Leadership Products As Innovations In The Context Of Rogers' Diffusion Theory

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Virginia Tech

In this study, two implementable leadership products were analogous to innovations, when framed in the context of Rogers’ diffusion-of-innovation theory. Thus, the products’ respective dissemination patterns were compared and contrasted-- quantitatively through purchase numbers, and qualitatively through opinions and events recollected by early users. The case-study approach was central to the investigation, and the results supported the Rogers model with regard to most constructs. The results pertaining to the S-shaped (sigmoidal) prototypical distribution curve, however, were enigmatic. The inverse conformity of sales figures with the S-shaped distribution curve implied that the dissemination process began during the field-testing stage rather than the purchasing stage. The organizational structure of the user institutions (targeted social system construct) conformed to Rogers’ theory that autonomy and teamwork characterized management climates where innovation tended to flourish. Field-testers and other early users were opinion leaders as construed by Rogers. The fact that twice as many field tests were conducted for the Case Studies as for the Simulation was likely a factor in the disparate 6:1 ratio of units of Cases sold to units of the Simulation sold for three consecutive years.

Other factors possibly accounting for the disparate sales came from the attributes-of-innovation template which framed five generic attributes--compatibility, relative advantage, complexity, trialability, and observability. Both products conformed to the attributes as conceptualized by Rogers. The main difference that influenced the disparate sales was the greater complexity of the Simulation than of the Cases, although cost may have been a compatibility/relative advantage contributory factor. Finally, the study’s results indicated that dissemination parameters may have been narrowed by (a) the absence of mass media communication channels as part of the dissemination strategy at the awareness stage, and (b) lack of market research to focus the naming and packaging of the products for optimum compatibility and relative advantage. Researchers and change agencies can use these findings to improve future dissemination strategies and product designs.

diffusion, innovation, Education, Leadership, change