Diffusion of Innovations and Compatibility

Topics: Diffusion of innovations, Technology adoption lifecycle, Innovation Pages: 5 (1503 words) Published: February 3, 2013
“Theoretical and empirical research in technology acceptance, while acknowledging the importance of individual beliefs about the compatibility of a technology, has produced equivocal results” (Karahanna et al, 2006, p. 781). This study denotes the importance of integrating the compatibility construct within technology acceptance models as well as its confounding results in doing so. Rogers (1962) was the first one to introduce and define the term compatibility in his Innovation Diffusion Theory. “Compatibility assesses the extent of congruence between a new technology and various aspects of the individual and the situation in which the technology will be utilized” (Karahanna et al., 2006, p. 782). Diverse studies identified a significant relationship between compatibility and technology acceptance (Agarwal and Prasad, 1997; Karahanna et al, 1999; Taylor and Todd, 1995). A study performed by Tornatzky and Klein (1982) concluded that, from ten innovative aspects, only relative advantage, complexity and compatibility were consistently and significantly related to technology adoption. However, integrating compatibility in models of technology acceptance has had limited success thus far. A frequent occurring problem amongst researchers was the inability to discriminate between compatibility and constructs equal to UTAUT’s performance expectancy. According to Karahanna et al. (2006) this was due to the inadequate operationalization of the compatibility construct. Rogers (1983) defined compatibility as the degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with existing values, needs and past experiences of potential adopters.

Studies incorporating compatibility, defined it, like Rogers (1983) as multidimensional, yet operationalized it as a unidimensional construct (e.g. Moore and Benbasat, 1991; Taylor and Todd, 1995). Karahanna et al. (2006) attempt to overcome these methodological shortcomings by defining compatibility as the perceived cognitive distance between an innovation and the organization’s habitual method of accomplishing a task. Inherently this means that individuals are not only prejudiced by the forerunner of the new technology but also by prior beliefs and behavior they developed throughout time. Compatibility should assess the equivalence between a new technology and different aspects of individuals and situations in which it will be employed. Karahanna et al. (2006) brought forward four dimensions reflecting this definition; compatibility with existing work practices, compatibility with preferred work style, compatibility with prior experience, and compatibility with existing values. Karahanna et al. took the three dimensions from Rogers’ (1983) definition of compatibility (values experience and needs) as a starting point. However, the ‘needs’ dimension was dropped from the start due to a tautological relationship with perceived usefulness. Moore and Benbasat (1991) discovered ambiguous relationships between their operationalization of compatibility and relative advantage. “The inclusion of ‘needs’ is considered to be a source of confounding with relative advantage, as there can be no advantage to an innovation that does not reflect an adopter’s needs” (Moore and Benbasat, 1991, p. 199). Consequently they eliminated all items measuring compatibility with ‘needs’. To prevent potential confounding Karahanna et al. (2006) followed Moore and Benbasat’s reasoning and eliminated compatibility beliefs about needs. Tornatzky and Klein (1982) reported two distinct concepts representing compatibility; consistency with the values or norms of potential adopters and congruence with existing practices. The latter concept, also known as operational compatibility, got segregated by Karahanna et al. (2006). “We believe that a finer-grained elaboration of this specific dimension is necessary. It is possible to further disaggregate operational...
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