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  • Writer's pictureAmir Ara

Theory of Diffusion of Innovation: How Construction Industry Reacts to Innovation; Resistance Vs. Adoption

Updated: May 28

Theory of Diffusion of Innovation: How Construction Industry Reacts to Innovation; Resistance Vs. Adoption

Lead Author: Amir Ara Assistance: Farid Shojaie

The theory of diffusion of innovations provides a framework for understanding how new technologies, practices, and ideas permeate through any sector as it is applicable to the construction industry, shaping its evolution from introduction to widespread adoption. Developed by E.M. Rogers, a communication theorist, in 1962, this theory elucidates the stages of adoption that various actors within the industry undergo. 

Key actors in the diffusion process include: 

Innovators: These individuals or organizations are at the forefront of embracing novel technologies and methods, often willing to take risks to experiment with innovative solutions.  

Early Adopters: Professionals who are quick to recognize the potential benefits of new technologies and are eager to integrate them into their projects to gain a competitive edge.  

Early Majority: Representing a significant portion of the industry, the early majority comprises stakeholders who cautiously adopt innovations once they have been proven effective by early adopters. 

Late Majority: This group follows suit, adopting innovations as they become more widely accepted and integrated into standard industry practices.  

Laggards: Individuals or entities that are hesitant to embrace change and are typically the last to adopt new technologies or practices within the construction domain. 

Key actors in the process of diffusion of innovation

Rodgers began his research by studying the mechanisms by which American farmers successfully adopted the agricultural innovations developed at land-grant universities. In a series of diffusion studies across multiple areas, Rogers found that innovations that have these 5 characteristics - high relative advantage, trialability, observability, compatibility, and low complexity - are likely to succeed over innovations that do not and can increase the rate of diffusion. 

  1. Relative Advantage and Cost: This refers to the degree to which an innovation appears to be better than any other alternatives available to potential adopters. It encompasses factors such as economics, convenience, satisfaction, and social prestige. Innovations must compete with other alternatives, and those perceived as offering greater advantages are more likely to be adopted. Especially the affordability of adopting new technologies or practices significantly impacts their rate of adoption across different segments of the industry. 

  2. Trialability and Accessibility: Trialability measures the degree to which an innovation can be experienced firsthand on a limited basis. Innovations that are easily testable or can be tried out with minimal commitment are more likely to be adopted. Generally, The ease of access to innovative solutions, including training and support, influences adopters among construction professionals. 

  3. Observability and Industrialization: This aspect concerns the degree to which the innovation or its outcomes are visible to others who may consider adopting it. If potential adopters cannot observe the innovation in action or see its benefits demonstrated by others, they are less likely to adopt it themselves. Visibility and practical proof play crucial roles in influencing adoption decisions. This is more important when we measure the extent of industrialization in the targeted society. More advanced industrialized countries often are more convinced that adopting new technologies has meaningful and tangible improvements. 

  4. Compatibility and Development: Compatibility refers to the extent to which an innovation aligns with existing values, experiences, and needs of potential users. The degree of development also has an effect on the overall use and acceptance of new technologies in societies. More developed countries and regions are more ready and compatible with innovative solutions. Innovations that fit seamlessly into users' lifestyles and complement their existing practices are more likely to be adopted. Compatibility considers the broader context of users' experiences and beliefs, facilitating smoother integration of new technologies or practices. 

  5. Training and Complexity: Complexity reflects the difficulty associated with understanding and using innovation. Innovations perceived as overly complex or challenging to grasp are less likely to be adopted. Simplifying the adoption process by increasing the level of education and training within the industry and minimizing barriers to understanding can enhance the likelihood of diffusion of innovation and new technologies. 

Factors affecting the adaptation of an innovation in the industry

*Factors affecting the adaptation of an innovation in the industry

By understating the theory of diffusion of innovation we can make sure that Early adopters in the construction industry often have several advantages over the late majority when it comes to adopting new innovations: 

  1. Competitive Advantage:  Early adopters gain a competitive edge by being among the first to implement innovative technologies or practices. By embracing new innovations, they can differentiate themselves from competitors and attract clients who value innovation and efficiency. 

  2. Market Leadership: Early adopters establish themselves as market leaders by setting industry standards and best practices. By demonstrating the feasibility and benefits of new innovations, they influence the direction of the industry and shape market trends. 

  3. Learning and Experience: Early adopters have the opportunity to gain firsthand experience and knowledge about new technologies or practices. By actively engaging with innovations, they acquire valuable insights and expertise that can enhance their capabilities and competitiveness in the long run.

  4. Partnership Opportunities: Early adopters often have the chance to collaborate with technology developers, researchers, and other stakeholders involved in the innovation ecosystem. By forging partnerships and alliances, they can influence the development and customization of innovations to better suit their specific needs and requirements.

  5. Improving Risk Management: While early adoption involves certain risks, early adopters have the advantage of mitigating these risks through careful planning, testing, and evaluation. By proactively managing risks and uncertainties, they can minimize potential disruptions and optimize the benefits of new innovations. 

Overall, early adopters in the construction industry enjoy a range of advantages, including competitive differentiation, market leadership, learning opportunities, partnership potential, and risk management capabilities, positioning them for long-term success and growth in a rapidly evolving industry landscape. 

The diffusion process within the construction industry tends to unfold at a significantly slower pace compared to other sectors. Innovations in construction, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology, typically undergo a prolonged period of adoption characterized by cautious experimentation by innovators and early adopters. However, widespread acceptance among construction firms and professionals often lags behind other industries. Several factors contribute to this slower diffusion rate within the construction sector, including the industry's inherent resistance to change, the complex and interconnected nature of construction projects, the high degree of risk associated with adopting new technologies, the temporary nature of the construction projects and the traditional methods deeply ingrained in the industry's culture. Additionally, the fragmented nature of the construction supply chain and the lack of standardization further hinder the rapid dissemination of innovations within the industry. 

Promoters and innovation hubs within the construction industry play a vital role in introducing innovative solutions and new technologies to conventional players in the construction industry and shall leverage the principles of diffusion theory to promote the adoption of new products and technologies. This role involves a range of attributes related to innovation diffusion, such as possessing in-depth knowledge of technologies and solutions, along with a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and needs faced by construction companies. Based on this knowledge and insights, promoters and innovation hubs can also aid the construction companies in due diligence of new solutions and technologies before introducing them to construction companies. To promote innovations, these entities can obtain Strategies such as targeted outreach to early adopters, demonstration projects, and incentivized trials to accelerate the diffusion process. Influencers also play a significant role in promoting new technologies and practices within the construction sector. Key industry influencers, such as leading construction firms, industry associations, innovation hubs, technology promoters, and respected professionals, play a crucial role in driving awareness and acceptance of innovations among their peers. 

Cyberspace cube of innovation

In summary, Rogers’s diffusion of innovations theory offers valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities associated with technology adoption in the construction industry. By acknowledging the interplay between various factors such as relative advantage, trialability, observability, compatibility, and complexity, stakeholders can devise tailored approaches to promote innovation diffusion. As the industry grapples with increasing demands for sustainability, efficiency, and resilience, leveraging the principles of diffusion theory can empower promoters, policymakers, innovation hubs, and industry stakeholders to navigate the complexities of innovation dissemination and drive meaningful transformation. 




  • Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations (5th ed.). 

  • World Economic Forum. (2019). Shaping the Future of Construction: A Breakthrough in Mindset and Technology. 

  • Construction Industry Institute. (2022). Technology Diffusion in the Construction Industry. 


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