Are you thinking about taking on a big social issue? Certainly, you know it’s not an easy undertaking. One of the most difficult things to change is society’s behavior. It takes decades, sometimes even centuries for societies to realize their mistakes and make changes. Scientists have been working on ways to understand this for a long time. No doubt you’ll have to think hard and make sure that your approach is effective.
We propose a strategy that involves understanding how ideas spread. Theorist E. M. Rogers, in 1962 developed and proposed a theory called Diffusion of Innovation (DOI). It is still used in behavior change initiatives worldwide, particularly in the healthcare field. Aysha Zahidie and Meesha Iqbal explain in “Diffusion of Innovations: A Guiding Framework for Public Health, that diffusion of innovation theory builds on a staged model of awareness. There is persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation.
Diffusion of Innovation is one of the oldest social science theories standing tall today. Used by business developers, investors, and others to understand how ideas spread. “It originated in communication to explain how, over time, an idea or product gains momentum and diffuses (or spreads) through a specific population or social system” according to Rogers outlines five categories that people fall into.
1. Innovators want to be the first to try something new, an innovation. They are always seeking new ideas, willing to take risks, and often the first to adopt a new idea. If you have an interesting and new idea that is appealing, little needs to be done to appeal to this population.
2. Early Adopters are opinion leaders and people who embrace change and new opportunities. Early adopters are aware of the new change, trend or product and are comfortable adopting new ideas. Appealing to this population requires data and demonstration, manuals, and worksheets. They do not need the information to convince them to change.
3. Early Majority are people who adopt new ideas before the average person. Though they are not leaders, they typically need to see evidence that a new idea or innovation works before they will adopt it. Appealing to this population would include success stories and evidence of its effectiveness.
4. Late Majority are skeptical of any change. They only adopt something new after it has been tried and tested by the majority. You can appeal to this population by showing how many other people have tried the idea and adopted it successfully.
5. Laggards are those bound by tradition and they are very conservative. Skeptical of change they are the hardest group to sell. Appealing to this population will include statistics, some will use fear appeals, and pressure from those in the other adopter groups.
These categories are generally this percentage of the population (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%)
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