5 Factors to Innovation Adoption

Over on O'Reilly Answers beta, "chco" contributes an interesting perspective on how innovations spread and are adopted.  

He points to Diffusion of Innovations written by Everett M. Rogers:

Many technologists think that advantageous innovations will sell themselves, that the obvious benefits of a new idea will be widely realized by potential adopters, and that the innovation will therefore diffuse rapidly. Unfortunately, this is very seldom the case. Most innovations in fact diffuse at a surprisingly slow rate.

Rogers identifies five factors that define how quickly innovations spread…including:


1. Relative Advantage

What value does the new thing have compared to the old? This is perceived advantage, determined by the potential consumer of the innovation, not its makers. This makes it possible for a valueless innovation—from the creator’s perspective—to gain acceptance, while more valuable ones do not. Perceived advantage is built on factors that include economics, prestige, convenience, fashion, and satisfaction.


2. Compatibility

How much effort is required to transition from the current thing to the innovation? If this cost is greater than the relative advantage, most people won’t try the innovation. These costs include people’s value systems, finances, habits, or personal beliefs. Technological compatibility is only part of what makes an innovation spread: the innovation has to be compatible with habits, beliefs, values, and lifestyles.


3. Complexity

How much learning is required to apply the innovation? The smaller the perceived conceptual gap, the higher the rate of acceptance.


4. Trialability

How easy is it to try the innovation?  Samples, giveaways, and demonstrations are centuries-old techniques for making it risk-free to try new ideas. The easier it is to try, the faster innovations diffuse.


5. Observability

How visible are the results of the innovation? The more visible the perceived advantage, the faster the rate of adoption, especially within social groups. Many technologies have limited observability, say, software device drivers, compared to physical products like mobile phones and trendy handbags, which are highly visible when socializing.

Assessing your innovation(s) against these 5 factors of adoption can help determine the likely success or failure of your new products.

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