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"The Innovation Refraction Theory" - generations and resistance

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

In smaller groups innovation takes place and walks with relative fluidity through determined types of people. We know that innovation is inevitable and that it walks through some determined dynamic. But when do we speak of big global movements, when it comes to the plates tectonics of society, does the same rule can be applied? Does humanity walk with only one force, the force of "foward"? Of breaking through? But how about the opposite? The maintenance force, the not of breaking the status quo force, does it try to obstruct the advancement of the innovation and how much can that be measured? When is it comes to the matter of generational movements, when different generations occupy the same place in the time, how does things happen between the established one and the challenger one?

The law of diffusion of the innovation is a social theory proposed by the theoretician of the communication Roger Everett in 1962, and according to which the society is divided in some groups in accordance with his acceptance to the innovation of some human expression, being able to be a culture, ideology, art, technology, etc. Whenever some human expression appears like piece of news, she breaks with the status in force and causes acceptance in some groups while it causes resistance in someone.

It is common we observe that happening daily with new slangs or popular steps of dance, for example.

In accordance with the law of diffusion of the innovation, there is still one way to go through the new expression, from his appearance until the status is made quo of the society, if it makes the standard.

This way has beginning through the "innovators", schedules in installments what represents an average of 2,5 % to 3 % of the population of the social group where the break happens.

These persons can be so much innovators in themselves, in other words, the creators of the new expressions, just as they can be the greedy consumers of this innovation. Both have not great interest in making the innovation “follow in front”, in other words, are not preoccupied in the standard makes her be made: they are felt happy only for or or to create something or to be the first ones using them.

It is that person who passes the dawn freezing in the line of the shop of the Apple in Nova Iorque in order that the first one being buying the new iPhone. She does not mind, however, in postar in a photo in the instagram showing his new iPhone: she wants to be hardly the first person, even what more nobody knows of that.

Soon in the sequence there are the “first followers”, a group of persons who represent nearly always an average of 13,5 %, 14 % of the group.

Differently of the innovators, the first followers have a tendency not to create the things and not at least when the first ones are using them: if an airplane will fall in a deserted island and a group of survivors needs to find foods, the first followers will be those who are soon behind face that tasted a doubtful fruit before any world, without fear of dying. The first followers observe (not for much time) and soon they feed on the same fruit also.

The biggest difference, however, is that a first follower has a tendency to go out when every “people is speaking for the group, run here! This fruit is the best, do not do badly and feed well! They can come!”. More than that: the persons have a tendency to trust what they say; the first followers are great natural influenciadores.

Be one hamper between the slice of the first followers and the next one, the “initial majority”, what some scholars call of “big gap”, or “great abyss”, which is a sort of limb of the innovation, where great most of the new human expressions or any innovation, simply it does not continue, end with a “passing tune” that lasted a time but never it entered for the established annals of the fashion.

That takes place because the innovation loses impulse and does not get sufficient "energy" to reach the initial majority — the variables to determine as this infection is interrupted that they are countless, but the fact is that not even any innovation becomes a status quo.

Those who follow the way, exceeding the big gap, find the initial, corresponding majority to a group of approximately 34 % of the population. They are a little more conservative persons regarding the acceptance of some innovation, however so what influenced the sufficient thing, start to practise it also. The important volume that they represent does so that the innovation reaches his range peak, in other words, we are already speaking about something which today is a common expression for 50 % of the general population.

On account of that, the first followers are responsible since a new state of standard makes an innovation, inclusive because the next group, the “late majority”, quite conservative, has a tendency to express the innovation only because “it does not let to be outside already any more”. With more 34 % of the population on average, the late majority makes what before was an innovation, definitely, the status quo of the society.

The remainder, nearly 16 % of the population, they are the called "latecomers", in other words, they are persons with a level of conservatism so high that the idea of the innovation can bring near not at least up to them. They cannot even come to know what “exists again”, and if they know, or do not manage to be used or simply they ignore.

This flow guarantees that an innovation should walk from group to social group until the status is made quo of the society into itself, in other words, until it goes out from a movement of innovation and break in order that there is made the social standard until it is challenged with a new break in the future.

It happens that, as well as everything in the field of the human ones, the things are not so right so: an innovation does not appear in a "blank", ready world to receive it and to make her be known by each one of the social groups in accordance with his receptivity to the innovation.


In fact, the way can be quite opposite.

While the diffusion of the innovation takes place from the break generally caused by newer people, “the one who is arriving”, be the opposite, generally older group, which does not want that this break happens, and for that there resists the diffusion of the innovation all that will be able: clear, who tá in the power is not very much called causing great changes in the play.

See well, I am not saying that it is persons who were still not touched or contaminated by the innovation, but yes persons whom they do not want to allow that the innovation happens, is quite different when we are analysing great global movements (of shocks geracionais) and you group not small arguments.


New generations, when do they begin to be expressed in more concrete way in the society, in way to manage to understand part of the thread of the skein of as they think and if are held, when in fact they start to be heard by the previous generation, begin to be bothersome, produce the first results as artists, politicians, etc. they are in what we can consider like phase 1 of the innovation, in other words, the innovation in itself, the break, the moment to appear.

