Five Characteristics Of An Innovation

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The “diffusion of improvements” principle of communications skilled and rural sociologist Everett Rogers makes an attempt to determine and clarify the elements that result in individuals and teams adopting improvements (new concepts and applied sciences). Design groups that account for each usability and the way individuals undertake innovation stand a a lot higher probability of getting customers settle for and use their merchandise.

The diffusion of improvements is a posh course of; design groups can use their information of the idea to create a street map for a way they’ll tackle important elements within the design and advertising of their product.

I coated the varieties of adopters and the steps within the strategy of adoption within the first article of this collectionB. This second article presents the 5 traits of an innovation that decide its use. According to the diffusion of improvements principle, how nicely an innovation addresses these traits will decide individuals’s lengthy-time period adoption of an innovation. Design groups can handle many elements of those traits.

Characteristics Of An Innovation

Individuals don’t mechanically undertake new merchandise. They make a acutely aware choice of whether or not to make use of a specific one. That is, their choice to undertake an innovation is deliberate. This is the third step within the strategy of adopting an innovation, coated within the first article. Design groups should proactively handle this step if they need people to determine on lengthy-time period use of their product.

The diffusion of improvements principle identifies the next 5 traits that decide individuals’s use of an innovation.

Relative Advantage

Relative benefit measures how improved an innovation is over a competing choice or the earlier era of a product. Potential customers have to see how an innovation improves their present state of affairs. Improvements may be in a single or many of those areas:

  • higher service,
  • consolidation of a number of features into one software,
  • decreased want for provides and gear,
  • empowerment of customers,
  • improved interface,
  • elevated customizability,
  • elevated longevity,
  • elevated productiveness,
  • decreased consumer effort,
  • lowered environmental impression,
  • saving of cash,
  • saving of area or storage,
  • saving of time.

In the Nineteen Eighties and early ’90s, pc phrase-processing packages WordStar and WordPerfect demonstrated relative benefit over present merchandise. Most workplaces used typewriters, which took up a variety of area, carried out just one perform and required servicing, provides (sort ribbons, whiteout, and so on.) and elements regularly (they have been additionally fairly loud).

As computer systems turned extra prevalent, WordStar and WordPerfect freed customers from typewriters. The relative benefit was apparent. The phrase-processing packages didn’t require any further bodily area apart from the private pc, which already did quite a lot of different workplace duties; they lowered the necessity for ink and correction tape; paperwork could possibly be simply edited previous to printing; and information might be saved and transported for modifying on different computer systems utilizing floppy disks. Soon, typewriters have been being phased out of workplaces and changed with these pc phrase-processing packages.

Word-processing packages: Typewriters, you might have met your match. (View giant modelO)

Relevance to your design staff

Your design workforce might want to handle relative benefit in a number of methods. Let’s face it: If relative benefit isn’t inherent to your product, then it isn’t an innovation, and it won’t be a enterprise value pursuing in any respect. Your workforce ought to determine the potential relative benefit of your product within the planning levels of improvement. From that time on, your workforce ought to sharpen and improve any relative benefit that your product has over the merchandise of potential rivals.

Market analysis, UX analysis’s awkward cousinA, ought to inform the underlying logic that drives your innovation’s objective. Have you recognized the demand on your innovation? What competing merchandise at present exist? Highlighting the difficulty that your innovation addresses and the way it does so are good methods to start out investigating the place your innovation’s relative benefit ought to lie.

You will have to be specific concerning the relative benefit of your product in your advertising. How is your product an enchancment over an present product? How does it tackle an unmet want? Your design ought to clearly accomplish each of this stuff. Your advertising supplies ought to clearly present how your product provides customers an edge over competing merchandise.

Your design group might want to conduct consumer analysis to again up your claims. For instance, if you will say that your product is simpler or extra environment friendly than a competing product, then you’ll need knowledge to again up this assertion. Have you examined customers of your product towards customers of a competing product? Do customers of one other product discover it missing in a means that your product addresses? Does your product save individuals cash or scale back their reliance on a number of merchandise by consolidating quite a few features? Prove it, after which tout that reality in your promoting.


Compatibility refers back to the degree of compatibility that an innovation has with people as they assimilate it into their lives. Potential adopters have to know that your innovation can be suitable with their life and way of life. If an innovation requires an enormous way of life change or if the consumer should purchase further merchandise to make your innovation work, then it’s extra more likely to fail. Innovations meet with the best success when customers are capable of seamlessly undertake them — once they exchange an present product or concept, for the higher.

