Social Design Projects are Culture Change Projects

As a cultural anthropologist I’ve always felt design thinking and social design resonated deeply with me.  I believe I figured out why, or at least figured it out for me. Social design projects (design think projects focused on social change -- or service design projects focused on consumer change) are culture change projects. To me, not approaching projects with this in mind is like getting a birthday gift with no gift wrap (or perhaps a wrapped birthday gift with no actual gift inside?). Re-designing society (or service), especially for disruption and innovation, means changing norms, behaviors, values and beliefs -- in other words you are changing culture. Whether these projects are about changing behavior for social innovation (such as women’s reproductive health) or for consumer innovation (such as automating grocery delivery) the challenge is bigger than just adding a great new road tested product or service. As a cultural anthropologist working in business, I have 110% confidence my clients can create products and services that can change the world. But success and failure will have much more to do with people’s ability to change their cultural behavior than the quality of the product or service. And there's the rub.