Social Practice Theory

Some innovations are great, they really are, but they may fail because the meaning consumers give to them differs, sometimes the material is not suitable or there may be difficulties to process the material. A compostable plastic bag, which I favor, is great, but unfortunately in some instances it cannot carry as much weight and breaks rather quickly when carrying it. Therefore, consumers might favor biodigradable or conventional plastic bags over compostable once. The practice of “comfortable carrying” is hereby dominant.

What is the relation between SPT and practices?

Innovation is based around social practices; what people do and therefore, how their behavior influences the use or uptake of innovation. It is a based on rooted modes of behavior that are enacted (activity, motivational knowledge and understanding of things). These type of behaviors (social practices) give reason why an innovation may succeed or fail. Transition of practices (adaption of new behavior or innovation) are outcomes of new ways of integrating novel or existing elements.

Practices of SPT contain elements that are embedded into our culture and consist of meaning, competences and materials (see Figure 2: Social Practice Shove et al., 2012). The element material looks at objectives, tools and the infrastructure that underline a particular practice. Meaning have a cultural perspective, with socially shared expectations and conventions towards the usage of practice but also symbolic meanings, apsirations and ideas. Competences refer to the required knoweldge and skills that are necessary for the execution of a specific practice.

How can I use SPT for innovation?

I have been long a huge supporter for bamboo based products and believed that bamboo could be established well in the German market – as a replacement for timber. However, I was wrong, because by applying SPT I learned that the meaning that is given to wood and bamboo differs much. For instance, bamboos’ limited patterns unfold a rather unsettled feeling in consumers if used too much. Wood instead unfolds feelings such as romance and warmth.

Because bamboo also is a different material then wood, there are differences in processing it such as that different mashineries are needed and that the treatment differs strongly. It is, for instance, not possible to harvest bamboo in China and to ship it to Germany directly as it would detoriate. is . This differs to many timber species.

How can SPT help me to innovate?

In my reserach on bamboo I concluded that although, timber can appeal more to producers and consumers, bamboo has unique characteristics such as its strength and durability. Because of that it can outweight timbers’ strength and becomes suitable for industries such as those active in construction. At the same time, products for which the look is less important can appeal to bamboo (i.e. chop sticks).

While bamboo is one product, SPT can be aplpied to various products, practices and industries.