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IRIS Model

I’ve had many enjoyable conversations (i.e.arguments) about what is/is not suitable in technology adoption. In many instances, it’s a matter of misunderstanding (determining the context from which different speakers are arguing). In my new found desire to communicate visually, I propose the following: IRIS model of technology adoption.

IRIS model of technology adoption

IRIS model of technology adoption

When we encounter a new tool or a new concept, we are experiencing technology at the innovation level. We’re focused on “what is possible”, not what can be implemented. We’re more concerned about how a new idea/tool/process differs from existing practices. After we’ve had the joy of a shift in thinking and perspective about what is possible, we begin to research and implement. This is a cyclical process. Attention is paid to “how does it work” and “what is the real world impact”. At this level, our goal is to see how our new (innovative) views align with current reality. If a huge disconnect exists, reform mode kicks in and we attempt to alter the system. Most often, that’s a long process. I’m not focused on that option here. I’m making the assumption that many tools can be implemented within the existing system. Finally, once we’ve experimented with options and we have a sense of what works in our organization, we begin the process of systematizing the innovation (UCalgary blogs appear to have largely followed this model).


  1. Jon Mott wrote:

    Great model. Very good summary of the dynamics of technology adoption. I’m going to use this on our campus. Thanks for sharing it.

    As I read, I thought of an additional dimension that comes into play during the innovation phase. Not only should we ask “What is possible?” but “Why would we want to do what this new technology makes possible?” Given the enormous amount of time, resources and political capital required to move through the next three phases so elegantly summarized in your model, I’m increasingly inclined to spend more time on this question when evaluating new technology.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 10:39 am | Permalink
  2. gsiemens wrote:

    Hi Jon – good point about the importance of asking “why do we want to do what this tech makes possible”. I’m not sure I would put it at the innovation stage – innovation is the fun, play around, explore, roam free stage. It’s where we get to be play with ideas like we used to play with toys in the sandbox. Forget utility! :) . I would suggest adding your “why” question to either the implementation or the systematization stage. But, as I type that, I recognize the importance of costs – it is expensive to move through research and implementation stages. If we wait too long to ask “why”, we end up investing time and resources that might be better utilized elsewhere.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink
  3. Jon Mott wrote:

    I agree that pressing too hard on the “why” question too early might cramp one’s style as an innovator, but I’m inclined to include it as early as possible. Maybe it’s because of where I sit at my institution (with responsibility for broad, campus wide technology implementations). I think there’s a balance to strike between wide open innovation (blue skying) and aligning your resources with your priorities. The former is fun and exciting, the latter is more mundane. But you eventually have to do both . . . I guess I’m in favor of innovation with a purpose. Is that too restrictive?

    Friday, March 6, 2009 at 10:54 pm | Permalink
  4. Lee Wasson wrote:

    I like the innovation work of Everett M. Rogers. Oldie but goodie. Diffusion of innovation is a theory of how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread /adopt. In my team, we try to map 5 key innovation attributes to our learning technologies:
    - relative advantage
    - compatibility
    - complexity
    - trialability
    - observability

    Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 9:25 pm | Permalink
  5. suresh wrote:

    iris model is an emerjing technology but since i need some great software to handle it i would like to join to research going on the way on iris

    Friday, April 3, 2009 at 6:20 am | Permalink

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Weblog of (a) David Jones on Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    The IRIS model of Technology Adoption – neat and incomplete?…

    George Siemens has a post introducing the IRIS model of technology adoption – image shown below.

    I always start off having a vague disquiet about these types of models. I think the main reason is the point George makes at the start of the post
    In many…

  2. The End in Mind » Innovation with a Purpose on Friday, March 6, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    [...] Siemens recently blogged about a model for evaluating & implementing technology. He dubs it the “IRIS” model, flowing from Innovation, to Research, to Implementation [...]

  3. [...] seems to be some connection with George Siemens’ IRIS model, some similarities and some differences. I’ve expressed some reservations about both the IRIS [...]