Factors Affecting Diffusion of Innovation

Diffusion of Innovation (Rogers, 2003)  is a well-known theory that predicts and explains who new ideas and practices spread through communities. The stages of adoption are perhaps the most widely used aspect of this theory, but other aspects are useful as well. Rogers identified several measurable factors that are associated with the diffusion of innovations which are summarized in this post.

Given that autonomy is known to be a factor continuing to member’s motivation and participation to adopt innovation, it is unsurprising to learn Rogers finds centralize management and high levels of formalized processes to be negatively associated with the adoption of innovations within organizations. In addition to being an obstacle to the entry of innovations into an organization, centralized management and formalized processes slow adoption as the single entities responsible for approving changes become a bottleneck where the diffusion of innovations slow.

It is perhaps not surprising that leaders’ attitudes towards change is positively associated with organizations innovation. Those leaders who are more accepting of innovations are more likely to both seek out innovations, become an active advocate for them, and make decisions and delegate authority in a manner that that contributes to the more rapid diffusion of innovations within the organization. Further, members of the organization who have a positive attitude towards change will find fewer reasons to avoid innovations, thus they quickly adopt them which increases organizational innovativeness. Hiring such individuals (and providing mentors to those who are not) becomes a human resources strategy that can increase the diffusion of innovations.

Interconnectedness and openness are variations on the same characteristic; each determines the availability and use of channels of communication. Organizations with connections to the outside are open and those with deep interpersonal connections within the organization are interconnected. Both of these contribute to the communication that is essential to the diffusion of innovations as they are more likely to enter an open organization and diffuse through an interconnected one.

Slack is a measure of the resources within an organization that are not committed to other purposes. Financial, personnel, and other resources that can be used to support innovation, thus increasing the capacity for diffusion of innovations and the development of expertise.

Complexity is in interesting factor. Organization comprising individuals with greater expertise and knowledge in their area, tend to be more complex, and innovations tend to enter those organizations through those individuals. In general, greater complexity is associated with greater organizational innovation. Size is also an interesting factor associated with organizations innovativeness. Largr and more complex organizations tend to have greater formalized procedures and centralized structures which decrease innovation. Despite this, Rogers found larger organizations to be more innovative, others (for example Laforet, 2016) have found small organizations to be more innovative.


Laforet, S. (2013). Organizational innovation outcomes in SMEs: Effects of age, size, and sector. Journal of World Business, 48(4), 490–502.


Rogers, E. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed). New York: Free Press.