Diffusion of Innovations
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Diffusion of Innovations is a theory that tries to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. Popularized by Everett Rogers, a professor of communication studies at Iowa State University, in his 1962 book of the same title, the theory states that new behaviors or technologies are adopted (diffused) through “a process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system”. There are four main elements that influence the spread of a new idea: the innovation, communication channels, time, and a social system. This process relies heavily on human capital. The innovation must be widely adopted in order to self-sustain. Within the rate of adoption, there is a point at which an innovation reaches critical mass. The categories of adopters are: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Diffusion of Innovations manifests itself in different ways in various cultures and fields of study and is highly subject to the type of adopters and innovation-decision process.
For a technology-minded bunch, engineers are not necessarily the earliest of adaptors. Perhaps it is natural skepticism that drives us to question our surroundings through analytical reasoning, exploration and the scientific process, rather than jump on every new trend. But we are a community, sharing scientific discoveries at conferences and articles for society transactions and/or trade journals. So among the four elements required for diffusion of innovation, RF/microwave engineers have certain common communication channels and social systems. With the addition of time we have adopted numerous innovations in the areas of semiconductor technologies, test instruments, software, etc. But we have also adopted many innovations in how we communicate among each other. Beyond our IEEE memberships, magazines subscriptions and web site visits, many of us regularly sign up for educational webinars, receive eNewsletters and have joined Linked-in communities to stay informed.
Engineers familiar with Linked-in know it as the social networking website for people in professional occupations. When Linked-in began over a decade ago, professionals used the service to connect with colleagues and former colleagues who reached out and asked to join their personal network. For several years early on, a Linked-in request often indicated that someone had been laid-off recently or was looking for a new position. But with nearly 180 million unique site visitors per month, the site has morphed into a major networking tool with many purposes. With the introduction of Linked-in communities, the social network has created a networking opportunity for specialized social systems within its broader user group.
Linked-in communities have proven to be an excellent way for engineers to communicate with each other, allowing us to broadcast important information to the general community, make inquiries (jobs, products, and information) and referrals about people and information. This social network has been adopted by a sizable portion of the RF/microwave industry. The Microwave Journal hosts an RF & Microwave community that started five years ago and now boasts 20,000 members! Similar groups exist for the RF & Microwave community in China, Europe and there is even one for RF power amplifier designers.
For engineers keeping up to date on the latest technical innovations, social networking tools work especially well with “traditional” live networking events with both helping connect individual technologists directly. Consider the International Microwave Symposium (IMS), which is a yearly focal point of our industry’s technical and commercial activity in North America (and beyond). Whether you are presenting a paper, attending the conference or working the exhibition, IMS provides attendees with a live, microwave-centric networking opportunity that is the largest of the calendar year.
Attending IMS combined with online social network tools helps engineers exchange information better than by just attending the event without prior knowledge of who is doing what. And so, the MTT-S has established a dedicated IMS Linked-in community to share information and connect people throughout the year. Being familiar with the people, conference topics, social events, and local offerings helps every attendee get the most out of the conference, exhibition and IMS social functions by providing the chance to plan ahead, filter through topics that matter most and make relationships with potential collaborators, mentors or clients. The IMS Linked-in community has about 900 members, but the IMS 2014 social media committee is committed to growing this number and helping everyone enjoy the benefits of being connected through this powerful networking site.
With all the information that is shared in preparation for MTT-S IMS and post-event info that could be passed to the broader microwave community, it makes sense to join the IMS Linked-in community today.
Follow IMS2014 on Twitter: @MTT_IMS
The more RF/microwave engineers adopt and use social networks, the faster we will share vital information among ourselves and the faster we will diffuse innovation. I’m an IMS Linked-in member. Are you?
MWJ Editor, Member, IMS2014 Social Media Committee
David Vye is responsible for Microwave Journal's editorial content, article review and special industry reporting. Prior to joining the Journal, Mr. Vye was a product-marketing manager with Ansoft Corporation, responsible for high frequency circuit/system design tools and technical marketing communications. He previously worked for Raytheon Research Division and Advanced Device Center as a Sr. Design Engineer, responsible for PHEMT, HBT and MESFET characterization and modeling as well as MMIC design and test. David also worked at M/A-COM's Advanced Semiconductor Operations developing automated test systems and active device modeling methods for GaAs FETs. He is a 1984 graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, with a concentration in microwave engineering.
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