The introduction of a new information system into a small business, or upgrading an existing system, should be seen as an innovation and considered through the lens of innovation theory. The most widely accepted theories of how technological innovation takes place are provided by innovation diffusion (Rogers, 1995) and the technology acceptance model (Davis, 1986), but most of the research based on these models involves studies of large organizations or societal groups. This article argues that another approach, innovation translation, has more to offer in the case of innovations that take place in smaller organizations (Burgess, Tatnall, & Darbyshire, 1999; Tatnall, 2002; Tatnall & Burgess, 2004).
Rogers (1995), perhaps its most influential advocate, approaches the topic of innovation diffusion by considering a variety of case studies, the prime concern of which is the identification of factors that affect the speed with which an innovation is adopted, or that cause it not to be adopted at all.
In diffusion theory the existence of an innovation is seen to cause uncertainty in the minds of potential adopters causing a lack of predictability and of information. Rogers (1995) asserts that a technological innovation embodies information and that this has the potential to reduce uncertainty. Diffusion is thus considered to be an information exchange process amongst members of a communicating social network driven by the need to reduce uncertainty (Lepa & Tatnall, 2002). There are four main elements of the theory of innovation diffusion (Rogers, 1995):
Characteristics of the Innovation Itself
Rogers argues that the attributes and characteristics of the innovation are important in determining the manner of its diffusion and the rate of its adoption and outlines five important characteristics of an innovation that affect its diffusion: relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability. The attributes of the potential adopter are also seen as an important consideration, and Rogers maintains that these include social status, level of education, degree of cosmopolitanism, and amount of innovativeness.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Invention: The discovery or creation of new ideas.
Innovation: The application, in any organization, of ideas new to it, whether they are embodied in products, processes, or services.
Innovation Translation: A theory of innovation in which, instead of using an innovation in the form it is proposed, potential adopters translate it into a form that suits their needs.
Actor-Network Theory (ANT): An approach to research in which networks’ associations and interactions between actors (both human and non-human) are the basis for investigation.
Technological Innovation: The introduction or alteration of some form of technology (often information technology) into an organization.
Socio-Technical Research: Involving both social and technical interactions, occurring in such a way that it is not easily possible to disentangle them.
Innovation Diffusion: A theory of innovation in which the main elements are characteristics of the innovation itself, the nature of the communication channels, the passage of time, and the social system through which the innovation diffuses.