Trans-Cultural Innovation


Design is an innovation tool as much as it is a mindset. However the design[-as-]thinking understanding of the discipline is a recent one. Much of the work designers did before was focussed on functions, styling, and finalization of innovation pushes that came from other origins. Often innovation was, and still is, a result of a technology-push.
The ‘design-thinking’ understanding of design aims to place it in a central position in organizations and in the innovation scenario. Design wants to become the hub of the knowledge wheel, whereas innovation becomes the lubricant of the economic system. Design is seen as a mediator able to speak different languages, interact with diverse actors, translate needs, frame problems, and offer valuable, innovative, results.
I wrote in my MBA thesis that “design shapes our surroundings, creates and modifies businesses and cultures, influences society and generates new ideas.”
But, are we really able to apply this —as researchers, innovators, and designers— on a global scale? Is this method and this way of thinking able to grasp peculiarity and local characteristics when acting in cultural environments that differs from the European/US based perspective? Will design be able to become the [supposed] missing link between the ‘East’ and the ‘West’?

coffee tea hack

I believe those are very interesting research questions in the perspective of understanding if our —EU/US— design&innovation approach is applicable to emerging countries/cultures as much as it is to our proximity.
Or, are we missing out completely on the underlying dynamics of the innovation trajectory happening in China and India while we keep trying to impose our system through ‘international development’?
Where should we look, and how, to understand trans-cultural, global and local, dimensions of value-innovation?


  1. Blaise

    Looking forward to reading some of your thesis. Not sure I can imagine how design could connect a world full of people who are so starkly different. For now, I’ll say design couldn’t be the missing link – maybe one of its components, but that’s all. Maybe I’ll change my mind when you upload your thesis…

  2. gg

    I do not think I am looking at connecting a world of differences, what I suggest is that we should look at diversity, at local environments, and at ‘cultural specifics characteristics’ when we ‘do’ design.

    Not a way to globalize by flattening, but a way to innovate generating value that are locally meaningful. In this sense I see design as being not maybe the missing link, but a node of the networked complexity.
    A node able to weave local, and global. But again, lot of co-related issues and topics are still blurred and I tend to agree with you that design -as it is nowadays perceived- is probably just a component.

    But can we go a step further and talk about ‘systemic-design’? How would that impact those questions?

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