Heroes of diffusion: Making user innovations widely available

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


User innovations are often valuable to other people, but fail to diffuse because users lack incentives to do a dissemination effort. Past research recognized that users sometimes spur diffusion themselves, and that producers may search for and commercialize user innovations. In this study we identify a third type of actor who fills the void between initial solution and broad dissemination - without being a potential user or commercial diffuser himself. We document a case study at an academic hospital where workers created and institutionalized a system to support and disseminate user innovations developed by nurses. They proactively created a network with makerspace facilities, without being asked or instructed to do so. These workers fulfilled a disseminator role: they continued to develop user innovations to make adoption easy, explored commercial pathways, mobilized peer demand, and created favorable project conditions. Interestingly, the diffusion system was institutionalized by job crafting, securing budgets, embedding diffusion activities in the organization chart, and developing strategic relationships. Disseminators were motivated by self-actualization, enjoyment, reputation advancement, and altruism towards the nursing community; they strived to become ‘heroes of diffusion’. We conclude that a disseminator role in-between user innovators, and peer adopters and commercial producers, represents an alternative mechanism for user innovations to spread widely, and opens opportunities for new research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104840
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Diffusion failure
  • Makerspaces
  • Nurse innovation
  • User innovation


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