  2. Persuasion/ Intention: In this stage the individual is interested in the innovation and actively seeks information/detail about the innovation. Hint: How can smart website content on the Google search results page help educate this potential user?
  3. Decision: In this stage the individual takes the concept of the change and weighs the advantages/disadvantages of using the innovation and decides whether to adopt or reject the innovation. Due to the individualistic nature of this stage Rogers notes that it is the most difficult stage to acquire empirical evidence (Rogers 1964, p. 83). Hint: How can you make the first digital experiences with the brand enjoyable and useful?
  4. Implementation/Action: In this stage the individual employs the innovation to a varying degree depending on the situation. During this stage the individual determines the usefulness of the innovation and may search for further information about it. Hint: How can you build an online community to help new users get up to speed on using your product or service? Can you craft content such as a “Beginner’s Guide with FAQ’s”?
  5. Confirmation/Validation: Although the name of this stage may be misleading, in this stage the individual finalizes his/her decision to continue using the innovation and may use the innovation to its fullest potential or abandon it altogether. Hint: How can you reassure a user in real-time they made the right decision?

Here are the five customer segments by rates of adoption:

Innovators (2.5%) – Innovators are the first individuals to adopt an innovation. Innovators are willing to take risks, youngest in age, have the highest social class, have great financial lucidity, very social and have closest contact to scientific sources and interaction with other innovators. Risk tolerance has them adopting technologies which may ultimately fail. Financial resources help absorb these failures. (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 282)

Early Adopters (13.5%) – This is the second fastest category of individuals who adopt an innovation. These individuals have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the other adopter categories. Early adopters are typically younger in age, have a higher social status, have more financial lucidity, advanced education, and are more socially forward than late adopters. More discrete in adoption choices than innovators. Realize judicious choice of adoption will help them maintain central communication position (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283).

Early Majority (34%) – Individuals in this category adopt an innovation after a varying degree of time. This time of adoption is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters. Early Majority tend to be slower in the adoption process, have above average social status, contact with early adopters, and seldom hold positions of opinion leadership in a system (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283)

Late Majority (34%) – Individuals in this category will adopt an innovation after the average member of the society. These individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and after the majority of society has adopted the innovation. Late Majority are typically skeptical about an innovation, have below average social status, very little financial lucidity, in contact with others in late majority and early majority, very little opinion leadership.

Laggards (16%) – Individuals in this category are the last to adopt an innovation. Unlike some of the previous categories, individuals in this category show little to no opinion leadership. These individuals typically have an aversion to change-agents and tend to be advanced in age. Laggards typically tend to be focused on “traditions”, likely to have lowest social status, lowest financial fluidity, be oldest of all other adopters, in contact with only family and close friends, very little to no opinion leadership.

5. Most of us buy emotionally and justify rationally.

6. Here are the ABCDEs of technology adoption and errors.

7. As a digital marketer, you have the unique first-time opportunity to touch a consumer across all five steps of this process.

8. Here’s where crossing the chasm meets the lean startup in digital health

9. Here are the 6 dysfunctions of engaged communities

10. Here are some reasons why doctors don’t care about customer service and why they won’t text you

Here are some things innovators can learn from failed innovation efforts in sick care.

A major challenge in sickcare is the amount of time it takes for an evidence based innovation to disseminate into clinical practice. AI aggregation of scientific information might help. New D/I techniques might help. Behavioral economic and social psychologic techniques might help.

The next time the dog won’t eat your food, think about why. The answer is somewhere above.

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Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at

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Arlen Meyers

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine ,teaches bioentrepreneurship and is Chief Medical Officer for Bridge Health and Cliexa. He is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at and author of the Life Science Innovation Roadmap.




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