Innovation Adoption: A Review of Theories and Constructs

  • Jennifer P. WisdomEmail author
  • Ka Ho Brian Chor
  • Kimberly E. Hoagwood
  • Sarah M. Horwitz
Original Article


Many theoretical frameworks seek to describe the dynamic process of the implementation of innovations. Little is known, however, about factors related to decisions to adopt innovations and how the likelihood of adoption of innovations can be increased. Using a narrative synthesis approach, this paper compared constructs theorized to be related to adoption of innovations proposed in existing theoretical frameworks in order to identify characteristics likely to increase adoption of innovations. The overall goal was to identify elements across adoption frameworks that are potentially modifiable and, thus, might be employed to improve the adoption of evidence-based practices. The review identified 20 theoretical frameworks that could be grouped into two broad categories: theories that mainly address the adoption process (N = 10) and theories that address adoption within the context of implementation, diffusion, dissemination, and/or sustainability (N = 10). Constructs of leadership, operational size and structure, innovation fit with norms and values, and attitudes/motivation toward innovations each are mentioned in at least half of the theories, though there were no consistent definitions of measures for these constructs. A lack of precise definitions and measurement of constructs suggests further work is needed to increase our understanding of adoption of innovations.


Adoption Evidence-based treatments and practices Organization Innovation Implementation 



This manuscript was created with support from the National Institute on Mental Health (P30 MH090322, PI: Hoagwood). Dr. Wisdom’s work on this manuscript was conducted while she was at Columbia University.


