The Application of Diffusion in Life and Business

As stated in my first post on this topic, Everett Rogers’ work of work fifty years ago, Diffusion of Innovations was so insightful that it still proves helpful in this present time regarding the spread of ideas, and its application in business and society.  In this post I would like to begin the exploration of the application and takeaways of the principle of diffusion here and now in the social era of business and society.

The Outworking of Diffusion 

The outworking of a business with a functioning, marketable product is much like, and in some ways runs parallel to the life of any organization.  Decades ago the authors Moore and Tushman stated that most innovation is the cumulative effect of “small, incremental changes.”  The authors also point out that a product life cycle focuses on product scope in the larger sense, not necessarily on branding.  And though a dated concept, we still see applicability of this idea in both the life of a product, service delivery or even an organizational purpose.  A business unit follows this similar pattern, although a business unit may participate in shared resources that outlive it.  As these ideas are applied to innovation, a recurring theme emerged between innovation, diffusion and new products: the social network.  Central to the discussion on diffusion is the idea of various stages leading to success of a new product or service that involved information, and the powerful effect of information within a group of consumers.

Life Cycle (not limited to for-profit enterprise)

Regarding innovation that is entirely new, Moore and Tushman classify this novelty as a radical disjunction from what already exists, and this could be the search for a solution or an “unmet need.”  Early adopters give feedback to rough, crude prototypical products.  These new innovations are not always better at first, but once the kinks are worked out, as the theory goes, a dominant design surfaces.  Once business units are formed, and functional areas are up and running, there is eventually a mature stage.  But I would ask, in spite of a certain amount of predictability, are there no more breakthroughs?  Are there not sometimes later renaissances in innovation due to changing technologies, moods, and sometimes laws?  What about service industries, the delivery of information, or even governmental agencies?  Are not all of these subject to the greater law of either supply and demand, or their useful life given the social and historical context that they operate in?  These and more are the larger context when considering business, whatever that business in the social era that we find ourselves functioning in.  Next up, more application of diffusion and business.


Moore, W. L. & Tushman, M. L. (1982). Managing Innovation over the Product Life Cycle. In M. R. Millson & D. Wilemon (Eds). The Strategy of Managing Innovation and Technology (first edition, pp. 165 – 181).  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall

Robertson, T. S. (1967). The Process of Innovation and The Diffusion of Innovation. In M. R. Millson & D. Wilemon (Eds). The Strategy of Managing Innovation and Technology (first edition, pp. 120 – 127). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

Rogers, E. M. (1995). Element of Diffusion. In M. R. Millson & D. Wilemon (Eds). The Strategy of Managing Innovation and Technology (first edition, pp. 182 – 202). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

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