«Innovation diffusion categories and innovation-related needs»

Vishal Singh, in: DS 75-9: Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED13), Design for Harmonies, Vol.9: Design Methods and Tools, Seoul, Korea, 19-22.08.2013.
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»By proposing a typology of innovation-related needs as a way to understand diffusion of innovation, this paper aims to highlight an important gap in the understanding of innovation diffusion. It is argued that even though innovation is always coupled with need creation or need identification, there is evident lack of a theoretical understanding of this coupling and its role in innovation diffusion.

»Analysis indicates two primary aspects to consider in investigating innovation-related needs as a way to understand diffusion of innovation. First, congruence between the characteristics of the actor categories in Rogers’ classic theory of innovation diffusion and Maslows’s hierarchy of needs suggests that hierarchy of needs provides an appropriate framework to study the needs of the different actors in the innovation diffusion network and how they are interrelated. Second, the innovation diffusion network has actors from both supply and demand side of the innovation such that atleast three categories of needs in the innovation diffusion network must be distinguished that include need to innovate, need for the innovation, and need for the diffusion of the innovation.

»The indications of congruence between Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Roger’s actor categories provide potential opportunities for design management and design research. In particular, the

»observations that the change in environmental conditions can trigger a change in the hierarchy of needs of the different actors towards innovation adoption, may provide useful intervention mechanisms for innovation management. First, the design managers intending to introduce innovative tools and methods in their organization can be selective in approaching innovation diffusion at the early stages. That is, they can begin by identifying and targeting actors at higher levels of hierarchy of needs as potential early adopters and innovation champions. The innovation champions need not necessarily be potential users of the innovation but they could be actors that can leverage the innovation diffusion to fulfill some other needs. Second, the design managers and innovation champions need to consider the likelihood that not all actors can be intrinsically motivated to adopt innovation, and hence, they may need contingency plans to consider creating work environments that tie innovation adoption to basic needs of unwilling actors. Third, in order to ensure that the organization avails all the potential opportunities of innovation across its personnel and partners, design managers can apply the hierarchy of needs framework to assess whether the threat to basic needs such as job security is curtailing creativity of potential innovators, and whether, triggering basic needs can foster creativity and innovation from actors otherwise engaged in routine activities. Future research is needed to explore such intervention mechanisms and their potential role in innovation diffusion.

»Furthermore, the different levels of hierarchy can be associated with each need category, i.e., need to innovate, need for the innovation, and need for the diffusion of the innovation. For example, need to innovate can be a basic need for people and organizations whose primary job and skill is to innovate; while for many others the need to innovate can be described in terms of passion or the drive to be creative. Similarly, the need for the innovation can be driven by basic need or by the need for belonging and to conform to social norms, as explained by Moore (1991) in terms of product-centric value and market-centric value. The hierarchy of needs for the diffusion of innovation can also vary across actors. For innovation champions the diffusion of innovation might serve higher order needs such as leadership or self-actualization while for suppliers and manufacturers it serves primary need of sustaining a business. A schematic mapping between the innovation-related needs and diffusion of innovation is shown in Figure 2.

»As shown in Figure 2, the three types of the innovation-related needs are linked. The need to innovate might result from a push by the need for the innovation, creating a reactive innovation. Such innovations are usually achieved through professional innovators or users themselves. Alternatively, innovators who are proactively looking for innovation opportunities may identify implicit need for the innovation that may have remained dormant otherwise. This second case is typically a pull process, whereby innovation is achieved because of the need to innovate, resulting in need creation. Need creation and need identification focus on innovation-centric value.

»Innovation is important for growth of business and organizations. Accordingly, the supply chain of innovation diffusion has many actors from the supply side who need new innovations to sustain their business. Their needs are associated with the market-centric value of the innovation. On the other hand, innovation champions can come from both or either one of the focus areas. That is, the needs of the innovation champions may align with need for the innovation or the need for the diffusion of innovation or both.

»Therefore, how the innovation-related needs are linked, and how the different actors in the supply chain are connected through these needs, is likely to determine the innovation diffusion pattern. Hence, designers and design managers engaged in new product development and product planning need to assess the potential innovation-related needs of the different actors for a given case, in order to develop case-based innovation diffusion strategy. It is likely that such assessments conducted at the product development and product planning stages may provide insights into potential challenges and roadblocks to the diffusion of the planned innovation. Future research is needed to understand the implications for design management.»

Innovation Typologies
Thematic Readings

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