From gunpowder to PB&J

Posted on June 8, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |



How do small ideas bleed into phenomenons? Take the switch from cannons to gunpowder or the typewriter to the internet. What makes novel innvoations so great that we need to make a change?

In Everett Rogers book, Diffusion of Innovations, he discusses how ideas, inventions, and tools spread and reproduce through cultures and throughout the world. He divides his research into five areas of analysis: Anthropology, Rural Sociology, Education, Industrial, and Medical Sociology. As he explores each topic through a few examples, he begins to show that all five categories have one thing in common: money. Cost. Supply and demand. Income and output. Whatever you want to call it, every idea and it’s evolution will eventually lead back to this one aspect.

Rogers continues by stating that ideas don’t just seep out and grow like wildfire automatically. He backs his theory with several researchers who have tested this idea: Danhof (1949) and Mort and Cornell (1938). Trial and error, cost and benefit analysis, and many other factors that can influence how successful an innovation will become. An innovation’s monetary and economic value is the first and last part of an idea people will remember. A products’ worth will sway a person’s decision to buy, sell, or stay with what they have.

In the future, reaserach could look at how the diffusion of an idea changes when it crosses these five areas of analysis. Perhaps the reproduction of an invention could evolve into something that helps different sectors of a community instead of channeling it into one group. This question and others will help spark awareness for new ideas, but it will also force us to recognize the cost of adapting a risky innovation.

Rogerts, Everett (1962) Diffusion of Innovations. New York: The Free Press.

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