Technological innovation : a study of adoption and diffusion of technology in the pottery kiln industry
This Thesis is about behaviour, a special type of behaviour, the adoption and diffusion of-new ideas and practices - "innovations"- in particular technological-innovations. Successive Governments and'the Media frequently point to historical cases where British inventive skills have failed to make subsequent commercial impact in the country of origin. What determines a successful invention and what affects the behaviour of organisations involved with its development and coimmercialisation? Answers to both these questions are sought through reference to research into the diffusion of innovations, both at a conceptual and operational level. In response to criticiams levelled at numerous studies(highlighted in the text), this Thesis holistically considers both the results and process research orientations on the grounds that the consideration of consequences or causes of behaviour in isolation tends to present only a part picture of innovatory behaviour, Evidence is later presented in the fieldwork to suggest that the causes of innovation decisions in turn can arise from the consequences of previous innovation decisions; the two research perspectives remain inextricably linked. Section 1 introduces the reader to the current tendencyq though gradualp for the merging of research methodologies used in diffusion studies. Evidence is provided to suggest that the failure on the part of the researcher to consider work other than that from his -own Particular academic discipline has weakened the development of a grand theory of diffusion andq in doing sog reduced the explanatory value of isolated empirical studies. I The subsequent Section reviews the literaturefor contributions -made by past researchers to the understanding of adoption and diffusion behaviour processes. A framework originally presented by Katz, an eminent sociologisto is used, namely: - An Innovation Which is Communicated Through certain Channels Over Time Among the Members of a Social System Each element, in turn, is critically evaluated in this Section. A case is made for a middle-course methodological approach between that of the grand theorist on the one hand and the raw empiricist on the other. A wide range of cross-disciplinary sources are cited in this examination, intended to provide a base for examining industrial innovation in Section 3- Section 3 extends the literature search into industrial systems, with particular emphasis upon those factors considered influential in the adoption and diffusion of technological innovation. Investigation is made into the definition of "industrial innovation" and how discernable types of innovation can affect the level of responsiveness to adoption in the industry. Factors seen to impinge upon adoption decisions and the subsequent diffusion process arise from bo th internal and external-to-the-organisation sources. Economic and nonw-economic variables are considered. Again sources not traditionally presented in diffusion studies are used. Section 4 (Volume II) is concerned with applying theoretical diffusion concepts to an an-going industrial-situation to examine both clauses and consequences of industrial innovatory behaviour. Two complement, ary field studies were conducted in the Pottery Kiln Industry - to suppliers, customers and kiln-builders themselvesfrom which a number of system-perceived major technoýogical innovations were identified and used in the subsequent investigation. A nomination approach was used as it was considered that what firms themselves considered to be technological innovations - watersheds in te'chnological progress - would assist in the explanation of subsequent adoption and diffusion decisions. A number of innovations were identifiedv spanning a time period 1800 - 1975. The innovations were then used to probe both causes and consequences of their adoption and diffusion; in-firm and environmental influences were identified, In the final Section, summary and conclusions are presented 1ýr relating the thoughts and findings of the literature Xeview-to the facts established through the empirical studies. Points are raised as to discrepancies and to remaining gaps in knowledge. The comprehensive Bibliography, citing over 450 references, emphasises the multi-disciplinary approach advocated by the critics of early research studies.