Understanding National Culture’s Influence on Product Innovation Approaches : A dual case study of micro, small and medium enterprises in the Microfinance sector in Kenya and Germany

University essay from Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet (USBE); Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet (USBE)

Abstract:

This thesis aims to research on the concept of national culture in regard to project management. We mainly aim to find out whether national culture poses an influence on the conduct of innovation management in the microfinance sector in Kenya and Germany.  The motivation for our choice of sector and aim are multiple; culture, particularly national culture, in projects and project management, is to  our understanding still an undeservedly under-researched area. Furthermore, the integration of solutions and concepts developed in countries other than the own increasingly takes place in the globalized world. We therefore consider research on the integration ability of such “imported” concepts into a national culture’s existing frame of reference a valuable, yet under-researched area.   This led to the development of our research aim as addressing two aspects: firstly, whether national culture poses a perceivable influence to product innovation approaches, and secondly, how the integration of culturally foreign, “imported” concepts might be undertaken in the two countries.

The selection of product innovation in Microfinance was informed by the assumption that this would allow us to study the multifarious interrelationships between culture, innovation, and project management in a dynamic context; and hence pose a favourable setting to study the approach towards novelty and integration of culturally foreign concepts. Kenya and Germany were selected due to our personal backgrounds, being our countries of origin.   A perceived lack of differentiated scientific sources covering our needs led us to develop our own theoretical culture model which reviews cultural aspects from a joint African-European perspective. The model was developed based on seminal works in the field of culture and intercultural research. It is comprised of six dimensions deemed influential for innovation. Each of these six dimensions is based on the works  of two to four authors. This model comprises an African-European perspective and merges existing concepts into a novel conceptual model with a clear focus on culture and  innovation. In order to derive empirical findings, a qualitative multiple case study has been conducted in Microfinance institutions in Kenya and Germany. The findings of these case studies were consecutively analyzed based on the theoretical culture model in due consideration of the research aim.  

 We consider our research offering a contribution in a field that is still coming to the fore; that is, a novel perception of project management as being “more” than simply a temporary endeavour determined by scope, cost and time. The perception of innovation in the service industry is furthermore delved into, and it offers extensive insight into the national cultures of Germany and Kenya and the development and contribution of Microfinance in developing and industrialized nations.   

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