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The Review Paper That Predicted the Future of Diffusion Research

Updated: Dec 25, 2022

An interview with Eitan Muller about his Steenkamp log-term impact award winning paper on the future of diffusion research

Eitan Muller recently was awarded the 2022 Jan-Benedict Steenkamp award for long-term impact for his review paper published more than a decade ago. ‘Innovation diffusion and new product growth: A critical review and research directions”, co-authored with Renana Peres and Vijay Mahajan’.

In a 1 on 1 interview with Eitan, he reveals the story behind his review paper and describes the hidden challenges of publishing an interesting and high-quality review paper.

The life cycle of a published paper

If you look at the citations of a paper, it’s a diffusion process as well. Sometimes it's short, it's left skewed and sometimes it’s very symmetric, grows and declines nicely. There is a peak for any paper and it is not immediate. Usually it takes a while for the paper to grow like any other growth of social phenomena” – Eitan Muller.

There is a unique story hidden behind every review paper

According to Muller, an initial version of the review paper was ready in 2006 and it took them a few years to finalize the paper and take it through the review process 2010. In the published review paper, the authors highlighted social networks as an important direction for future research. Later on, in 2019, Eitan and Renana published another review paper: ‘The effect of social networks structure on innovation performance: A review and directions for research.'

A new product starts to be sold and the people who start buying it belong to some social networks. The structure of the social network itself affects the speed of diffusion. This was a brief summary of the new review paper published in 2020. In the last review paper published in 2010, we already foresaw that this is going to be a big deal and indeed it was” – Eitan Muller.

Eitan believes that one characteristic that can contribute to the success of a review paper is how well it is written: Some review papers are boring and look like a summary of a lot of papers. You have to write it as a story that makes people read it and get involved in the process and argue with you.”

Well done! What next?

When asked about his next review paper, Eitan hinted at a potentially interesting topic. “Customer relationship management and diffusion is an interesting subject that might grow in the next decade. The question of the growth of not just the innovation, but the type of engagement that you do with the services attached to the product. For example, think about a mobile phone that may cost a few hundred dollars. You are engaged with it, you buy apps, you download games, pay for in-app purchases, and you realize that the services that the phone gives you are more important than the product itself. The revenues that the firm gains from the service is usually larger than the hardware, and the profitability much higher.”

You can read Eitan's review paper using this link.

Eitan Muller

Ph.D. in Managerial Economics, and MBA - Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University.

Eitan is an Israeli professor of marketing at Stern School of Business at New York University and Arison School of Business at Reichman University. Muller’s research focuses on the diffusion of innovation, new products and tech, and monetization and pricing.

This article was written by

Aryana Shahin

Ph.D. candidate at Deakin University Business School, Melbourne, Australia.

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