Monday, 21 February 2011

Will a potential innovation 'fly'?

This week's course notes adapt a framework for considering innovation, based on Rogers (pp. 229). In order to consider an innovation's strengths and weaknesses, the framework offers the following criteria:
  • Relative advantage - is it a much better way of doing something, or a valuable improvement?
  • Compatibility - does an innovation fit with the values, experiences and needs of potential adopters?
  • Complexity - will complexity of the innovation, or skills or concepts it requires, make it hard to adopt?
  • Trialability - can adopters trial and innovation before committing to it?
  • Observability - can others perceive the advantage of the innovation?
In the following post, I reflect on my own experiences of innovation, and whether I make calculations using this type of framework.

What have I innovated?

The chatbot, allowing learners to negotiate about their learner model and reflect on their knowledge. But this was research - I don’t feel that was quite the same as innovation. I think perhaps an activity/intervention/method needs to have adopters in order to be an innovation (although clearly not the only criteria), and the fact that the research was only extended to trial populations means it can't be said to have been adopted. It was an innovative elearning tool and method though, regardless of the fact that I didn’t have the means to develop it further and make it adoptable.

Did I ask questions from the Rogers’-adapted framework?

Not knowingly. However, I must have weighed up the relative advantage - if I hadn’t believed that there was some improvement possible through the chatbot integration, then I wouldn’t have bothered. Similarly compatibility - it was not such a great step from the existing IT experience of potential users. Clearly compatibility was in my mind to some degree, but more from the need to ensure the HCI was good. Complexity - yes it was complex; that’s why it was research. It’s also probably why this field of research hasn’t made the mainstream - it’s expensive to design and produce robust, nuanced,personalised and scalable AI products! Trialability - again as it was research, designing a trial was what it was all about, as was observability - improvements had to be objectively demonstrated.

I think the framework is really hard to apply to an innovator - I've struggled above. It seems to make much more sense as something which adopters of innovation would employ (knowingly or otherwise)

So, what have I adopted?

Use of online chat.
1997- using online chat wasn’t widespread. I only had the option to adopt this because my parents provided the Internet access - there wasn’t any financial risk to me (although there were phone bills, risky to a 17 year old!)
Relative advantage - Yes, but it wasn’t just a better way of doing something, but a completely new way of doing something I couldn’t do before - I didn’t have to weigh anything up.
Compatibility - Clearly fitted with my values and needs. The technology was easy to learn, with rapid positive effects. I don’t recall making any kind of assessment.
Complexity - Again, not a technical challenge, so not something I thought through.
Trialability - Highly try-able - it was there, inviting being tried. And there was nothing to be lost if I tried it and didn’t like it.
Observability - It’s easy to demonstrate advantage when it’s a brand new tool!

And again, did I ask questions from the Rogers’-adapted framework?
Certainly not!

So perhaps a more recent example of adoption, or in fact decision not to adopt...

I haven’t adopted these. I have a laptop with home broadband, and office computer also with Internet facilities, an iPod for music/podcasts and a mobile phone with a half decent camera built in. I believe I can read email on it and view mobile web on its tiny screen, but I’ve never read email on it, and not used the web capability outside the first month free trial. I think that’s what this lack of adoption comes down to for me - the relative advantage compared to the facilities I already have just doesn’t seem like something I want to pay for. So, for me, the most helpful of the five criteria in explaining my own adoption (or lack of it) is relative advantage.

Rogers, E.M. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations (5th edn), New York, Simon and Schuster.

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