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Discussion Thread: The Struggle to Change


This is a graded discussion: 50 points possible

due Jan 30

11 unread reply.11 reply.

Change is a constant. In life, we can expect change. Change occurs as part of the human life cycle and it happens as part of the organizational life cycle as well. If change is inevitable, why do so many organizations, including churches, struggle to change? Describe an organization you are aware of that could not change and what impact that inability to change had on the organization.

Discussion Assignment Instructions

The student will post one thread to the provided prompt of at least 400 words by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Sunday of the assigned Module:Week. The student must then post two replies of at least 200 words by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Sunday of the following Module:Week. For each thread, students must support their assertions with at least two scholarly citations in APA format. Each reply must incorporate at least one academic citation in APA format. Acceptable sources include course textbooks.

Please note that the Discussion beginning in Module 5: Week 5 is different than the other Discussions in the course. For the thread, you will post your case study to the discussion area by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Sunday of Module 5: Week 5 . Students will then respond to at least two other classmates by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Sunday of Module 6: Week 6.





Ideas in Action

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Integration vs. Modularity

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Reinventing Your Business Model

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Organizational Capabilities

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Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns

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Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation, a term of art coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.


Some examples of disruptive innovation include:



Personal computers

Mainframe and mini computers

Mini mills

Integrated steel mills

Cellular phones

Fixed line telephony

Community colleges

Four-year colleges

Discount retailers

Full-service department stores

Retail medical clinics

Traditional doctor’s offices




As companies tend to innovate faster than their customers’ needs evolve, most organizations eventually end up producing products or services that are actually too sophisticated, too expensive, and too complicated for many customers in their market.

Companies pursue these “sustaining innovations” at the higher tiers of their markets because this is what has historically helped them succeed: by charging the highest prices to their most demanding and sophisticated customers at the top of the market, companies will achieve the greatest profitability.

However, by doing so, companies unwittingly open the door to “disruptive innovations” at the bottom of the market. An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers at the bottom of a market access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill.

Characteristics of disruptive businesses, at least in their initial stages, can include:  lower gross margins, smaller target markets, and simpler products and services that may not appear as attractive as existing solutions when compared against traditional performance metrics.  Because these lower tiers of the market offer lower gross margins, they are unattractive to other firms moving upward in the market, creating space at the bottom of the market for new disruptive competitors to emerge.


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by Les Robinson

“An enjoyable, inspiring
crash course in social
change thinking.”
Now on Amazon.

A summary of
Diffusion of
By Les Robinson

[Fully revised and rewritten Jan 2009]

Diffusion of Innovations seeks to
explain how innovations are taken
up in a population. An innovation is
an idea, behaviour, or object that is
perceived as new by its audience.

Diffusion of Innovations offers three
valuable insights into the process of
social change:

– What qualities make an innovation

– The importance of peer-peer
conversations and peer networks.

– Understanding the needs of
different user segments.

These insights have been tested in
more than 6000 research studies and
field tests, so they are amongst the
most reliable in the social sciences.

What qualities make
innovations spread?

Diffusion of Innovations takes a
radically different approach to most
other theories of change. Instead of
focusing on persuading individuals
to change, it sees change as being
primarily about the evolution or
“reinvention” of products and

behaviours so they become better
fits for the needs of individuals and
groups. In Diffusion of Innovations
it is not people who change, but the
innovations themselves.

Why do certain innovations spread
more quickly than others? And why
do others fail? Diffusion scholars
recognise five qualities that determine
the success of an innovation.

1) Relative advantage
This is the degree to which an
innovation is perceived as better
than the idea it supersedes by a
particular group of users, measured
in terms that matter to those users,
like economic advantage, social
prestige, convenience, or satisfaction.
The greater the perceived relative
advantage of an innovation, the more
rapid its rate of adoption is likely to

There are no absolute rules for what
constitutes “relative advantage”. It
depends on the particular perceptions
and needs of the user group.

2) Compatibility with existing
values and practices
This is the degree to which an
innovation is perceived as being
consistent with the values, past



A Summary of Diffusion of Innovations

experiences, and needs of potential
adopters. An idea that is incompatible
with their values, norms or practices
will not be adopted as rapidly as an
innovation that is compatible.

3) Simplicity and ease of use
This is the degree to which an
innovation is perceived as difficult to
understand and use. New ideas that
are simpler to understand are adopted
more rapidly than innovations that
require the adopter to develop new
skills and understandings.

