Diffusion of Innovation
Bryce Ryan and Neal Goss, ~1930 in Iowa
Everett Rogers, 1962, Agricultural Research Bulletin
During the great depression, in an effort to make it cheaper and easier to feed a whole lot of people, the government invested in agricultural research. A lot of universities and state agencies had extension agents who would drive around the countryside and advise farmers and ranchers on how to improve their yield.
A couple of researchers, Bryce Ryan and Neal Gross, came up with an idea to study and innovation.
Iowa agricultural researchers had developed a new hybrid corn developed in a university lab. It was different in three really important ways:
First, it grew a better crop every single year;
Second, it cost more than other corn seed;
Third, you couldn’t keep some of the corn at the end of the year to plant the next year. You had to buy new hybrid corn from a distributor every year.
So even though the extension agents told a lot of farmers it was better – and it was better – almost none of them bought it.
So how did extension agents get around that? Convince a few farmers to try the new corn then let them tell and show their friends how good it was. And that’s exactly what they did, starting in the 1920s. Within a decade, almost every farmer was using the hybrid corn.
Steps one takes in adopting a new innovation:
Compatibility with existing systems