Accelerating the Diffusion of Innovations: A “Digital Diffusion Dashboard” (3D)

A central problem faced by global organizations and management today is how to accelerate the adoption of new ideas, processes and technologies. To address this need, in 2005 the National Science Foundation awarded a $426,000 grant (no. SES-0527487) to the IITC for a three-year “Digital Diffusion Dashboard” project (3D) to study and develop a new methodology for accelerating the diffusion of innovation in global networked businesses. 3D is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the fields of anthropology, engineering and communication that combines expertise in ethnography, information technology and semantic analysis to study diffusion networks and the ways innovation is diffused within globally-networked organizations. Specifically, the project will enable Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and Chrysler LLC to give voice to or illuminate the flows of communication around an innovation in order to accelerate the adoption of a particular innovation within a global enterprise.

Based on modeling how different messages delivered through different combinations of IT media may result in diffusion curves that vary in shape and speed of formation, a digital diffusion dashboard “tool” has been created. It dynamically displays diffusion patterns, associated social networks, and word networks that offer managers recommendations for altering communication about the innovation. In order to help interpret what the dashboard displays and network visualization means, 3D has used targeted ethnographic interviews and observation (both face to face and virtual) to explore participants’ local contexts and culture, which can be geographically dispersed.

Although the dashboard has been created within the context of the automobile industry, the research results have wide applicability and can benefit many other public and private sectors, such as healthcare, retail, government and technology. The Automotive Industry Action Group will help disseminate the findings and deliverables from this study.

Principal Investigator: Julia Gluesing
Co-Investigators: Ken Riopelle, Jim Danowski
Research Assistance: Tara Eaton
Sponsor: Human and Social Dynamics Program, National Science Foundation