Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Diffusion of Innovation

Diffusion of innovation is an idea that some groups within a market are more ready and willing to adopt a new product than others and that the product is diffused through a society in waves.  

One of the biggest threats to preventing diffusion of a great innovation can lurk within.  In your organization, who are the innovators, early adopters, early majority types, late majority types, and laggards?  One of the challenges most of us face where we work is selling an idea to people in our own organization. 

People who as consumers tend to be laggards or late majority should not be put in positions at work where they can prevent innovation--here's why. 

Your ability to compete is often hindered by the play-it-safe crowd.  Let's stay with our proven "same-old" products and services because they prefer the safety of the familiar. 

The lesson of Kodak is staying with film and not moving forward in their digital innovation gave competitors an the opportunity to kill Kodak with their own sword.  The Kodak "play it safe" in our familiar territory approach to business is at best dangerous, and at worst life ending. 
The four main elements in the diffusion of new ideas are:
(1) The innovation
(2) Communication channels
(3) Time
(4) The social system (context)

Why do new ideas get shut down before they can ever get an opportunity for wider diffusion into the market?  Many times, organizational leadership puts people in positions where they become gatekeepers of innovation.  So, your own company social system can be a threat to your company's success if people who are laggards as consumers are put in positions where their "lagging" personality shuts down communication of ideas, innovation, and entrepreneurship at work.

For example, if you have a person who tends to avoid risk, play it safe, does not want to rock the boat, is controlling and on a power trip, does not like change, does not have a smart phone or use email, or thinks tomorrow will always be the same as yesterday, then it is likely good ideas will be aborted before they ever get a chance to grow by people who are by nature resistant to new ideas. These people are innovation killers.

Laggers will never communicate good ideas coming from those working under them to people above them.  Having naysayers as gatekeepers can lead to competitors having first mover advantage, and taking over your place in the market--can anyone say "Research in Motion?"

A proper balance of taking successful products through their full life cycle, knowing when to cannibalize your own old products, having good research and development, and maintaining the same entrepreneurial spirit that brought you success in the first place are keys to success in your industry!

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