Diffusion of Innovation

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:

Relative Advantage
Compatibility with existing systems
Complexity
Trialability
Observability

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