Essentially, fads are created through ideas that spread across a group of people or a community at a given time. According to Abrahamson (1997), fads are psychological ideas created through the “bandwagon effect” or “chromo effect”, which are closely related to opportunism. People living in a group or community tend to believe in certain things because others hold the same or similar beliefs. Studies in human behavior state that people tend to follow a popular idea without necessarily examining the credibility of taking the action. The “bandwagon effect” is one of the best theories that explain how fads are created. It states that the probability of a person or a group to adopt a given idea is high when the proportion of the people or groups who have adopted the same idea is high.
In organizations, technology fads are created and dislodged quickly due to the same reasons that make organizations and organizational leaders believe in popular opinions about innovations. Organizational leaders are under the pressure to adopt new innovations based on the popular believe that certain ideas are likely to create potential business advantages. Therefore, organizational leaders borrow ideas from others in the same or different industries or economies. The adopters of a given innovation feel that they are likely to achieve a potential competitive advantage based on the observation that others have gained from using a similar idea or innovation. Therefore, technological fads spread quickly because the adopters feel that if they do not use the same idea, they are likely to perform poorer than their counterparts who adopt the same idea.
For example, the adoption of e-learning in modern universities is a fad. In my department, the use of e-learning, including such initiatives as e-mail based communication between the professors and their students, has been adopted not because it was found to be effective, but because other universities across the world have used similar systems.
Abrahamson, E., & Rosenkopf, L. (1997). Social network effects on the extent of innovation diffusion: a computer simulation. Organizational Science 8(3), 289-309