On Innovation in Organizations

The diffusion of innovations has been studied in both formal and informal populations. Among the examples that Rogers used often in his books were farmers. Innovations in farming practice tend to diffuse through social systems of farmers who grow similar crops in similar environments, and adoption rates are affected by many both market factors and production factors as well as the degree to which one is locked in. A farmer who has recently purchased a machine that is aligned with a traditional practice is unlikely to discard it for an innovative practice until the new machine has generated sufficient income. Likewise, a school that had purchased a new student information system and has migrated data to it and trained users in using it are unlikely to abandon it for an innovative new system until very compelling reasons are obvious. 

Organizations are characterized by specific purposes and it achieves its purpose through specific role that are assigned to members, organizational and authoritarian structures, and both formal and informal rules and practices. As described in the previous section, organizations can be deconstructed into four frames which affect how they accomplish their goals and how it responds to change. 

Rogers (2003) defined organizational innovativeness in terms of the speed at which an innovation diffuses through an organization. The faster the adoption rate, the more innovative the organization. He also found eight factors that affect organizations innovativeness; six are positively associated and two are inversely associated. 

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. Organizations 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. Larger 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, 2013) 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.