The Good, the Bad, and the Missing of the “Diffusion of Innovations” Theory: A Commentary Essay

The Good, the Bad, and the Missing of the “Diffusion of Innovations” Theory: A Commentary Essay

Francisco Chia Cua
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/jissc.2012070105
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A single-case study examined the complex issues in the deployment of new financial management information systems by a large public-sector university. Reflecting certain strengths (the good), weaknesses (the bad), and gaps (the missing) of the Diffusion of Innovations theory, this essay clarifies the theory in the context of Innovation and Change. The simple chain of reasoning gives structure to the data and slightly elevates the evidence gathered into episteme. The discussion presents the concepts, applies theory to context, and articulates the concept that cannot hold. Yet the DOI theory interpreted in the context is still at risk, unless the big picture of change is clear. Accordingly, the reflection suggests prospective research strategies for further development of the domain.
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The “Diffusion Of Innovations” Theory And Social Change

What kind of change is best for long-term success? How should it be implemented? Of these two broad questions (Nadler & Tushman, 2004), the first concerns a view of the future and the second concerns an appropriate process.

Invariably, social change alters the structure and business processes of an organization (Rogers, 1969). The structure consists of elements, and their patterned relations and reciprocal interactions, while the business process aligns the tensions between stability and change (Parsons, 1961).

Of the many process theories about innovation and change, a highly recommended classic is the Diffusion of Innovation by Rogers (1962). It deals with the adoption of an innovation throughout a social system and introduces ways to take advantage of this knowledge. First, the innovation needs to be diffused. Then the diffusion is what triggers the social change. Briefly, it is:

Diffusion of Innovation → Social Change

Innovation is an introduction of any “idea, practice or object that is perceived to be new” (Rogers, 2003, p. 5, emphasis added). Roberts (2007) believes that an innovation has two parts. First is “the generation of an idea or invention” and the second is “the conversion of that [new idea] or invention into a business or other useful application”. Others define innovation as something really new, whether an invention (e.g., Tarde, 1903), a new combination (Schumpeter, 1934), or something subject to the dimensions, such as product innovation or process innovation (e.g., Maidique & Zirger, 1984; Souder, 1987).

The keyword of this construct is perception. Rogers (2003) emphasizes “reaction to it” (referring to the innovation) and the newness may be expressed in terms of “knowledge, persuasion, or a decision to adopt” (p. 12). For example, the deployment of new enterprise systems rarely means that the systems themselves are an innovation, because the new systems may be replacing an obsolete system.

The process in which a new idea is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system is popularly known as diffusion (Rogers, 2003, p. 5). As the case demonstrates, in order to diffuse new enterprise systems internally, communication must involve interpersonal interactions among the internal staff, personal persuasion, emails, and finally, a formal business case document. External diffusion includes the Request for Information (RFI) taking the form of newspaper advertisements and uploads to a government website, and the Request for Proposal (RFP) sent to the short-listed vendors.

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