Apple’s iPad is an instance of an innovation that had a excessive degree of compatibility with potential customers’ lives when launched. Many customers have been capable of substitute merchandise they have been presently utilizing when the iPad was launched, resembling smartphones and laptop computer computer systems to verify their e mail, to learn books, magazines and blogs and to view movies on-line.

Relevance to your design group

Your design staff wants to know the infrastructure they’re designing for, in addition to what the deliberate enhancements to the infrastructure might be. You wouldn’t design an electrical-powered innovation for a group that doesn’t have entry to, or consider in, electrical energy. You want a deep understanding of the circumstances that your innovation will probably be met with upon launch. Answer the next questions when fascinated by your innovation’s compatibility:

  • How will your innovation match into customers’ lives?
  • What shifts in conduct might want to happen on your innovation to be adopted?
  • What further merchandise shall be required on your innovation to succeed (for instance, a excessive-velocity Internet connection, a cell phone plan with knowledge, gasoline)?
  • What present merchandise does your innovation substitute?
  • How does your innovation match with potential adopters’ psychological mannequin, beliefs and attitudes relating to the difficulty your innovation will tackle?

The questions above are usually not complete. They are supposed to spotlight a design staff’s want to concentrate on the traits of adopters as completely as they’re conscious of their very own innovation’s traits. To be clear, the success of your innovation will rely in your workforce making certain that the innovation aligns with potential customers’ beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviors.

Ensuring compatibility doesn’t imply that your innovation can’t be chopping- or bleeding-edge, simply that you must know issues are shifting within the course your design is taking them. Let’s look at the iPad’s success as soon as once more, noting how key elements associated to compatibility have been in place to assist make sure the product’s success.

The iPad got here on the proper time within the evolution of individuals’s beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and know-how. Many people and companies had reached a stage the place they believed that new applied sciences to simplify every day actions have been continually rising (perception), and that this can be a good factor (angle). Individuals have been already utilizing laptop computer computer systems and smartphones to surf the Web and to make digital transactions whereas away from their desktops (conduct). Wi-Fi Internet entry was almost ubiquitous amongst companies and households in city and suburban areas, which allowed the iPad to perform as a useful gizmo in most areas (know-how); additionally, cell phone know-how introduced a extra superior choice for customers who have been prepared to pay for fixed entry to the Internet. Lastly, sufficient adopters have been prepared to spend cash on most of these applied sciences to point out that it was a viable choice to later adopters (conduct). These elements aligned to create the right timing for the iPad to be suitable with adopters’ lives.

Just add iPad: instantly compatible with users’ livesH
Just add iPad: immediately suitable with customers’ lives (View giant modelS)

Apple’s in depth information of their market led to the iPad’s success. The iPad would almost definitely not have had the identical success if it had been launched previous to ubiquitous Wi-Fi or the mass availability of digital films and music. Your design group ought to have as robust an understanding of your potential market and what circumstances have to be current to make sure the compatibility of your innovation with adopters’ lives. If the success of your innovation will depend on the supply of one other product, you then’ll have to know that this product is, or can be, widespread sufficient that it gained’t intrude with potential adopters’ potential to make use of the features of your product.

Complexity vs. Simplicity

Complexity or simplicity refers to how troublesome it’s for adopters to study to make use of an innovation. Complexity slows down the gears of progress. The extra complicated an innovation, the harder it is going to be for potential adopters to include it into their lives. Potential adopters don’t often price range a lot time for studying to make use of an innovation. The extra intuitive an innovation, the extra probably it is going to be adopted.

An Oreo cookie-separating contraption is an instance of creating one thing too complicated to be helpful. Even if individuals felt they wanted a machine to separate their Oreos, the extent of effort required to make use of such a tool can be prohibitive to adoption. Potential adopters would wish to learn and reread an instruction guide to make sure they’re setting it up appropriately. This machine is one other illustration of the attribute of compatibility. The machine’s measurement makes it incompatible for potential adopters who would not have a whole room to dedicate to an Oreo-separating machine. A handheld or pocket-sized model of this innovation can be more likely to satisfy with success.

