Why does technology policy around Industry 4.0 continue to draw on technology change approaches developed in the 1960s?
Chris Ivory and Lewis Walsh Anglia Ruskin University
26th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES AND FACTORY AUTOMATION 2021 VÄSTERÅS, SWEDEN SEPTEMBER 7th-1 2021
Policy intervention and consultancy around industry 4.0/5.0 is dominated by a simplistic linear, techno-optimist and individualizing conceptual model of technology change. This conceptual model diverts research funding, consultancy effort and academic analysis away from more nuanced and informed approaches to technology change We should be paying more attention to the social, economic and organizational contexts within which firms formulate decisions about technology change. Innovation Management needs to be understood as a contextualised practice – not as simply barrier to or conduit for change.
Diffusion of Innovations (Rogers, 1962)
2.5% Innovators Early Adopters 13.5% Early Majority 34% Late Majority 34% Laggards 16% Source: http://blog.leanmonitor.com/early-adopters-allies-launching-product/
The underpinning assumptions of the model
Technology is a “... seemingly perpetual mechanism of continual expansion” ( Mokyr, 1990) logically then, any (single) firm not adopting the latest technology is getting in the way of progress The non-adopting firm is problematic - they are suffering internally from or themselves creating ‘barriers to adoption’ The technology diffusion model (Rogers, 1962) is emblematic of this techno-optimist and linear logic Techno-optimist because the assumption is that technology is an unalienable good Linear and deterministic because technology diffusion is a one way processes – it continues until it reaches every corner of the diffusion medium / population / industry sector(s)
The model is individualising
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Change is only a matter of persuasion?
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Wait a minute – this is a psychology theory!?
COMMUNICATION CHANNELS Know ledge Characteristics Of the decision-making unit: Persuasion Perceived characteristics Of the innovation: Decision Implementation Confirmation I . Adoption Continued Later adoption Di scontinuance Continued rejection 1. 2. 3. Socio-economic charzwteristics Personality Cornm unieation beha viour 2. 3. 4. S. Relative advantage Cornpatibil ity Comp ity Trialability C)bservabi I i ty
Why is this a problem?
Delotte’s 2019 industry survey found that many CEOs were still reticent to commit to industry 4.0. McKinsey Digital (2016) and UK Industrial Digitisation (2017) make the same complaint: firms lacking ( the right leadership, skills needed to enact organizational change) over-cautious with regards R&D investments, failing to prioritise organizational change or simply lacking in confidence .
General conservatism and lack of ambition can pervade whole regions (e.g. Stentoft , Rajkamur and Madsen, 2017)
Not a good theory
Circular argument - a ‘laggard’ ‘late adopter’ ‘straggler’ is a label given to an observed behaviour, but it is not an explanation of it. The model offers a what, but not a why. Pays no attention to context (Shove, 1993). Ignores relative power and conflicts within existing institutional arrangements (Shove, 1993) It ignores the veracity of the technology itself. It reduces what are complex, grounded strategic IM decisions to something analogous to a personality traits – organisations and even whole regions become anthropomorphised.
Barriers to diffusion model is bad for research
“Sociologists, economists and market analysts are then charged with the secondary tasks of removing blockages and easing channels of communication so as to allow proven technologies to flow unhindered into everyday practice”. (Shove, 1993, 1108). Research funding given to clear ‘barriers to innovation’, to ‘support industry 4.0 adoption’ amongst SMEs effectively demands that we abandon neutrality – become techno-optimists and technology determinists.
How do we get by without the ‘barriers to diffusion’ model?
We should treat non-adoption and adoption symmetrically . What does the decision to adopt or not adopt tell us about what’s happening in an industry, the economy, in management and technology. We can draw on sociological thinking around consumption Question the idea that innovation drives growth
Deloitte’ s ‘ Industrie 4.0’ 2019 survey reports:
20.7 percent of manufacturing organizations surveyed rated themselves as “highly prepared” to address the emerging business models the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Frontrunners (26 percent), strongly believe in the business value of adopting new technology solutions for digital transformation and are ready to use the new technologies. Followers (51 percent) generally believe in the business value of new technology solutions, but lag on readiness. Stragglers (23 percent) are not yet on board with the business value of new technology solutions and are behind on adoption readiness .