  1. Aarons, G. A., Hurlburt, M., & Horwitz, S. (2011). Advancing a conceptual model of evidence-based practice implementation in public service sectors. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 38(1), 4–23. doi: 10.1007/s10488-010-0327-7.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aarons, G. A., Wells, R. S., Zagursky, K., Fettes, D. L., & Palinkas, L. A. (2009). Implementing evidence-based practice in community mental health agencies: A multiple stakeholder analysis. American Journal of Public Health, 99(11), 2087–2095. doi: 10.2105/ajph.2009.161711.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Backer, T. E., Liberman, R. P., & Kuehnel, T. G. (1986). Dissemination and adoption of innovative psychosocial interventions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54(1), 111–118.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berta, W., Teare, G. F., Gilbart, E., Ginsburg, L. S., Lemieux-Charles, L., Davis, D., et al. (2005). The contingencies of organizational learning in long-term care: Factors that affect innovation adoption. Health Care Management Review, 30(4), 282–292.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1990). Absorptive capacity: A new perspective on learning and innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35(1), 128–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Damanpour, F., & Schneider, M. (2006). Phases of the adoption of innovation in organizations: Effects of environment, organization and top managers. British Journal of Management, 17(3), 215–236. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2006.00498.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Damanpour, F., & Schneider, M. (2009). Characteristics of innovation and innovation adoption in public organizations: Assessing the role of managers. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 19(3), 495–522. doi: 10.1093/jopart/mun021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Feldstein, A. C., & Glasgow, R. E. (2008). A practical, robust implementation and sustainability model (PRISM) for integrating research findings into practice. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, 34(4), 228–243.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Fixsen, D. L., Naoom, S. F., Blase, K. A., Friedman, R. M., & Wallace, F. (2005). Implementation research: A synthesis of the literature. Tampa: University of South Florida, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, The National Implementation Research Network.Google Scholar
  10. Frambach, R. T., & Schillewaert, N. (2002). Organizational innovation adoption: A multi-level framework of determinants and opportunities for future research. Journal of Business Research, 55(2), 163–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gallivan, M. J. (2001). Organizational adoption and assimilation of complex technological innovations: Development and application of a new framework. DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems, 32(3), 51–85. doi: 10.1145/506724.506729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Garland, A., Bickman, L., & Chorpita, B. (2010). Change what? Identifying quality improvement targets by investigating usual mental health care. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 37(1), 15–26. doi: 10.1007/s10488-010-0279-y.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Glasgow, R. E. (2003). Translating Research to Practice. Diabetes Care, 26(8), 2451–2456. doi: 10.2337/diacare.26.8.2451.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Glasgow, R. E., Lichtenstein, E., & Marcus, A. C. (2003). Why don’t we see more translation of health promotion research to practice? Rethinking the efficacy-to-effectiveness transition. American Journal of Public Health, 93(8), 1261–1267.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Godin, G., Belanger-Gravel, A., Eccles, M., & Grimshaw, J. (2008). Healthcare professionals’ intentions and behaviours: A systematic review of studies based on social cognitive theories. Implementation Science, 3(1), 36–48. doi: 10.1186/1748-5908-3-36.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Graham, I. D., & Logan, J. (2004). Innovations in knowledge transfer and continuity of care. The Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 36(2), 89–103.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Greenhalgh, T., Robert, G., Macfarlane, F., Bate, P., & Kyriakidou, O. (2004). Diffusion of innovations in service organizations: Systematic review and recommendations. Milbank Quarterly, 82(4), 581–629.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Horwitz, S. M., Chamberlain, P., Landsverk, J., & Mullican, C. (2010). Improving the Mental Health of Children in Child Welfare Through the Implementation of Evidence-Based Parenting Interventions. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 37(1–2), 27–39. doi: 10.1007/s10488-010-0274-3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jagosh, J., Salsberg, P. P., Macaulay, A. C., & Bush, P. L. (2011). Realist Review: An Introduction. Paper presented at the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) Meetings, Montreal, Canada.Google Scholar
  20. Klein, K. J., & Sorra, J. S. (1996). The challenge of innovation implementation. Academy of Management Review, 21(4), 1055–1080.Google Scholar
  21. Mendel, P., Meredith, L., Schoenbaum, M., Sherbourne, C., & Wells, K. (2008). Interventions in organizational and community context: A framework for building evidence on dissemination and implementation in health services research. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 35(1), 21–37. doi: 10.1007/s10488-007-0144-9.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Meyer, A. D., & Goes, J. B. (1988). Organizational assimilation of innovations: A multilevel contextual analysis. Academy of Management Journal, 31(4), 897–923.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mitchell, S. A., Fisher, C. A., Hastings, C. E., Silverman, L. B., & Wallen, G. R. (2010). A thematic analysis of theoretical models for translational science in nursing: Mapping the field. Nursing Outlook, 58(6), 287–300. doi: 10.1016/j.outlook.2010.07.001.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Oldenburg, B., & Glanz, K. (2008). Diffusion of innovations. In K. Glanz, B. K. Rimer, & K. Viswanath (Eds.), Health behavior and health education (4th ed., pp. 313–333). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  25. Panzano, P. C., & Roth, D. (2006). The decision to adopt evidence-based and other innovative mental health practices: Risky business? Psychiatric Services, 57(8), 1153–1161. doi: 10.1176/ Scholar
  26. Pawson, R., Greenhalgh, T., Harvey, G., & Walshe, K. (2005). Realist review: A new method of systematic review designed for complex policy interventions. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy, 10(Suppl 1), 21–34. doi: 10.1258/1355819054308530.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Popay, J., Roberts, H., Sowden, A., Petticrew, M., Arai, L., Rodgers, M., et al. (2006). Guidance on the conduct of narrative synthesis in systematic reviews: A product from the ESRC methods programme. Retrieved from
  28. Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  29. Simpson, D. D. (2002). A conceptual framework for transferring research to practice. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 22(4), 171–182.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Solomons, N. M., & Spross, J. A. (2011). Evidence-based practice barriers and facilitators from a continuous quality improvement perspective: An integrative review. Journal of Nursing Management, 19(1), 109–120. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2834.2010.01144.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sox, H. C. (2010). Comparative effectiveness research: A progress report. Annals of Internal Medicine, 153(7), 469–472.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Stetler, C. B. (2001). Updating the Stetler Model of research utilization to facilitate evidence-based practice. Nursing Outlook, 49(6), 272–279. doi: 10.1067/mno.2001.120517.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tabak, R. G., Khoong, E. C., Chambers, D. A., & Brownson, R. C. (2012a). Bridging research and practice: Models for dissemination and implementation research. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 43(3), 337–350. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.05.024.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tabak, R. G., Khooong, E. C., Chambers, D., & Brownson, R. C. (2012). A Narrative Review and Synthesis of Frameworks in Dissemination and Implementation Research. Paper presented at the 5th Annual NIH Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation: Research at the Crossroads, Bethesda, MD.Google Scholar
  35. Valente, T. W. (1996). Social network thresholds in the diffusion of innovations. Social Networks, 18(1), 69–89. doi: 10.1016/0378-8733(95)00256-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Weinstein, N. D., Sandman, P. M., & Blalock, S. J. (2008). The precaution adoption process model. In K. Glanz, B. K. Rimer, & K. Viswanath (Eds.), Health behavior and health education (4th ed., pp. 123–147). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  37. Wong, G., Greenhalgh, T., & Pawson, R. (2010). Internet-based medical education: A realist review of what works, for whom and in what circumstances. BMC Medical Education, 10(1), 12.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer P. Wisdom
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ka Ho Brian Chor
    • 2
  • Kimberly E. Hoagwood
    • 2
  • Sarah M. Horwitz
    • 2
  1. 1.George Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.New York University Child Study Center, New York University Langone Medical CenterNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations