Design Principle #3 for 84% Innovation Adoption – Degree of Innovativeness

This series of blog posts describes the principles relevant for designing an innovation for rapid adoption by 84% of a target group. 84% adoption is the threshold for achieving sustainable change.

The underlying theory stems from the "invisible college" around Rogers, E.M. (2003) “Diffusion of Innovations.” which reminds us that adopters are grouped as Innovators 2%, Early Adopters 14%, Early Majority 34%, Late Majority 34% and Laggards 16%. Designing innovations (and the change intended by them) to reach the Late Majority is a very different game than that typically "played" (which actually only focuses on the Innovators and Early Adopters). Such "designs" depend on understanding our own body of work which skilfully integrates systems thinking, living systems principles, complexity thinking etc. None of the design principles we will discuss are “innovative” – it their blending and orchestration to achieve 84% adoption that is the art of “deep diffusion” we master.

Design Principle #3: Degree of Innovativeness

Innovativeness describes the “gap” between a current and a future behaviour in the adopter group. From an 84% perspective the degree of innovativeness must decrease as the idea diffuses across the adopter groups. Innovators are looking for large changes of behaviour. Late majority adopters will only accept small changes in behaviour. Innovativeness must therefore be re-assessed and adjusted for each adopter group as the behavioural change diffuses across them. Remember that sustainable change only occurs when at least 84% of all possible adopters change their behaviour.

In practice it can help to forecast the desired change in behaviour of each adopter group at the outset of the effort and to re-assess this forecast as diffusion proceeds through the adopter groups. The forecast desired change in the later adopter group is key to staying focused.

As an example, we might be diffusing hydrogen fuel solutions for public buses. Late majority adopters may then be the administrations of large conservative cities. The change in behaviour could then be preferred purchasing of hydrogen powered vehicles. For a late majority adopter group this needs to be low risk and will require significant peer adoption before considering this option. Peers will need to come from their cultural/geographical context. Late adopters follow “mainstream”.  If we are designing an innovation diffusion for late majority adopters, we thus need to understand what cities the late majority adopters will follow and work backwards. Let us assume Hamburg is a late majority adopter, then they will probably follow a slightly less risk adverse peer city-state in Germany such as Bremen, which will follow a slightly less risk adverse partner city such as Eindhoven, which will follow a slightly less risk adverse partner city such as Porto, and so on…. You will notice that the “glue” between the adopter groups here is typically “partner” cities – partner cities share a large amount of trust/understanding and have established diffusion paths between them.

So… are you designing your diffusion path?

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Previous Design Principles

Design Principle #1 for 84% Innovation Adoption – Aiming for 84%

Design Principle #2 for 84% Innovation Adoption – Product/Service Control

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