Relevance to your design group

Your group ought to design with simplicity in thoughts. Scrutinize each element of your product to make sure alignment with the aim of your innovation. High tech shouldn’t mechanically imply a excessive studying curve. Conduct usability testing in your product as an ordinary apply. Usability check findings have a number of clear purposes on this regard:

  • Iterate on the design of your product. Usability check findings ought to inform these iterations. Address workflows that customers have struggled with, make clear terminology that customers have discovered unfamiliar, and current info in a method that aligns with customers’ psychological mannequin.
  • If your staff is unable to deal with the usability points that customers have recognized, then make clear these points by means of FAQs, software ideas, walkthrough movies and different studying materials.
  • If your innovation is complicated or has normal and superior settings, a cheerful medium is obtainable. “Quick begin” or automated set-up is an instance of what number of companies have simplified difficult improvements. If you buy a brand new tv or pc, it should most certainly include a single sheet of paper that describes tips on how to shortly arrange the product for primary use. Basic use is sweet sufficient for most individuals. A longer guide on how you can manipulate superior options can also be included or made out there as a downloadable PDF. This permits energy customers to benefit from the bells and whistles.
Amazon’s fireTV quick start guide. The full guide is 39 pages long.S
Amazon’s fireTV fast begin information. The full information is 39 pages lengthy. (View giant modelH)


Trialability describes how simply potential adopters can discover your innovation. Trialability is important to facilitating the adoption of an innovation. Potential customers need to see what your innovation can do and provides it a check run earlier than committing. This is the underlying idea of trial sizes for tangible items, and demo or beta releases for digital items. Potential adopters can see for themselves what life is perhaps like as soon as they undertake the product.

Relevance to your design staff

Your workforce might want to make your product out there to potential adopters to check drive. Digital designs have traits that inherently permit for trialability. There are many examples of methods to accomplish this with a digital product. Sirius XM gives a 30-day trial, hoping that customers understand throughout this era that paying the complete subscription worth is value with the ability to proceed listening to the audio channels.

You can supply a free model of your innovation with restricted performance, with the choice to improve for entry to further options. does this successfully by providing a much less function-wealthy free model of its display-sharing product. The free model of shows choices that turn into obtainable by means of a paid account (for instance, “Pass” presenter position and “Share” mouse management). Users of the free product see the profit they might derive by upgrading to a paid subscription. When customers of the free model discover themselves in a state of affairs the place they want to share management of their mouse, they’ll assume more durable about the advantages of upgrading to a paid account. Sure you can share mouse control, but it’ll cost you.N Sure you’ll be able to share mouse management, nevertheless it’ll value you. (View giant model10)

You may also supply a free advert-supported model of your product, permitting customers to determine whether or not to improve by paying for an advert-free choice. Pandora gives its advert-supported product freed from cost. Users can take heed to a set variety of songs, however then should take heed to promoting with a purpose to proceed. If a consumer needs to take heed to music with out business interruption, they will improve to the Pandora One expertise, which provides non-cease streaming music for a month-to-month payment.

Pandora offers users the option to pay for a commercial-free experience.eleven
Pandora presents customers the choice to pay for a business-free expertise. (View giant model12)

You might want to work out which of those strategies would work greatest with potential adopters of your product. Survey potential customers or assess what your competitors is doing to realize perception into which trial format is greatest on your innovation.

Most importantly for trialability, be sure that the trial product you present is top quality and represents the expertise that your group needs customers to have. Users might be basing their determination on it. Do not deal with the free trial interval as your first alternative for consumer testing or gathering consumer suggestions. You are doing extra hurt than good should you launch an unfinished or buggy innovation that frustrates potential adopters (totally free!). Releasing a hurried, unfinished trial product is the definition of self-sabotage.


Observability is the extent to which the outcomes or advantage of utilizing an innovation are seen to potential adopters. We coated within the first article that not everybody adopts an innovation instantly. The adopter varieties who come after early adopters depend on seeing members of this group utilizing an innovation. Observability extends past having earlier adopters use an innovation in view of later adopters. Potential adopters of every type should clearly see the good thing about adopting an innovation and utilizing it.

Relevance to your design group

Be conscious of how potential adopters will be capable of observe the advantages of utilizing your innovation. Here are some methods you possibly can spotlight the advantages:

  • Side-by-aspect comparability
    Potential adopters are capable of observe the advantages of some improvements greater than others. A aspect-by-aspect comparability is sweet when your innovation has simply noticeable enhancements over what individuals are presently utilizing. For instance, potential adopters on a gross sales flooring can simply view a TV with a bigger and clearer show than a smaller, much less crisp TV. A artful gross sales store may show an older smaller TV instantly subsequent to newer bigger ones to make the distinction extra apparent.
  • Before and after
    What will an adopter’s life seem like as soon as they begin utilizing your innovation? Showing potential adopters the constructive distinction your innovation will make of their lives may have a huge effect. Will there be a noticeable improve or lower in some facet that may end result from use of your product? If your app is designed to show somebody a overseas language, you may spotlight that customers will study a mean of x variety of phrases over a sure interval.
  • Testimonials
    People actually like listening to what others whom they understand to be like them have skilled with a product. Running an advert marketing campaign that extends throughout the normal channels of promoting is essential, however extra necessary is phrase of mouth and on-line critiques by precise customers. Users who’re prepared to write down testimonials and on-line critiques could make a huge impact by influencing potential adopters. Encourage them to price and assessment your innovation on related web sites (for instance, Apple’s app retailer for an iOS app, Amazon if it carries your product, Angie’s List when you present a service.).

