Useful Theory: Diffusion of Innovations

brainstorming at a table

Imagine you have come up with an awesome new health literacy initiative. You’ve put in the time planning, developing, and testing it. You’re about to educate hundreds — scratch that — thousands. You can see it catching on: health literacy is taking the world by storm.

Now, how do you make that vision a reality? The truth is that most big ideas don’t make it because more attention is given to creating the ideas than spreading them.

Fear not, health literacy warrior! Look to the Diffusion of Innovations Theory. The theory describes many things, but where we see its value is in explaining how new innovations catch on. Understanding this can help you better promote and market your program.

Use the concepts below when you explain the benefits of your program to the masses. (Don’t be intimidated by the fancy buzzwords!)

  • Relative Advantage: How much better your innovation is than the one it’s replacing
  • Compatibility: How your innovation falls in line with potential users’ experiences and values
  • Complexity (or Simplicity, as we like to say): How easy the innovation is to understand and use
  • Trialability: How easy it is to try out the innovation before committing to it
  • Observability: How easy it is for users (and the people they know) to see results from using the innovation

By using these concepts when you promote your program, you’ll greatly increase the chance that people will give it a try.

The bottom line: When promoting a new idea (like a health literacy program), use the Diffusion of Innovations Theory to increase the chance of it catching on.


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