Lyall J. Swim


Understanding the attitudes and attributes of innovators is crucial given the gatekeeper roles these individuals or organizations play in enabling innovation diffusion to occur. But what do innovators look like, and are their characteristics the same regardless of the type of innovation being adopted? This case study of sought to understand the experience of the Pulaski Academy football program during the 2003 season as it acted as an innovator in adopting several radical innovations. The study provides a detailed case narrative that relies upon 25 existing text, audio, and video artifacts as well as 12 semi-structured interviews with program participants that included coaches, players and administrators, which were part of the 2003 Pulaski Academy football program. The findings of this study suggest that the innovations Pulaski adopted were radical in nature as defined by Henderson & Clark (1990) and did have an impact on the attributes required to be an innovator. Further, these attributes differed in several instances from what Rogers’ (2003) diffusion of innovations theory posits. The study showed that team’s improved performance was the result of the adoption of a single radiation innovation, the no punting philosophy, but rather a combination of the adoption of several of the innovations and the leadership style of the head coach. The results of the case study confirmed Rogers’ (2003) and Goss’ (1979) assertion that unintended consequences occur with adoption. This particular case demonstrated that one of the unintended consequences of becoming an innovator is that the innovator status opens up additional and early access to other innovations. These findings point to several recommendations for researchers, including: seeking to understand what innovator characteristics are unique for other innovation types noted in Henderson and Clark’s typology, testing the findings of this case in other social contexts, and evaluating the role the other unintended consequences noted in the study had in contributing to the Pulaski’s success. For practitioners, the findings suggest possible leadership core competencies needed to facilitate innovation adoption and a caution to avoid the temptation to look for a silver bullet when attempting to help an organization be more innovative.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Organizational change; Coaching (Athletics) -- Case studies; Education -- Effect of technological innovations on

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Davis, Kay D.;