4) Trialability
This is the degree to which an
innovation can be experimented with
on a limited basis. An innovation that
is trialable represents less risk to the
individual who is considering it.

5) Observable results
The easier it is for individuals to see
the results of an innovation, the more
likely they are to adopt it. Visible
results lower uncertainty and also
stimulate peer discussion of a new
idea, as friends and neighbours of
an adopter often request information
about it.

According to Everett Rogers, these
five qualities determine between 49
and 87 percent of the variation in the
adoption of new products. 1

These five qualities make a valuable
checklist to frame focus group
discussions or project evaluations.
They can help identify weaknesses
to be addressed when improving
products or behaviours.

Reinvention is a key principle in
Diffusion of Innovations. The success
of an innovation depends on how well
it evolves to meet the needs of more
and more demanding and risk-averse

individuals in a population (the history
of the mobile phone is a perfect

A good way to achieve this is to
make users into partners in a
continuous process of redevelopment.
Computer games companies,
pharmaceutical corporations
and rural research institutes are
examples of organisations that seek
to make users active partners in
improving innovations by supporting
user communities or by applying
participative action research

Many computer games are now built
with the intention that they will be
modified by enthusiastic users. Says
consumer behaviour expert, Francine
Gardin. “They’re actually participating
in the design of the game. These
consumers are really passionate
about the game – it’s almost like a
cult. They have an incredible sense of
loyalty and ownership of that brand.
Instead of complaining, they fix the

The concept of reinvention is
important because it tells us that no
product or process can rest on its
laurels: continuous improvement is
the key to spreading an innovation.

The importance of peer-
peer conversations and peer

The second important insight is
that impersonal marketing methods
like advertising and media stories
may spread information about new
innovations, but it’s conversations
that spread adoption.

Why? Because the adoption of new
products or behaviours involves the


A Summary of Diffusion of Innovations

management of risk and uncertainty.
It’s usually only people we personally
know and trust – and who we know
have successfully adopted the
innovation themselves – who can
give us credible reassurances that
our attempts to change won’t result
in embarrassment, humiliation,
financial loss or wasted time. They
are the people whose lived example
is the best teacher of how to adopt an

Early adopters are the exception to
this rule. They are on the lookout for
advantages and tend to see the risks
as low because they are financially
more secure, more personally
confident, and better informed about
the particular product or behaviour.
Often they will grasp at innovations
on the basis of no more than a well
worded news article. The rest of the
population, however, see higher risks
in change, and therefore require
assurance from trusted peers that an
innovation is do-able and provides
genuine benefits.

As an innovation spreads from early
adopters to majority audiences, face-
to-face communication therefore

becomes more essential to the
decision to adopt. This principle is
embodied in the Bass Forecasting
Model (above), which illustrates how
face-to-face communication becomes
more influential over time, and mass
media less influential.

The emphasis on peer-peer
communication has led diffusion
scholars to be interested in peer
networks. Many diffusion-style
campaigns now consciously attempt
to utilise peer networks, for
instance by using Popular Opinion
Leader techniques or various “viral
marketing” methods. These methods
– which are becoming increasingly
popular – aim to recruit well-
connected individuals to spread
new ideas through their own social

Opinion leader tactics have been
successful in raising the standards
of practice by medical doctors,3
promoting weatherisation of homes,4
and encouraging safe sex in gay

Rogers notes that by 2003 there had
been eight randomised controlled

The Bass Forecasting Model. Source: Mahajan, Muller and Bass (1990) as
reproduced in Rogers, E.M. (2003) p210.

Adoptions due to
mass media Adoptions due to

interpersonal communication



A Summary of Diffusion of Innovations

trials – the gold standard in evaluation
– all of which demonstrated the
success of opinion leader tactics in
producing behavioural changes.

Understanding the needs of
different user segments

Diffusion researchers believe that
a population can be broken down
into five different segments, based
on their propensity to adopt a
specific innovation: innovators,
early adopters, early majorities, late
majorities and laggards.

Each group has its own “personality”,
at least as far as its attitude to a
particular innovation goes.

When thinking about these groups,
don’t imagine it’s your job to shift
people from one segment to another.
It doesn’t work that way. It’s best
to think of the membership of each
segment as static. Innovations spread
when they evolve to meet the needs
of successive segments.

The adoption process begins with a
tiny number of visionary, imaginative
innovators. They often lavish great
time, energy and creativity on
developing new ideas and gadgets.

