Technology adoption and the force of cultural norms
Lean innovation -- when innovators operate within an environment of constrained resources to produce solutions that solve problems with minimum cost and complexity -- may be the main focus of a November New York Times Magazine article, "Launch Pad," but the story also sheds light on the role that cultural norms can play in technology adoption and business model development.
The history of Arunachalam Muruganantham's struggle to design an affordable and practical women's hygiene product in rural India is about more than engineering on a shoestring; it highlights the barriers that strong cultural norms can place in the way of anyone hoping to develop and sell products to consumers in emerging economies. Multinational corporations and local entrepreneurs alike can face these hurdles, and it can take patience and persistence in order to overcome them.
In Muruganantham's case, strong taboos prevented him from getting much product design information when he started out, severely limited feedback on early prototypes, caused prolonged family disputes, and slowed his ability to bring his ideas to market. Ultimately, his (multi-year) quest succeeded, and he became a manufacturer of machines that have enabled hundreds of locally-owned businesses to produce affordable products for the women in their communities, but the road was not an easy one.
We are interested in hearing your thoughts on cultural norms, technology and innovation -- what are the challenges you've experienced, and how were they overcome?
-- Clara Shen