How Corporate Anthropology Can Leave You Questioning Your Herd

12/05/2017 12:09 pm ET

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to be interviewed by Tamara Kleinberg for Inside LaunchStreet and got to talk about my favorite subject: corporate anthropology! Tamara is a terrific interviewer and asked great questions about anthropology, culture change and what makes humans tick.

We spent a lot of time talking about how we should think of businesses as small scale societies, avoid the challenges of the herd, and turn everyday observations into profound insights. (To hear the podcast, click here.)

People are most comfortable in a herd and tend to resist change

I shared with Tamara how the herd is typically not motivated to change until there’s a crisis. In today's times, this means that people tend to group together and resist change to politics and power. To avoid following the herd, we should seek for ways to become open-minded to disagreement, and resist the urge to push new innovation away.

Key takeaways from our discussion:

  • Corporate anthropology is a social science approach to studying our society and how humans organize themselves. Corporate anthropologists, like myself, take observation and turn it into innovation.
  • Why 30-somethings don’t answer the phones!
  • How do you turn observation into innovation? Really listen to what the consumer is telling you and turn it into what they are asking for. 
  • Go out into the field and observe your customers. The disconnect between what the customer really needs, and what you think they need, is your big opportunity.
  • Humans make decisions using heart to head processes. We need to ask ourselves which group do I want to belong to? Do I want to be an outlier in this decision?

Why corporate anthropology is hotter than ever

The reason I love anthropology is because it teaches you to see, feel and think in new ways so you can successfully adapt to change. These days, it’s not the strongest or smartest who will survive—it’s the most adaptive. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the business world, where anthropology is beginning to play an enormous role. Indeed, when anthropology is applied to companies, truly amazing things happen.

Why? Customers, employees, and partners cannot objectively tell you why they behave in certain ways, or even how you can solve their problems. But when you view your business with the eyes of an outsider (i.e., as an anthropologist), you can discover what their behaviors mean and find solutions otherwise overlooked. Exciting stuff. Try it!

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