Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers (Book Club)

Book Club: Rogers, E. M. (1995) Diffusion of innovations. (5th ed.) Simon and Schuster, New York, USA. [summary article]

What is Diffusion?

“Diffusion is the process in which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of an social system” (pg. 5).

What are Innovations

“An idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new to an individual or another unit of adoption” (pg. 137).

Innovation-Development Process

  1. Recognising a problem or need.
  2. Basic and applied research.
  3. Development- from idea into actual use.
  4. Commercialisation.
  5. Diffusion & adoption.
  6. Consequences of the innovation and adoption.

Diffusion of Innovations

4 main elements:

  1. The innovation.
  2. Communication through interpersonal networks and wider channels of communication.
  3. It takes time.
  4. Disseminates among the members of a social system.

The Adopters

Adopters within the social system do not take up the innovation at the same time. They adopt in an “over-time sequence”. Individuals can be classified into adopter categories of innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.

The S-shaped Diffusion Curve 

Diffusion of ideas

Early Adopters

Importance of Time

New ideas are difficult to adopt, from the time they become available to the time they become adopted. It is also difficult to measure adoption as this occurs over time, and trying to identify the why factors or causalities is part of this difficulty.

Drivers of Change

The importance of interpersonal networks in the adoption or rejection of an innovation. Opinion leaders can lead and influence others through their behaviour and actions to engage with the innovation.  Diffusion networks and the interpersonal communication aspects are vital drivers on the diffusion process. The role of champions, are the drivers who throw everything behind the innovation and support unflinchingly to increase uptake of a new idea.

The Role of the Change Agent

  1. To develop a need for change.
  2. To establish an information an information relationship.
  3. To diagnose problems.
  4. To create an intent to change in the client/organisations.
  5. To translate an intent into action.
  6. To stablise adoption and prevent discontinuance.
  7. To achieve a terminal relationship.

Relevance in Healthcare

The innovation to be successful must be client orientated (this is vital in healthcare for consumers to provide a experiential view). The book provides some great stories of successful and failed innovations. One theme that comes across in the failed stories is one of not understanding or considering local customs or practices, failing innovations due to a discordance with social behaviours, means adoption does not take place.

Not every innovation should be diffused and adopted, so a rigorous process (research) should be in place to prevent bad or low value innovations. Questions to ask of an innovation:

  1. What is the innovation?
  2. How does it work?
  3. Why does it work?


The diffusion of innovations provides a framework to engage in change, but the healthcare team still need to mindful to avoid bad innovations, especially wasting valuable time and resources (#culture). The innovation and change management perspective and the view of the early adopters and change agents can assist in developing ideas. Client orientated innovations must be considered, which links with human centred design philosophy. I was informed that this book would change my perspective on so many things and by page 10 I was hooked on the change process, the use of stories are used effectively to convey the important messages.

Thanks to the very knowledgeable Dr Kay Rolls (@Kay_Rolls) for the excellent book recommendation.


Rogers, E. M. (1995) Diffusion of innovations. (5th ed.) Simon and Schuster, New York, USA. [summary article]

Ross, P. (2017) Deimplementation of Practice. Nursing Education Network.

Ross, P. (2016) Human Centred Design. Nursing Education Network.