Innovation, Customization, and Emerging Markets

Department of Communication Chair David Domke recently blogged about 2009 Distinguished Alumnus Peter Clarke, and a particular a piece on health communication research that Clarke co-authored with USC colleague Suzanne Evans in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Their story, “Disseminating Orphan Innovation,” traces the challenges of recreating successful social innovations from one distinct location to another, and how this requires customization, not merely replication.

Clarke and Evans illustrate their case through the project From Wholesaler to the Hungry, an initiative that links established food vendors with institutions who feed and support citizens at the margins of society. At the end of their piece Clarke and Evans offer “Eight Lessons for Customizing Innovations,” and after reading them I was struck by how the conclusions that Clarke and Evans draw mirror the kinds of lessons learned regarding new media adoption in emerging markets: taking time to build relationships of trust, anticipating barriers to adoption, and identifying local champions, to name just three.

As we have discussed in this fall’s MCDM Emerging Markets in Digital Media course, new media innovations in Beijing, Buenos Aires, and Bombay all require unique adaptations given cultural contexts–exactly the customization Clarke and Evans address. Tune in to the MCDM livestream channel on December 4 between 8:45 AM and 3:30 PM PST for student presentations that highlight topics of innovation in emerging markets, or join us in person in CMU 302.

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