And they love to talk about them.
Right now, they’re the ones busily
building stills to convert cooking
oil into diesel fuel and making
websites to tell the world about it.
Unfortunately their one-eyed fixation
on a new behaviour or gadget can
make them seem dangerously
idealistic to the pragmatic majority.
Yet no change program can
thrive without their energy and

How to work with innovators:

• Track them down and become their
“first followers”7, providing support
and publicity for their ideas.

• Invite keen innovators to be
partners in designing your project.

Early adopters:
Once the benefits start to become
apparent, early adopters leap in. They
are on the lookout for a strategic leap
forward in their lives or businesses
and are quick to make connections
between clever innovations and their
personal needs.

They love getting an advantage over
their peers and they have time and
money to invest. They’re often fashion
conscious and love to be seen as

Early majority Late majority

Innovators Early


High Low Low HighPropensity to adopt Propensity to resist

Diffusion scholars believe any population or social network can be broken down into five
segments, for any given innovation.


A Summary of Diffusion of Innovations

leaders: social prestige is one of their
biggest drivers. Their natural desire to
be trend setters causes the “take-off”
of an innovation. Early adopters tend
to be more economically successful,
well connected and well informed and
hence more socially respected. Their
seemingly risky plunge into a new
activity sets tongues wagging. Others
watch to see whether they prosper
of fail, and people start talking about
the results. And early adopters like
to talk about their successes. So the
buzz intensifies. What early adopters
say about an innovation determines
its success. The more they crow
and preen, the more likely the new
behaviour or product will be perceived
positively by the majority of a

Early adopters are vital for another
reason. They become an independent
test bed, ironing out the chinks and
reinventing the innovation to suit
mainstream needs.

Fortunately early adopters are an
easy audience. They don’t need much
persuading because they are on the
lookout for anything that could give
them a social or economic edge.
When you call a public meeting to
discuss energy-saving devices or new
farming methods, they’re the ones
who come along. They’re the first
people in your block to install a water
tank, mulch their garden, buy laptops
for their kids, or install solar panels.

Some authorities talk about a “chasm”
between visionary early adopters and
pragmatic majorities.8 They think the
chasm explains why many products
are initially popular with early
adopters but crash and burn before
they reach mass markets. Everett
Rogers disagreed9 with the idea of
a chasm. He thought early adopters

and majorities formed a continuum.
However most early adopters still
have radically different interests
and needs from most majorities, so
even if there’s no real chasm it’s a
useful mental construct that warns
us against the easy assumption
that one size fits all. Once again,
what makes products or practices
spread is not persuasion. It’s the
whether the product or behaviour is
being reinvented to become easier,
simpler, quicker, cheaper, and more

How to work with early adopters:

• Offer strong face-to-face support for
a limited number of early adopters to
trial the new idea.
• Study the trials carefully to
discover how to make the idea more
convenient, low cost and marketable.

• Reward their egos e.g. with media

• Promote them as fashion leaders
(beginning with the cultish end of the
media market).

• Recruit and train some as peer

• Maintain relationships with regular

Early majority:
Assuming the product or behaviour
leaps the chasm, it may eventually
reach majority audiences. Early
majorities are pragmatists,
comfortable with moderately
progressive ideas, but won’t act
without solid proof of benefits. They
are followers who are influenced by
mainstream fashions and wary of
fads. They want to hear “industry
standard” and “endorsed by normal,


A Summary of Diffusion of Innovations

respectable folks”.

Majorities are cost sensitive and
risk averse. They are looking for
simple, proven, better ways of doing
what they already do. They require
guaranteed off-the-shelf performance,
minimum disruption, minimum
commitment of time, minimum
learning, and either cost neutrality or
rapid payback periods. And they hate
complexity. They haven’t got time to
think about your product or project.
They’re too busy getting the kids to
football and running their businesses.
If they do have spare time they’re not
going to spend it fussing around with
complicated, expensive, inconvenient
products or behaviours. They want to
hear “plug-and-play”, “no sweat” or
“user-friendly” and “value for money”.

How to work with the early majority:

• Offer give-aways or competitions to
stimulate buzz.

• Use mainstream advertising and
media stories featuring endorsements
from credible, respected, similar folks.

• Lower the entry cost and guarantee

• Redesign to maximise ease and

• Cut the red tape: simplify
application forms and instructions.

