In a rapidly changing world, innovation is a major key to success. If you can create and engender support for an innovative change, you may be well on your way to turning around a difficulty in any business. 

Some innovations are adopted quickly whereas others are only taken up slowly. Certain factors influence the likelihood of successful adoption or speed with which innovations are adopted. These were identified in the late 20th century (Rogers, 1995) as:

  • Relative Advantage
  • Complexity
  • Compatibility
  • Observability
  • Trialability



Relative advantage

An innovation can have relative advantage compared to its predecessors e.g., economic savings, greater social desirability, improved convenience, etc. However, objective advantage is not as important as being perceived by adopters to be advantageous. When relative advantage is perceived to be greater it will be adopted more rapidly.


Innovations that are perceived to be more complicated by adopters will be adopted more slowly than those which, by comparison, appear easy to take onboard. However, it should be noted that sometimes complexity (e.g., in electronic devices) may be perceived as desirable. 


If an innovation is perceived to be in line with existing needs, values, and experiences of users it will most likely be adopted quicker than those which are regarded as different.


If the outcome of an innovation can be observed it is more likely to encourage peer discussions and speed up adoption.    


If the innovation can be tested out before widescale adoption it removes the element of uncertainty and therefore makes widespread adoption more likely. Uncertainty can make consumers nervous, particularly for high value goods and services. 
Of the above factors, compatibility and relative advantage are generally considered the most important, so we will examine these in more detail.     


Compatibility is about how well the innovation fits in with the user’s existing lifestyle. Businesses looking to innovate have to think carefully about compatibility and the end user of their innovative process to ensure that there is a good fit.
Remember, a business can innovate in three different areas:

  • product
  • service
  • process.

When the business is innovating a product, the focus is on the customer experience and their use. If the innovation requires significant change on the part of the user, uptake is unlikely, which can result in lost sales or a change to a different brand or product. This means that the business has to think carefully about breakpoints in the customer experience – things that might make the product more difficult to use, such as a change in how to interact with a smartphone’s operating system.

When a business innovates a service, it must be prepared to support customers and users as they adapt to the changes – and recognise that some users may not wish to change. A good example of compatibility in innovation is the introduction of self-checkout kiosks in major supermarkets in Australia. The kiosks were compatible with ideas valued by customers – independence and time savings – which made them a reasonable bet for customer uptake. On the downside, most customers have little experience working a checkout system, which meant that customers would need help during the transition phase.
Major supermarkets brought on additional staff during the introduction of self-checkout kiosks to help customers learn how to use the new system. As the kiosks were an innovation on checkout systems that did not build on existing customer experience, this dedicated training time was necessary to ensure customer uptake. The training, combined with the valued ideas that render the kiosks compatible with customer lifestyles, created an environment that saw fairly efficient uptake of the innovation. 

When a business innovates a process, it has to account for all users and the training costs involved in the innovation. This means that when new software is introduced in an industry, uptake may be slow due to difficulties in retraining and the labour costs associated with the retraining and offering support. The same can be true when introducing a new process for sales, staff training, manufacturing, and other parts of business. Thinking about the compatibility of an innovation with the back end of a business is especially important because it affects the running of the business – if the business is depending on the process that is being innovated upon, then compatibility and uptake is necessary for the business to function.


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