in September 2006
Church Leaders Part 4
By David Lee Jr., PhD
The Innovation-Decision Process.
Editor’s Note: This is Part 4
of a five-part series, "Communicating With Church Leaders."
Part 1 appeared in April 2005, Part 2 in April 2006, Part
3 in May 2006.
A decision-making process occurs
when we choose to adopt or reject an innovation. Understanding
the decision-making process should help us to better understand
and communicate with local church leaders who are interested
in adopting new media technologies into their house of worship.
In Parts 2 and 3 of this five-part
series, I presented Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations Theory
that provides a theoretical foundation upon which we can
understand some of the processes associated with the adoption
of innovations. Rogers' Theory also provides a foundation
for building numerous tools for communicating with church
leaders. Let's review a few of those thoughts.
First, Rogers asserted that an
innovation is an idea, practice or object that is perceived
as new by a person. Second, diffusion is the process by
which an innovation is communicated over time among members
of a social system. Thus, in a social system (such as a
congregation in a house of worship), systems integrators
and communication technologies either will be adopted or
rejected. In either case, a decision will be made. Rogers
refers to this as the "innovation-decision process." I will
explain his version of this process here, then apply it
to our context as systems integrators who are trying to
communicate with church leaders.
Rogers argues that there are five
stages in the innovation-decision process: (a) knowledge,
(b) persuasion, (c) decision, (d) implementation and (e)
confirmation. Knowledge is gained when a person learns that
an innovation exists and possibly even learns how to use
it to some degree. Persuasion occurs when a concrete opinion
about the innovation is formed. Decision occurs when an
innovation is adopted or rejected. Implementation occurs
when the innovation is employed. Confirmation occurs when
evidence concludes that the decision to adopt or reject
the innovation was the correct decision.
Rogers explained that there are
vital factors that affect how rapidly a person proceeds
through the innovation-decision process. These include how
readily information is available to them, or how fast they
access sources of information that help them understand
better the relative applications of an innovation in their
Also included here is their perspective
regarding how urgently the innovation is needed in their
social system. The speed and outcome of the innovation process
in a social system depends on how members of a social system
perceive the innovation in light of five key attributes:
(a) relative advantage, (b) compatibility, (c) complexity,
(d) trialability and (e) observability. These attributes
typically are found within the persuasion stage of the decision
process. I presented explanation and application of these
perceived attributes in Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.
Moving forward, I will place the innovation-decision process
into our context as systems integrators who are interested
in communicating better with church leaders.
The knowledge stage is emphasized
here. How can you provide knowledge about you or your company,
and about media technologies, that can help church leaders
decide which innovation can help them address their communication
needs? Obviously, you must organize your business ideas
(which are unique innovations) and present these ideas clearly
using numerous communication channels.
These potential channels include
a short, well-produced video that highlights the relative
advantages that separate you from competitors. Another channel
should be your company's well-crafted and easy-to-navigate
website that also highlights your competitive advantages.
A printed brochure is another important communication channel
that clearly and quickly can communicate the advantages
of your company.
Another important communication
channel is people who respect you and your work. In fact,
firsthand communication with happy customers is often the
most influential source of knowledge for potential adopters.
Thus, put a local church leader in contact with people who
will bolster you and your company.
Obviously, these channels and others
also can help local church leaders gain knowledge about
required media technologies. Gathering and gaining accurate
knowledge about an innovation also influences the persuasion
stage of the innovation-decision process.
Obviously, the knowledge stage,
the persuasion stage and the decision stage are important
in the innovation-decision process and for you in the short-term.
The implementation stage, however, is one that we also seek
because it typically indicates that we were successful in
helping a local church leader pass through the early stages.
The implementation stage also typically
indicates that we have received payment for our services
and any equipment we sold to a local house of worship. The
process is not complete, however, until the local church
leader and congregants confirm that your company and the
media technologies you implemented (and they adopted) fulfill
The innovation-decision process
helps us understand how lack of knowledge, or poor knowledge,
can lead a local church leader to adopt an inferior systems
integrator or inferior technology. Our goal is to help the
local church leader move through the innovation-decision
One way this can be accomplished
is by providing a local church leader with knowledge that
clearly and accurately presents the relative advantages
of your company. This knowledge can help these leaders decide
to adopt your organization and to implement the innovations
you recommend. If you will implement effective innovations,
then you will be on the path to receiving a positive adoption
Finally then, it is clear that
understanding the innovation-decision process provides insight
that helps us to communicate effectively with local church
We will conclude this series next time.
David Lee Jr., PhD, is CEO of Lee Communication Inc., and a member
Sound & Communications’ Technical Council.
He travels extensively around the
world consulting with churches, organizations and governments.
comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.