The generation that is “passing the torch” hardly ever is felt very comfortably with the idea, and is in a resistance phase, in spite of the fact that, generally, when threatened person begins to feel a generation, he begins to hear the noise of other one, it is because this generation already reached the maximum of his expressiveness.

Expressiveness is a term that we can use to classify the form as a generation THERE BUILDS his marks in the history, like her STRUCTURE his existence and the world in which he lives.

This phase, in general, takes place when the individuals of this generation are between 20 and 40 years of age: before that they are promoting, after that they are speculating. The moment where are THEY CREATING in fact, generally is in this phase. Creating his way of being, his slangs, his products, his esthetics, his philosophy, his sentences staffs, his fashion, etc. This phase is when they are with the hand in the mass and are being heard therefore.

This is the height of the expressiveness of a generation, however it is also the moment where it begins it her goes out from scene — not in the form badly, clearly. It is the moment where it begins to gather his results and to be preoccupied with what the newest will do from the world that she left for them.

Generally, nowadays, the population in the belt from 20 to 40 years of age represents 40 % of the population, the same necessary percentage to exceed the “initial majority” and to reach the status quo of the society, according to the law of diffusion of the innovation.

In this moment the break of the new generation comes with the whole force, at last, there is already a standard and this standard needs to be broken by the innovation.

However, while the expression of the society walks in the flow of the law of diffusion of the innovation, the power in the society, it seems to come from a reverse way.

A recent inquiry carried out by the Visual project Capitalist (I group norteamericano dedicated analysing when economical-partner was given and to make them images and infográficos egg whites for us, mortals) shows where the power would be resting in the North American society in accordance with the generation. For that, they crossed data as the age of the CEOs and the economical power, among others.

The silent generation, for example, the persons who survived the Second War, in spite of today represents only 6 % of the North American population, reserves for itself 32 % of the billionaires of the country, totalizing 17.6 % of “economical power” in the country. But she is not the most relevant: his children, the boomers, born soon after the war, dominate a slice of 43,4 % of the economical power, an amount bigger than the generations X (26,2 %), Y (9,6 %) and Z (3,3 %), added up.

With an average of 19 % of the population of the United States, the generation Z is exceeding the big gap to reach the initial majority in this moment, in other words, his expression force is immense in the society, however his power not.

He does not let to know exactly what the point is where the things begin to be altered or at least if this point exists in fact, however in the current configuration of the age pyramids of the society, the moment in which the expressiveness of a generation is the most obvious thing, it is never the moment where she has more it is able, which causes great shocks geracionais, reinforcing the dynamic maintenance general one and disrupção.

There appears so the idea of the “Law of the Refraction of the Innovation”.

In the height of his power inside a society, a generation is really distant of the height of his expressiveness and vice-versa. an equal and contrary force - as Newton's third law would not let there be - and this force may be going down the path of Innovation Refraction.

Imagine that today the silent generation represents this economic power, and therefore decision-making, investor, controller, sponsor, finally, this power POWER, of 17% - basically the same volume of retarders (16%) in comparison with the law of diffusion of innovation.

Now, as a resistance force to the innovative expressiveness that grows at the other end, we can regard this plot as the most resistant, the part of the impossible.

In the aftermath we have the Boomers, representing 44% of the power, and which we can consider with the resistance par excellence.

The Silent Generation, for example, occupies 40% of the general spending on politics, about the same as Boomers, which gives these two generations - the oldest still alive, an immense power of decision in the country.

That is, it is not a mere lack of vocation for innovation, but in this case, a resistance that acts directly on the delay of the progress of the disruptions.

The most resistant ones, for example, are for the graph as innovators are for the law of diffusion of innovation, that is, they are like the innovators, but on the contrary: 17% of impossible force the other 43% of resistants to force also the maintenance instead of the change. From this point on, however, innovation is already beginning to express itself even among the resistance, and the following 26% can be called "confused," those who do not know exactly what the status quo of the moment is, whether it is there or if it is here and end up playing according to what suits them best at the time.

In the aftermath a small parcel of diluors (10%) have enough power to fragment the resistance into plots that can be more easily fought, and thus are more responsible for strengthening the innovation by weakening the resistance among their own, allowing that, in the end, 4% of the power of resistance (almost the same average of innovators in the law of diffusion of innovation and representing basically the same people, jumps into the power of expression in order to convert. These 4% are responsible for finding a path of disruption, through the breakers, also responsible for not accepting resistance under any pretext, until they themselves become the status quo.

More and more it seems to me that when we talk about large socio-cultural groups or larger and less local movements, the changes do not follow a flow of just "going" but "coming" as well.

Resistance sounds as important to me as diffusion if we need to analyze frameworks of cultural or even generational shocks, as we analyze here, and so we can understand and predict the great moments of division of the times, the great possibilities of instability, and the most striking and tense encounters of generations in the global scene and narrative.

It is another variable that can be studied if we want to understand the future.

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