PLANNING FOR INNOVATION AND CHANGE
1. To describe the major components of a successful effort to implement
2. To indicate how these components are related and why they are important.
3. To discuss these components in order to understand how they are
to be used.
STEPS FOR THE TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER PLAN
A technology transfer plan is a specific program of action aimed at bringing
about change and the adoption of new techniques and procedures. It
is a plan of action aimed at linking together an idea concept, technology
or procedure with a particular audience.
The major steps of the technology transfer plan are:
Each step plays an important role in contributing to the success of a technology
User assessment: Understanding the user market. Who are the
potential users of the technology transfer program, what are their capabilities
Technology assessment: What are the characteristics of the technology
as it relates to its adoption? Relative advantage, trialability,
observability, complexity, cost to implement, cost of failure?
Develop transfer strategy: What methods should be used to effectively
convey the most relevant information to the intended audience? How
can you get users involved in a meaningful way?
Implementation: Information dissemination--getting appropriate information
to the right people in a timely fashion, and making effective use of user
networks to transfer information,
Follow-up and Evaluation: Elicit feedback from users on the value
of technology transfer efforts, and find out whether the program is serving
user needs. Should it change as their needs change?
Identify User Market. ..Before any significant progress can be made in
the adoption of innovations, it is essential that the nature of the potential
users of the innovation be clearly understood. An explicit user assessment
should take place. This would include a discussion of user needs
and problems, an understanding of user attitudes towards change, an assessment
of user capabilities to understand and utilize the change, an assessment
of user networks (how do they interact with their peers?) and an understanding
of the organization in which the user works. User assessment is a
continuing process and is done through one-on-one discussions in an informal
setting and through a high degree of communication between users, developers
of innovation and technology transfer agents. Information and innovations
must be targeted to an audience that is clearly understood in order to
be effective. You should organize the knowledge you have about the
users around these factors: user needs, user attitudes, user capabilities,
user networks, user's job and user's organization. The worksheet
given on the following pages can be used to help you identify potential
USER ASSESSMENT WORKSHEET
In order to understand the potential users of an innovation the following
questions need to be answered:
Who are the Potential Users of the Innovation?
What key problems are the users concerned about on a day-to-day basis?
What is their normal attitude towards change (open, resistant, neutral)?
What characteristics of an innovation would be important to them (relative
advantage, simplicity, easy to try, easy to measure, cost)?
What is a typical education level?
How easy is it for the users to absorb
a) written material?
b) oral material?
c) visual material?
Who are the users' peers?
What is the usual form of contact (written, meetings, telephone, etc.)?
What technical, trade or job related organizations do the people belong
How often and where do they meet?
What assistance do these organizations provide to their members?
What is the nature of vendor contact with users?
How does the User's Organization React to Change?
What are the organization's functions and goals?
What is the general size of the organization?
Who are the organization's constituents?
How does the organization react to failure?
How visible is the organization to the general public and the news media?
What is the normal relationship between the organization and state and/or
How frequently is there direct one-to-one contact between the user organization
and state and federal agencies?
A second activity is technology assessment. Technology assessment
is a process whereby innovations are carefully examined to determine how
easy it will be to implement them with a given group of users. Technology
assessment assumes that the innovation is feasible and promising and focuses
on the barriers that it may have to adoption. Some of the questions
What is its relative advantage of the innovation over current techniques?
A significant advantage is required to make it worthwhile to adopt an innovation.
How easy is it to try the innovation? Those innovations that require
a long term commitment are much less likely to be adopted than those that
can be tried for a short period on a temporary basis.
How observable are the benefits of the innovation? It is important
to have direct, obvious effects from a change in order to successfully
How complex is the innovation? The easier it is to understand a change
and why it is being done, the more likely it will be accepted.
What does it cost to implement the innovation? Generally speaking,
the less costly a change is, the more likely people will be willing to
What are the consequences of a failure? This is perhaps one of the
most critical questions. People in public agencies tend to be very
fearful of failure and avoid taking risks. An innovation that will
cause serious problems if it doesn't work is very unlikely to be adopted.
TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT WORKSHEET
The ease at which the technology can be adopted can be understood
by answering the following questions:
- Relative advantage of the new technology over existing techniques?
Description of the technology or innovation.
- Trialability -- how easy to experiment with the new technology?
- Observability -- are results easily observe or measured?
- Complexity -- how easy is it for potential users to understand the new
- Cost -- to implement the new technology?
- effect of failure of the new technology?
Who are the potential users of the innovation?
How have users been involved in the development of the technology?
DEVELOP TRANSFER STRATEGY
Once there is a clear understanding of the user and of the innovation,
it is possible to develop a strategy to implement the change within the
organization. Ideally this is done with a strong user involvement
in order to identify problems at an early stage and to modify the innovation
as necessary to lead to a successful implementation. The transfer
strategy may include well developed training programs, specifically targeted
dissemination material, opportunities for feedback, a sequence for implementation
and demonstration projects. The techniques chosen should consider
the needs for timely information, adaptability, complexity and cost.
Information Dissemination. The major goal of information dissemination
is to get the right information to the right people in an effective and
timely manner. The specialists must select the best combination of
dissemination techniques to achieve this goal.
When the mails are used, try to screen the needs of your audience so
that you can send them appropriate materials. The shotgun approach
isn't very effective as an information dissemination technique. Develop
a catalog of materials available for users to choose from and target your
efforts. Send out brief descriptions of materials on postcards --
"white cards." Users may then request the documents of interest.
Experience has shown that information dissemination improves when the
transfer specialist uses a combination of methods. Handing out reports
at meetings and conferences, where the specialist has an opportunity to
recommend certain material and learn something about user needs in the
process, can be an effective way to get written material into the hands
of interested people.
Networking, The term networking is used to refer to the
existence of formal and informal communication links between people with
similar interests. For example, a professional association of maintenance
personnel that meets on a monthly basis to discuss topics of mutual interest
(formal network) or a group of microcomputer buffs that share information
through an electronic bulletin board (informal network). Networks
are an important means of communication and can take three to five years
to establish. It is essential that technology transfer specialists
get out among potential users because face-to-face meetings build and strengthen
What Audience type is this? (type I - General Public, type II - Managers,
type III - Technical, or type IV - Laborers
How important is it to get results to users quickly (immediacy)?
How important is it that information be frequently updated (adaptability)?
How necessary is it that the information convey complexity (rigor)?
How can you get feedback from users?
- produce dissemination material?
How much money is available to:
- transfer information?
Potential methods for dissemination
- in person
Recommended Plan of Action
FOLLOW-UP AND EVALUATION
Feedback.. At some point in the process of implementation
of a change it is imperative to get feedback on how well the program is
serving user needs. Specialists who become part of a network of users
can get feedback from interaction with users. This feedback is effective
in modifying transfer efforts ''as you go" rather than "after the fact."
Getting honest feedback from users and taking action demonstrates a genuine
desire to serve user needs and builds trust.
Evaluation. Evaluation is a broad concept and covers the
full spectrum of program content. It includes feedback as well as
quantitative aspects of program performance. Because informal feedback
by itself is subjective, evaluation should contain measures of results
from evaluation questionnaires given out at workshops and meetings; counts
of attendees at seminars and training sessions; counts of the number of
requests for technical assistance, written materials, etc.; counts of reports
distributed by mail, at meetings, etc.; and counts of the comments received
as a result of newsletter articles, technical summaries, and the like.
What techniques will be most effective to transfer information to local
highway maintenance personnel?
Local Road Personnel: Local personnel place a high value on the
experience of their peers and rely primarily on word of mouth and trade
publications as a source of information, rather than formal technical reports.
Local road program managers are a mixture of engineers and non engineers
with few engineers involved in the smaller offices. Typically, the
administration of a local road office has a variety of responsibilities
that may range from budgeting to actual repair or operation of equipment.
