Fair Play … Diffusion of change

How can we change and promote change in times of corona and beyond? Change comes often as something new to a person or a community - at least regarding habits, for instance: to wear a scarf when you go shopping is new for many people. Of course: not for all.

For understanding how change happens it is useful to know some concepts and theories for instance from sociology. One offered the distinguished sociologist Everett M. Rogers (1931 - 2004): The diffusion of Innovations (first published 1962, 5th and last edition 2003).

During the 1950ies Everett Rogers started to investigate how people deal with innovation. How do they learn about new products and technologies? How and when do they decide to use them? Rogers studied these questions first in farming, later also in health care and economics. He developed a model, that describes types of innovators and stages of decision (roles and stages), key elements and decision-making types.

This model can be supportive if you want to shape change and not just let it happen. Identify your topic - for instance the raise of primary school teachers' salaries. Perform a network analysis, identify innovators and early adopters and work with them (blog 06 Jul 2017; examples in Weßel 2017 "Menschen"). And accept that there will be people who oppone and delay change (blog 04 Jun 2020 The motivation to change). Empower the others. It can be like a snow ball that starts an avalanche. Appreciative Inquiry offers concepts and tools to make it happen (blog 21 Jan 2017).


Roles and stages

  2,5 % innovators
13,5 % early adpoters / early followers
34,0 % early majority
34,0 % late majority
16,0 % laggards

innovators: venturesome, well educated, often (not always) socially and financially well settled. In the digital ages so called (it-)nerds play a special and important part in the diffusion of innovation. For instance we would not be that far in 3D and virtual reality without the gamers.

early adpoters / early followers: have contact to innovators, are well educated, socially and financially well settled, good networked and they are decision makers.

early majority: have contact to decision makers, are also well educated, financially pretty well settled.

late majority: usually sceptics, follow majorities, often not so well financially settled and not so well educated. Have contact to others in the late majority and to members of the early majority.

laggards: conservative and traditional, usually not well educated, fighting with financial deprivation. Have contact mostly to family and friends.

key elements

innovation: idea, working process or object is identifed as new by an individual, a group or an organization or another social unit.

adopters: individual, group or organization or another social unit.

communication channels: trust and patterns -- consider that digital social media and their likes and viral distribution cause complex diffusions.

time: sometimes it lasts longer than expected -- even in the digital ages.

social system: relationships of individuals, groups and organizations -- consider that Rogers published the last edition of his foundational work in 2003. He could not oversee the digital social media and their impact. May I ask: do we now, 17 years later?

stages of innovation

knowledge: suppliers and multiplyers (spin doctors) have to make the innovation known
persuation: … and to nurture concern.
decision: individual, group or organization or another social unit decide for or against the innovation.
implementation: they use the innovation.
confirmation: final decision for or against the innovation.

If people use the innovation they can become spin doctors - in the fence-sitter model: advocates  (blog 04 Jun 2020 The motivation to change). If people decide against the innvoation, they can become opponents.


decision-making types

optional: the individual descides
collective: a group decides
authority: government, business management and / or heads of other institutions decide

In Rogers' book and in many other resources you can find how to diffuse innovation. The motivation to Change (blog 04 Jun 2020) describes first steps, using the fence-sitter model.

As this is the last section of the mini-serial "Fair Play … corona induced rethinking and change" I close it with the sentences I wrote in the first section.


A roadmap to sustainable change

has each person and insitution to develop for herself, himself, itself.

This blog mini-serial is intended to offer inspiration and some theoretical basics and methods (tools).

The students in the seminar social informatics described "think globally act locally" as follows (blog 22 Apr 2017):

  • change: if you want to change something, start with yourself. - example: your style of communication.
  • responsibility: be aware of your responsibility and consider the consequences and effects your change can have. - example: driving a car and the effect on the climate in the antarctis.
  • inspiration: think outside the box and get inspiration from others - examples: products, services, activities - political, social, others … 

Most people have the opportunity and freedom to decide for themselves and often more than they may think. John Steinbeck desribed it wonderfully in East of Eden: timshel - thou mayest … decide which route you take.

Good luck during corona and that we may sustainable learn and change for the better.

Christa Weßel - Thursday, 04 Jun 2020



  • Rogers, EM. Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York, Free Press 2003. (first published 1962)
  • Steinbeck J. East of Eden. New York, The Viking Press 1952.
  • Weßel C. Menschen … Weidenborn Verlag 2017.

This entry is part of the mini-serial Fair Play …
and the
Blog section Together

< Environment, travel and consumption     this entry    Chapeau! >