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Design at the intersection between culture and innovation

Eric Dahlin (Department of Sociology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA)
Rachel Sumsion (Department of Public Policy, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 24 October 2023




Narratives underscoring the necessity of innovation for success are pervasive. Yet, many new products fail or fail to produce their intended impacts. Conventional views typically promote the functional view of innovation, which focuses on identifying and meeting customer needs. The authors argue, however, that culture is an overlooked explanation of innovation success.


This study uses a conceptual approach, grounded in cultural sociology, to illustrate the ways in which innovation success is influenced by cultural beliefs. Accordingly, this study develops a cultural view of innovation and compare it with the functional view.


This study shows that novel products are successful to the extent their meanings and value resonate with relevant stakeholders. Not only does culture matter, but customers’ needs are often shaped by cultural values in the first place.

Research limitations/implications

More systematic qualitative and quantitative research is needed to better understand the best processes for incorporating cultural beliefs into product features.

Practical implications

In addition to customer needs, innovators should include cultural beliefs as design requirements to ensure the product resonates with the values and everyday practices of users. One way to do this is by implementing the productive method, which provides the resources for the relevant potential users to design the product themselves.


It is not always enough to learn and solicit feedback from potential users. To fully understand the obstacles that may inhibit innovation, this study advocates for providing potential users, local engineers and other relevant stakeholders the autonomy to design, manufacture, market and distribute the product.



Dahlin, E. and Sumsion, R. (2023), "Design at the intersection between culture and innovation", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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