Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Diffusion of Innovations and AEE 400

From the wealth of "Ticket Out" responses, it seems that the Rogers' model of diffusion of innovations captured the interest of many students. 

There are many lingering questions, including:
  • How the diffusion model can be used for good and seen as destructive?
  • Developing nation and communities wants vs needs? Are we forcing something on the people?
  • Does the diffusion of Innovation process/model ever not happen? Example?
  • What are some best practices for facilitating diffusion?
These are all GREAT questions!  I'm glad that the reading and brief discussion of this model has your minds turning in all different directions.

As we'll discover throughout this class, the Rogers' model of diffusion is just one model. There are other models of diffusion, which were largely developed because researchers saw so many flaws with the Rogers model.

If you take a look at the model, there are some limitations that you can see right off the bat.  Why should 100% adoption of the innovation be the goal?  Doesn't that assume that the innovation is the right thing for everyone?  These biases are called the pro-innovation bias and the individual-blame bias, which assume that the innovation is "right" and people are "wrong" for not adopting it. 

Decades of research was conducted using this model, trying to pinpoint the best practices to rapidly diffuse new innovations among populations in developing countries.  You can find examples in the readings, as well as by searching for research articles through Penn State libraries.  In the end, many development experts found that each context is unique and that it is very hard to generalize results in across cultures and different geographic locations. 

Doesn't this idea tie right in with the development question?  How do outsiders, mainly Westerners, decide what is right for other people?  If you keep reading in Rogers or look at the literature, many development projects that utilized this model have had unintended consequences and many have tried to diffuse Western innovations in a non-Western context.  In the process, the needs and wants, as well as the indigenous knowledge, of local people are often ignored.

This is a big idea!  There are entire college courses taught JUST on Rogers' model.  In fact, there is an entire graduate class in Workforce Education taught on this topic.  There are folks that have dedicated their academic lives to thinking and researching this model.  So don't be frustrated!

Here are some things you can do: I encourage you to fill out the worksheet passed out at the end of class and reread the assigned reading to make sure you have the basics down.  Come talk to me if you have questions or if you want to learn more about this model.  Also, check out the rest of Rogers' book for more examples and detail about the issues touched on above.  It's an easy read and the examples are great illustrations of his main points.

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