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Communication and Media Studies 630

COMS 630: Communication, Change, and Innovation

Prerequisites: Graduate standing

Credit Hours: (3)

This study of organizational change and innovation as a fundamental and recurrent series of events rooted in and dependent on complex communication processes.


Detailed Description of Content of the Course

Course Outline:

Theories of Organizational Change and Innovation

Clearly, there are move theories and perspectives regarding change in organizations than can possible be enumerated in any one course. Theories are listed below based on their ability to illuminate central organizational communication processes and also based on their ability to provide a foundation from which reasoned and principled action and practice can occur.

I. Diffusion Theory. Everett Rogers. I have given more attention to diffusion theory because it provides the foundation for the entire course. Other theories and perspectives that will be covered in part or in whole are introduces in much less detail.

            a. What is diffusion?
            b. What is and innovation?
            c. Types of innovations
            d. Stages of the innovation process
            e. Characteristics of innovations
            f. The innovation process
            g. Adoption curve
            h. Adopter categories
            i. Diffusion systems
            j. Factors in change agent success
            k. Potential diffusion system failure points
            l. Criticisms of diffusion theory

II. Systems Theory

            a. Open vs. closed systems
            b. Holism v. atomism
            c. Interconnectedness
            d. Equifinality
            e. Homeostasis
            f. Environmental adaptation and change

III. Chaos/Complexity Theory

            a. Chaos vs. randomness
            b. Self-organizing systems
            c. Emergent change patterns

IV. Dissonance/Consistency Theories

            a. Attitudes and beliefs as the precursors to behavior
            b. Dissonance and motivation
            c. Attitudinal change based on dissonance

V. Theory of Reasoned Expectations (Actions)

            a. Attitudes and beliefs
            b. Behavioral intentions
            c. The attitude-behavior problem

Issues in Organizational Change Management

Again, not nearly all the literature regarding change is reflected below. The topics are admittedly selective and designed to further the aims and claims of the course. The topics should and will change based on new literature and new experiences.

I. Organizational culture
II. Organizational nostalgia

Organizational Change and Innovation in Practice

The goal in this section of the course is to emphasize the practicality of good theory. The adage that “nothing is so practical as a good theory” is put to the test through case studies and on-site visits with organizations and individuals that have experience with change-oriented issues. The topics indicted below what was described when the course was taught under our department’s special topics number. As the situation changes all of this material will be reconsidered, although the basic framework will remain.

I. Case studies

            a. Gaines Topeka, Kansas
            b. American Electric Power
            c. The 1964 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1964 New York Yankees

II. On-site visits

            a. American of Martinsville
            b. New River Industries
            c. Industrial Drives
            d. Corning
            e. The list changes depending on the schedules and availability of personnel with whom we need to be talking

Ethical Responsibilities With Regard to Change

Organizations are currently faced with individuals who are fearful of change and who distrust management. The management of change requires a careful consideration of the nature of relationships in the organization and how those will sustain any change initiative. Of central concern is ethical and principled practice with regard to any change initiative.


Detailed Description of the Conduct of Course

The class is designed as a graduate seminar with the emphasis placed on dialog, discussion, experiential learning, and practical application. The following techniques will be a part of the course.

1. lecture,
2. seminar reports and presentations,
3. case study analysis,
4. reaction papers,
5. on-site visits, and
6. dialog and discussion.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

1. Build a sophisticated theoretical foundation with regard to organization communication, change, and innovation
2. Build a foundation for principled and ethical management of change that is rooted in solid theoretical knowledge


Assessment measures

Assessment will be based on the following.

1. Discussion and participation
2. Reaction/case study/research papers
3. Seminar reports


Other course information



Review and Approval


3/23/99 William R. Kennan, Chair

Revised: 8/9/01 changed Web addresses and place on Web page.