Published in September 2006

Communicating With 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 social system.
     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 their needs.
     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 process quickly.
     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 confirmation.
     Finally then, it is clear that understanding the innovation-decision process provides insight that helps us to communicate effectively with local church leaders.

We will conclude this series next time.

David Lee Jr., PhD, is CEO of Lee Communication Inc., and a member of
Sound & Communications’ Technical Council. He travels extensively around the
world consulting with churches, organizations and governments. Send any
comments to him at

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