The examples above usually are not complete. Be artistic in getting potential adopters to watch the advantages of utilizing your innovation. Consider an strategy that encompasses a number of types of media, to extend the probability that potential adopters will observe the advantages of utilizing your product.

Blockbuster And Netflix: A Fairytale Of Innovation (Sort Of)

Let’s stroll by means of the traits of an innovation utilizing streaming and mail-order video service supplier Netflix for instance.

Once upon a time, let’s say 2001, there was an enormous, cumbersome video rental chain named Blockbuster. With hundreds of shops and tens of hundreds of staff, issues have been good for Blockbuster. It owned nearly all of the US video rental market. Blockbuster sat again and surveyed the land; life was good. What Blockbuster didn’t understand was that Netflix, a smaller, extra progressive competitor, was about to tug the rug out from beneath it.

Blockbuster: a lot of stores, a lot of employees, very little innovationthirteen
Blockbuster: A lot of shops, lots of staff, little or no innovation (Image: Wikipedia14 ) (View giant model15)

Netflix began up in 1997. In a interval of fewer than 15 years, Netflix (with the assistance of Redbox) modified the video rental recreation to the purpose that Blockbuster would file for chapter, and, in 2011, would stop to exist. This occurred partially because of the progressive traits of Netflix and its merchandise.

Relative Advantage

In 2001, Netflix customers paid a month-to-month payment to obtain mail-order DVD leases.

Reduced effort was an apparent space the place Netflix had relative benefit over Blockbuster and different brick-and-mortar video shops

Receiving and returning the product by way of publish was extra handy for most individuals, who have been used to receiving common mail supply at their house or workplace. Users have been capable of keep away from late charges, which have been starting to tarnish Blockbuster’s picture.

Netflix advanced in parallel with know-how. Since 2001, US households having more and more had entry to excessive-velocity Internet. In 2007, Netflix started to stream digital films and TV exhibits to individuals’s computer systems. Users not needed to look forward to a rental to return via the mail. Returning the film was not vital. If you had a laptop computer or PC, you may entry a whole lot of packages immediately.

Today, Netflix provides apps that run on online game consoles, cell phones and tablets. Users are just a few clicks away from viewing their favourite packages in any setting, on any measurement display. Netflix has reworked from providing most of its merchandise by way of publish, which was pricey and relied on a really unreliable mail service, to delivering content material to customers on demand. Netflix has maintained relative benefit by innovating according to the expansion of obtainable know-how.


Netflix has had compatibility locked down from the start. First, the idea of renting and watching films and TV exhibits was extremely suitable with the life-style of US residents. People have been already having fun with these behaviors en masse (attitudes and behaviors). Initially, Netflix took benefit of present infrastructure. Once excessive-velocity Internet reached crucial mass (know-how), it took benefit of the medium to ship content material to customers. This highlights the necessity for the suitable infrastructure to help adoption of an innovation. Users can be far much less considering streaming movies over a sluggish and unreliable dial-up connection.

Complexity vs. Simplicity

Netflix took a quite simple idea and made it even easier. This is a standard attribute of a profitable innovation: Take one thing that others already do and do it even higher. The idea of renting video was not new. Netflix simplified the method: Users would create a queue of movies on-line, which might ship to them of their most popular order, after which they might return the movies as soon as that they had watched them.

Later, Netflix took simplicity a step additional by making conduct-based mostly suggestions to customers. The system would advocate content material based mostly on a consumer’s scores of titles that they had watched. This positioned Netflix as an skilled within the eyes of customers. Netflix not solely offered content material, however curated and beneficial consumer-particular content material, with out the consumer having to go away their house or pay a further value.


Netflix’s mannequin explicitly addresses trialability; Netflix is intently related to the time period “free trial” for anybody who spends time browsing the Internet. In the start, potential adopters might expertise the comfort of receiving and returning DVDs via the mail. Once digital streaming turned the norm, trial customers might expertise the magic of on-demand viewing for a whole month.

Netflix’s content material is consistently rising, so it’s unlikely that a consumer would take pleasure in a free month and exhaust all the content material they might need to view. The advantage of providing a free month far outweighs the prices. Trial customers have all the performance of paid account holders: They might discover all the content material, create a profile, and save films and exhibits to observe. If a consumer decides to not proceed with a paid account, they not have entry to the content material after the trial interval.

