Reverse Innovation

Tao Huang, Eric Anderson
Columbia College Chicago, Resilient Design Studio


Tao Huang, PhD / Eric Anderson, PG
Columbia College Chicago / Resilient Design Studio

As American design business expands globally, designers must adapt their ideas for local markets. Undoubtedly, creative breakthroughs still happen mainly in the developed countries and are then exported to the rest of the world. However, more and more global corporations have taken notice of the benefits of Reverse Innovation – developing ideas in and initially for an emerging market and then “coaxing them to flow uphill to Western markets.” Due to their high growth potential and enormous size, emerging markets will shape how the world will become in the future. In addition, reverse innovation is potentially disruptive to established products. Therefore, understanding how successful innovation takes place in these emerging markets is crucial for any multinational business. What are the implications of reverse innovation for the industrial design profession? How can western designers make use of reverse innovation to overcome cultural barriers and successfully expand in emerging markets? Conversely, what challenges await for designers working in these emerging markets who are seeking to gain entry into western markets? What are the future research opportunities in this new area? Valuable global insights can be gained through examination of concrete examples of this phenomenon. This paper aims to use case study to provide answers to these questions and explore the value of adopting this new mindset in product development.