Diffusion of Innovation: How to Help Laggards Become Innovators

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“One reason why there is so much interest in the diffusion of innovations is because getting a new idea adopted, even when it has obvious advantages, is often very difficult” (Rogers, 1983, pp.1).

With technology increasingly playing a role in our curriculum and in our classrooms, fear and rate of adoption can be seen as a common barrier to using technology in education. Administrators, districts, and boards have a responsibility to monitor the diffusion process and should ensure the implementation of technologies are happening smoothly.

Diffusion of Innovation

Diffusion is explained as the process by which an innovation is communicated over time through the members of a social system. (Rogers, 1983). Innovation is an idea or practice that is perceived as new by an individual (Rogers, 1983).

If we are looking to adopt a new technology in the classroom we need to understand it can be difficult for people to see its advantages and can instill fear and hesitation. When introducing an innovation, uncertainty can come over our organization which, according to Rogers (1983), implies a lack of predictability, structure, and information. Think about a time where you have been directed to implement a product, service, or tool into your daily tasks. How did you feel? Excited? Calm? Nervous? Lost? Likely you had questions about why the change was occurring, how you would learn to use the tool, and how the tool would have a positive impact.

4 Elements of Diffusion

There are 4 elements to the diffusion process;

  1. Innovation
  2. Communication
  3. Time
  4. Social System

First, we must start with a new idea (the innovation), then that idea needs to be communicated amongst members of our social system. We then move on to the length of time the diffusion is going to take and finally we look at our social structure and how its elements may impact our diffusion process

The Rate of Adoption


The rate of adoption is the time it takes for the innovation to be adopted by members of the organization (Rogers, 1983). At first, there are usually only a few members who are on board with the new technology. These are the innovators. Then, as individuals communicate, more decide to adopt (starting with the early innovators and the early majority). Last, comes the late majorities (the skeptics) and the laggards (traditionalists). Take a look at this video to better understand the rate of adoption.

 3 Ways we can help Laggards be Innovators (or close to it)

The laggards are known as traditional (Rogers, 1983). They will generally have statements such as, “I like it the way I do it”, or “that is not the way we have done it in the past”. Laggards are content to stay in their comfort zones, and usually, slow down the rate of adoption. We can help laggards become innovators (maybe not fully, but you get the idea)

Innovation Configuration Maps

The innovation configuration is a clear picture of what constitutes the highest quality implementation (SEDL, 2015). The IC map is used to set out what practice is wanted in the classroom, shows which configurations are ideal and which ones are unacceptable. Essentially, it is a map of what we would like to see happen.

 Identifying the Stages of Concern

We are better able to address the concerns of individuals using the innovation if we identify them. The stages of concern looks at the attitudes, reactions, and feelings of those who are involved (SEDL, 2015).

Monitoring the Levels of Use

The levels of use interview protocol helps assess where the staff is in respect to the stage of implementation (SEDL, 2015); are they at the beginning stage, working through challenges, or working at an advanced level with a good understanding of the implementation?

If we can draw out a process, identify where the concerns are in the implementation and monitor how members of the organization are using the technology, we may be able to promote acceptance amongst the laggards (and anyone else who is hesitant to adopt).

***The above suggestions all come from the Concerns Based Adoption Model

Additional Resources

Diffusion of Innovations: Theory, History, and Examples

How to Start a Movement

Introduction to the Concerns Based Adoption Model


Rogers, E.M. (1983). Diffusion of innovations (5th edition). New York: The Free Press.

SEDL (2015). Concerns Based Adoption Model. Retrieved from https://www.sedl.org/cbam/

Author: alyshadoria

Alysha Doria works in the private career college sector in Ontario for Herzing College. She is currently Regional Director of Compliance for Ontario locations and an Academic Director for immigration consultant online and Kompass Professional Development (a subsidiary of Herzing). Her primary focus is curriculum development for Kompass. She seeks to develop certificate programs that allow individuals advance their skills in their field. In the last year, Alysha has developed three professional development certificate programs and has gone through two accreditation processes for Immigration Consultant and Mediation. Recently, Alysha has been promoted to a Systems Administrator for Academics where she participates in technological developments, diffusion of technology into the organization, and assists in streamlining academic processes Canada wide.

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