Netflix free trial: one month and you’re hooked for lifesixteen
Netflix free trial: one month and also you’re hooked for all times (View giant model17)


Netflix additionally had an inherent benefit in observability. Remember that we’re speaking not nearly noticing others utilizing the product, however concerning the observable advantages of utilizing the product.

Given the prevalence of Blockbuster, customers have been nicely conscious of the disadvantages of its system in 1999. Blockbuster charged late charges if customers didn’t return movies inside the rental interval; newly launched movies have been often out of inventory; and each choosing up and returning a rental required a visit to the shop (or no less than a drop field situated close to the shop).

Blockbuster’s disadvantages made the observability of Netflix’s benefits very excessive. Netflix charged a month-to-month subscription: zero additional charges. Netflix was a service delivered and returned by way of the mail: zero additional work. Netflix allowed customers to view and alter the order by which they might obtain movies from their queue: zero concern that customers would obtain one thing they didn’t need to watch. When potential customers came upon about Netflix, they didn’t need to spend time on the lookout for the potential profit within the service. Blockbuster’s later try to supply mail-order rental after which streaming video validated Netflix’s mannequin.

Netflix was additionally capable of improve observability of its product by means of packaging. The brilliant-pink envelope that Netflix shipped DVDs in was apparent. This helped to make observable the good thing about their innovation: sending and receiving by mail. If a possible adopter noticed their coworker tossing a Netflix-branded envelope into the outgoing mail, they might be capable of see simply how easy it’s to lease and return movies. Benefit noticed!

Hey Bob, where did you rent that DVD from? Netflix’s packaging increased the visibility of the product.18
“Hey Bob, the place did you lease that DVD from?” Netflix’s packaging elevated the visibility of the product. (Image: Wikipedia19) (View giant model20)

This overview simplifies Netflix’s evolution with a view to spotlight the important thing traits of the innovation that Netflix addressed. By no means was Netflix an in a single day sensation. It wanted luck, timing and licensing agreements to hold content material from quite a few different events, corresponding to TV networks and film studios. Netflix’s capability to deal with the 5 traits of innovation ensured that it was capable of capitalize on the alternatives that the luck, timing and licensing offers caused.

Netflix has spent 15 years as an innovator within the business. It has survived robust occasions in an financial system that led to the demise of Blockbuster, its largest competitor on the time it launched. It has at occasions encountered bumps and questions on its future; nevertheless, it has maintained a give attention to incorporating consumer suggestions and innovation into its product. Given its market, Netflix might want to proceed innovating and conducting analysis with customers to remain aggressive.

The Takeaway: Go Forth And Innovate!

Your design staff must be proactive in addressing the ideas associated to the diffusion of improvements concept. I would advocate that your design workforce lists the traits of innovation and the way your product addresses every one. I would additionally advocate making a doc that visualizes the ecosystem during which your innovation will exist.

Include the next on this doc:

  • What circumstances have to exist to ensure that your innovation to thrive (for instance, widespread entry to excessive-velocity Internet)?
  • What applied sciences must be suitable together with your innovation (for instance, does a online game console or cell phone have to run an app)?
  • What analysis must be accomplished available on the market and on potential customers?
  • What parts are in your management to control (for instance, making offers with content material distributors)?
  • What merchandise compete with yours (each brick-and-mortar and digital)?
  • What shortcomings do these merchandise have (the place does your aggressive benefit lie)?
  • How do rivals market their product? What advertising has been proven to achieve success?
  • Is there a primary time of the yr to launch your product (for instance, is there a time when individuals expertise a problem that your product solves)?
  • What type of trialability will you supply?
  • Very importantly, what does “after” appear to be? What will the world be like in case your innovation turns into widespread?

Add to the record above the next gadgets, which deliver within the ideas coated within the first article:

  • Have you recognized those that fall within the totally different classes of adopters?
  • Who are the early and early majority adopters of your product?
  • How will you make potential adopters conscious of your innovation?
  • How will potential adopters entry extra info in your innovation?

Answering these questions is tough work, however doing it brings a a lot greater probability of success on your innovation. Use the visualization you’ve created and your solutions to those questions as a roadmap to maneuver ahead, in addition to a crystal ball to foretell and account for as a lot of the longer term as potential. Of course, it gained’t be good, however by being conscious of all the issues that would have an effect on your success, your workforce is stacking the deck in favor of your innovation. Design groups which are conscious of and account for the diffusion of improvements may have a bonus over rivals that don’t have or use this data.

(cc, ml, al)


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