These individuals place a high value on their own experiences, as well
as those of their peers in similar situations.
Sources of Information: Most users do not have the time to read
technical materials. They find them hard to understand and/or generally
not useful to their problems. This attitude varies considerably by
size of office and by the background of the people involved. Large operations
headed by people with technical backgrounds tend to be more receptive to
technical reports than smaller offices headed by geotechnical personnel.
There is a resistance to written materials even among the larger agencies
and a general skepticism to outside advice at all levels. However,
this does not mean that the local agencies are necessarily resistant to
change. Many creative local solutions to problems take place: equipment
modification, procedural changes and a certain resourcefulness for making-do
with what's at hand.
Local Road Offices: The local road offices are usually
small operations, especially in the more rural areas. These offices
are highly visible to the local resident taxpayers and are obligated to
be very cost conscious in administering their programs. Local road
personnel tend to be fairly isolated from each other and have fairly limited
contact with their peers in similar groups. Very often travel outside
the county for conferences or training is severely limited. This
is especially true for lower level personnel.
It is important to recognize the capabilities of local highway personnel
to absorb and understand technical information and to work within the constraints
of the agencies who develop such material. Accordingly, technical
material should be concise, relevant and credible. Dissemination
should be done at a reasonable cost and should fit within the existing
relationship between Federal, state and local highway agencies. Of
the four factors for selection of dissemination techniques (cost, rigor,
immediacy and adaptability), cost and rigor were felt to be the most important.
Immediacy and adaptability were not felt to be major constraints since
nearly all dissemination methods examined can be developed with a sufficient
amount of time and adaptability to meet the needs of highway maintenance
Methods must be easily understood by local personnel
use simple language
relevant to problems
Techniques must be at a reasonable cost.
Techniques should not conflict with current procedures; i.e., federal highway-state
relationship and state-local relationship.
Techniques should not place an undue burden on federal or state officials
for the dissemination of materials.
Techniques should maximize the use of peers as a means to relay information.
The techniques selected for further exploration should include a mixture
of written, oral and visual techniques.
Techniques should include a screening process to insure that the amount
of irrelevant or non-useful materials is kept to a minimum. This
will help maintain credibility as well as keep costs lower.
Rigor is not overly important. Techniques should emphasize results and
experience of others. Rigor can be documented elsewhere in technical
reports not widely disseminated.
Moderate changes may be necessary in the material over time; however, there
does not appear to be a need to accommodate frequent changes.
Immediacy is not an important consideration. A reasonable wait is acceptable
if it results in higher quality material.
Materials should be easily recognized and noticeable; i.e., not get buried
among other things.
Using the selection guide, a set of effective technology transfer techniques
can be identified. These techniques are characterized as having moderate
to low cost and are not overly rigorous (and, therefore, not too complex)
for the type of audiences in highway maintenance. No one technique
is likely to meet all needs and, in many situations, a combination of techniques
should be used.
It should be noted that the characteristics of the people doing technology
transfer in highway maintenance are as important as the techniques they
use. A positive, helping attitude, as well as a clear understanding
of the problems faced in local agencies, is essential for any technique
to be effective. Local personnel in highways often rely heavily on
their peers to get information and feel that outsiders do not understand
their problems. This means that the people selected for technology
transfer have to be carefully chosen.
Based on the tables and discussions with local personnel, the following
techniques appear to be promising as means to transfer information on transportation
innovation in local highway maintenance personnel:
1. circuit rider
2. conference/short course
3. slide/tape or transparency/tape
4. state-of-the-art reports
5. technical notice
6. trade publications
7. changeable, add-on notebook
This information is disseminated under the sponsorship of the United States Department
Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, in the interest of information
exchange. The United States Government assumes no liability for the contents or use
The United States Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trade or
manufacturers' names appear herein solely because they are considered essential to the
contents of these reports.