What Is Innovation Theory ?

Innovation theory, also called diffusion of innovation theory, explains how advancements gain traction and over time spread, or diffuse, throughout a specific population. These advancements can be new ideas, technology, behaviors or products.

Developed in 1962 by E.M. Rogers, diffusion of innovation is concerned with how something new moves from creation to use. Central to the theory is the idea that different types of people adopt new ideas or products on different timelines.

The theory specifies five categories of adopters based on their adoption rate. Innovators adopt first to something new; they are venturesome and risk-takers. Next to adopt a new product or technology are early adopters. These people are often opinion leaders who believe that change is necessary. The early majority follow early adopters. They utilize something new before the average person.

The next group is called the late majority who, because they are skeptical of change, wait until the new thing has at least been tried by a majority of their peers. The last group is laggards. Their name defines their behavior as they are traditional and conservative.

Each group follows basically the same behavior when adopting something new. First, an individual gains knowledge of the new product; then he is persuaded to try it by forming a positive opinion of it. The individual then makes a decision or commitment to adopt the product and implement that decision by actually using it. In the final stage, the user receives confirmation or reinforcement based on a positive outcome from the product’s usage.