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Diffusion of Innovations

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Diffusion of Innovations

Free Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

Except for “early adopters,” most people accept innovations slowly — and sometimes, they’re right.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Why would a villager draw polluted drinking water from a canal where a dead donkey floats instead of using a nearby tap to get clean drinking water? Why did it take hundreds of years for the British Navy to give sailors oranges and lemons when tests had proven that citrus fruit cured the scurvy that killed sailors and left vessels under-manned? Why do eminently sensible things not happen? If you’ve ever wondered, this book will give you the answers. It’s a thick, heavy, academic tome, but spiced with abundant anecdotes and observations that make it an easy, enjoyable read. This is the rare book that combines solid intellectual content with thought-provoking entertainment. highly recommends this classic from 1962 to all audiences, but especially those whose business it is to understand and use the social mechanisms through which innovations must diffuse.


Contradicting Tradition

Villagers in the Peruvian village of Los Molinas suffered the usual horrifying number of infectious and parasitical afflictions caused by filthy, contaminated drinking water. Eliminating these plagues was easy - all they had to do was boil their water before drinking it. The Peruvian government gave a public health worker the job of teaching the villagers about the dangers of contaminated water and how to eliminate these dangers by boiling. The public health worker spent two years trying to convince the villagers to boil their water, and failed. By an overwhelming majority, the villagers of Los Molinas insisted on continuing to drink filthy river water. Why?

Boiling water went contrary not only to the community’s established practice but also to its traditional understanding of disease and health. Like many Asians and Africans, the Peruvian villagers understood physical well-being as a balance of "Hot" and "Cold." They used boiled water, but only to treat the sick, who had an excess of "Cold" and needed to be brought into balance again with a dose of "Hot." In their culture and practice, healthy people did not drink boiled water.

The Peruvian...

About the Author

Everett M. Rogers is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of New Mexico, where he teaches and conducts research on the diffusion of innovations. The four previous editions of Diffusion of Innovations have received various awards, including designation as a "Citation Classic" by the Institute for Scientific Information.

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