About 10 years ago, a development organization and a national government took an innovative approach to a problem, the fact that people with chronic diseases were stopping their medical treatment before it was complete. After discovering that taking the medicine at the clinic was a major barrier for patients, the relatively new behavioral insights team found that allowing people to take the medicine at home (with a doctor or nurse on a camera phone) doubled the number of patients who took the entire course of medication (from 43 to 87 percent).

This was innovation. And yet, despite how many more behavioral insights trials have been run by intrapreneurs in this organization—often supported by the in-house innovation team—this kind of behavioral insights is still considered “innovative.” The approach has not (yet) been brought to how business is done on a regular basis.

By contrast, in the decade since intrapreneurs in the Western Cape Government in South Africa first initiated behavioral insights trials, it has come to occupy a secure place in the government’s toolkit. Public servants know when it’s appropriate to take a behavioral approach, and they are supported with in-house expertise and guidance. In a distinct and dramatic sense, behavioral insights have been adopted.

The adoption of innovation means an innovation has ceased to be “innovative.” It means that a method, technology, or approach to a problem has moved from the experimental edges of an organization to the core of its work: no longer a novelty, but something normal and institutionalized.

However, the concept of adoption is rarely discussed, and the experience and know-how to bring it about is even less common. While an increasing evidence base has been developed on adopting digital systems in development and public sector organizations, as well as literature on organizational reform, little has been published on strategically moving approaches and technologies out of the innovation space to the mainstream of how organizations work. The most relevant insights come from institutionalizing behavioral insights in governments, mainly in public sector entities in the global north. This gap makes it all the more important to surface the challenges, opportunities, and factors that enable adoption, as well as the barriers and roadblocks that impede it.

Read the full article about innovation by Benjamin Kumpf and Emma Proud at Stanford Social Innovation Review.