Breaking Cultural Boundaries Through Innovation

© Jim Denevan / Peter Hinson

© Jim Denevan / Peter Hinson

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  The boundaries in innovation are slowly dissolving as the proximity and spread of its practice are leading us to a state of cultural fusion. However, it would be impossible to ignore such words as ‘Centre’ and ‘Margin’, when these emerge as a constant throughout the entire discourse of innovation.

 

The boundaries in innovation are slowly dissolving as the proximity and spread of its practice are leading us to a state of cultural fusion. However, it would be impossible to ignore such words as ‘Centre’ and ‘Margin’, when these emerge as a constant throughout the entire discourse of innovation. ‘Centre’ and ‘periphery’ refer to concepts which have impact, not merely in regards to the physical delimitations of the countries, but also invisible impacts. Nowadays, these notions are constant in the discourse of globalisation. This necessity of naming and defining domains which go beyond the physicality, sometimes can act as an obstacle or, by opposition, foster cultural exchange and trade relations, whilst influencing political affairs and ultimately, the capacity to innovate.

 

Globalisation, as well as the recession, have created a fluctuating market. It is necessary to break these boundaries in creating dialogue, and relationships of trust between countries. According to Westwood’s (2003) assessment that globalisation provided a perfect setting for the transgression of physical and cultural ties among countries, in spite of the fact that sometimes, this resulted in collisions due to the fast and unmeasured way in which some procedures took place. Nevertheless, this ambiguity has also increased the potential for cultural exchanges resulting in creative opportunities never exploited before.

 

Statistical evidence suggests that the world power centres are already switching from West to East. Despite this, it is most likely that with the increase in their economic power, the emerging markets are suffering a process of constant iteration. The reality is that soon, the number of consumers from the bottom of the pyramid will decrease and be replaced by a middle class more demanding and sophisticated. Broadly speaking, this group are becoming highly ambitious and no longer content with the domestic markets – they now want to develop global solutions. Research suggests that emerging markets today are active producers of innovation. However, it can also be stated that due to their immaturity, this innovation still relies purely on technological breakthroughs.

 

The opportunity for Western economies is in utilising the experience gained over the years and helping emerging markets to fulfill the existent gaps in subjects such as design and branding. The UK has already identified the opportunity to make use of its expertise in the fields of design and innovation in emerging markets. However is crucial that UK design consultancies stop, observe and understand the unique cultural identities of their new clientele and foster communication between all the stakeholders involved in this cross-cultural process.

 

Trust is another fundamental element for building stable relationships and achieve success in these markets. It is important to break the invisible walls created by prejudice, physical distance, difficulties in communication and the sensitivity in articulating cultural differences. These factors will enable the delivery of compelling stories appropriate to the local context. Defining margins and centres of innovation and using terms such as glocalisation and reverse innovation no longer makes sense. The crucial factor is to see the potential and take advantage of cultural differences through collaboration and co-creation.