• Provide strong customer service and

Late majority:
They are conservative pragmatists
who hate risk and are uncomfortable
your new idea. Practically their only
driver is the fear of not fitting in,
hence they will follow mainstream

fashions and established standards.
They are often influenced by the fears
and opinions of laggards.

How to work with the late majority:

• Focus on promoting social norms
rather than just product benefits:
they’ll want to hear that plenty
of other conservative folks like
themselves think it’s normal or

• Keep refining the product to
increase convenience and reduce

• Emphasise the risks of being left

• Respond to criticisms from laggards.

Meanwhile laggards hold out to the
bitter end. They are people who see
a high risk in adopting a particular
product or behaviour. Some of them
are so worried they stay awake all
night, tossing and turning, thinking
up arguments against it. And don’t
forget they might be right! It’s
possible they are not really not
laggards at all, but innovators of
ideas that are so new they challenge
your paradigms! In the early stages,
where you are focusing on early
adopters, you can probably ignore
the views of laggards, but when you
come to work with late majorities
you’ll need to address their criticisms,
because late majorities share many
of their fears.

How to work with laggards:
• Give them high levels of personal
control over when, where, how and
whether they do the new behaviour.

• Maximise their familiarity with new


A Summary of Diffusion of Innovations

products or behaviours. Let them
see exactly how other laggards have
successfully adopted the innovation.

Each of these adopter personalities
is very different. It’s vital to know
which one you are addressing at
a given time. And no, you usually
can’t address them all at once. Why?
Because products and behaviours
only mature gradually. The exception
is when you have customized quite
different products or behaviours for
each group. Weight Watchers is an
example. It has a traditional calorie-
counting method that suits early
adopters, a “points value” method
that suits early majorities, and a “no
count” system for everyone else.

How big is each segment? Rogers
went as far as assigning precise
notional percentages for each

Innovators: 2.5%

Early Adopters: 13.5%

Early majority: 34%

Late majority 34%

Laggards 16% 10

However the “20:60:20 Rule” is a
good all-purpose rule of thumb.

When designing a change project
you need to know one vital fact: the
percentage in a given social system
who have already taken up the
innovation. That figure tells you which
segment you are addressing next. It
gives you great insight into how to
design your project and how to pitch
your communications.

Of course, no one is an innovator or
a laggard about all new ideas. That
would be too exhausting. In reality,

most people are majorities about
most things, and only innovators or
laggards about certain specific things.
We wouldn’t say “John is a laggard”,
we’d say “John is an iPhone laggard”
or “George Bush snr is a broccoli


The standard text is Everett M.
Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations, Fifth
Edition 2003, Free Press, New York.
It’s thorough, readable, and strongly
recommended for anyone who’s
serious about making change.

1 Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations,
Fifth Edition 2003, Free Press, New York, p221
2 Quoted in Purcell, P. (2004) A quick mod takes
gamers beyond their doom, Sydney Morning
Herald, 23 August
3 Soumerai, S.B. et al (1998) Effect of Local
Medical Opinion Leaders on Quality of Care
for Acute Myocardial Infarction, A randomized
controlled trial, Journal of the American Medical
Association Vol 279, pp1358-1363
4 Hirst, E. (1989) Reaching for 100 percent
participation in a utility conservation programme
The Hood River project, Energy Policy Vol 17(2)
5 Kelly, J.A. et al (1997) Randomised, controlled,
community-level HIV-prevention intervention for
sexual-risk behaviour amongst homosexual men
in US cities, The Lancet Vol 350, 9090; Health
Module p1500
6 Rogers op. cit. p322
7 See Derek Sivers’ entertaining Youtube video
on the subject of first followers. It’s a delightful
demonstration of diffusion in action: http://
8 Moore, Geoffrey, A. (1999) Marketing and
Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream
Customers, Revised edition, HarperCollins, New
9 Rogers op. cit. p282
10 ibid. p281

This work is licensed under a Creative
Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

CLED 700

Discussion Assignment Instructions

The student will complete Four Discussions in this course. The student will post one thread of 300-400 words by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Thursday of the assigned Module: Week. The student must then post 2 replies of 200-250 words by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Sunday of the assigned Module: Week. Where appropriate in both the thread and replies, major points are supported by lecture material, Scripture, examples, and/or thoughtful analysis.

This course utilizes the Post-First feature in all Discussions. This means you will only be able to read and interact with your classmates’ threads after you have submitted your thread in response to the provided prompt.