Applied Anthropology

Applied anthropology refers to the practical applications of anthropology in areas such as product design, marketing, branding, management consulting, and strategic planning. Applied anthropologists are hired by governments, companies, unions, NGOs, and other organizations for their expertise as scientists of culture and society. Anthropologists have had leading roles in public relations, conflict resolution, community development, technological development, cultural ecology, and human rights advocacy.

What are the benefits of applied anthropology?

1. Substantiates the decision making process with quality research based on authentic human response and behaviour.

2. Reduces or removes speculation from product development.

3. Locates barriers to the productivity of organizations and exposes the fault lines which could undermine future success.

4. Builds strategy to increase morale, quality of communication, greater understanding, and the development of effective training programs.

5. Identifies cultural norms for the successful practice of international business.

Anthropology is the study of humankind in all of its aspects: biological, linguistic, technological, and cultural. Where marketing and human resource research are primarily based on the tenets of psychology and focus on individual analysis, anthropology is based on the study of social groups and the relationships they build. Seeing the world through the eyes of the worker in relationship to a manager, or, the end user of a product in his or her cultural context, provides a fresh insight and deeper understanding to any evaluation process. The skill of the anthropologist is to translate this perspective in an unbiased and accessible fashion, bringing a wealth of new understanding to the table. Anthropology does not necessarily replace other research modalities; it simply enriches the perspective, accuracy, and relevance of any investigative pursuit.

Ethnography is the holistic analysis of the culture of human groups and societies based on systematic, in depth, first-hand participant observation. Anthropologists are trained in holistic evaluation through observing the minute subtleties of human behaviour. They are expert at becoming part of the culture they observe as well as interacting and creating dialogue in a non-threatening manner. Through this process of assimilation without judgement or preconception, the anthropologist is privy to the “native’s point of view” within the organization. This unique perspective allows for an intimate understanding of the beliefs, behaviours and actions of any organization or its constituent subcultures. Actions often speak louder, and clearer, than words. Observation and interactive dialogue performed within the specific environment being assessed, garners greater accuracy than only surveying respondents, whose words are often contradicted by their behaviour.

Applied anthropology employs the theories and methods of anthropology to offer innovative solutions to a wide range of practical problems. Who hires applied anthropologists?Astute decision makers in businesses and organizations who know not to assume they know — without the research!

How can applied anthropology be an integral component to the success of a business or organization?

Through the power of observation – seeing the big picture, the study of interconnections, on-site integrative analysis and the holistic treatment of data, anthropology provides accuracy of information to facilitate quality communication and greater understanding, taking the speculation out of product development or the decision making process and contributing to the viability and productivity of any organization. The applied anthropologist uses research techniques that encourage, track and document actual human behaviour and candid response. This information is then codified for use in specific applications, such as:

Brand Development
Identification and creation of symbols, images and communication that convey the culture of an organization or business used to target effectively the desired consumer audience.

Product Development
Identifying and translating consumer values, beliefs and preferences and clarifying myths vs. realities for the creation and delivery of the exact goods and services that your clients need and want.

Mergers & Acquisitions
Observing, pinpointing then interpreting the reality of each company culture to minimize obstacles, encourage appropriate dialogue and seamless transitions.

International Business
Translating cultural variables to ensure smooth and successful interaction in the global market preventing embarrassing social or even devastating financial consequences.

Data Evaluation
Crosschecking qualitative and quantitative research in tandem to ensure accuracy of data and effective strategies for analysis.

Communication Accuracy
Strategies for identifying what is truly needed and wanted by a given audience through the dissolution of assumption and the initiation of dialogue.

Locating areas of conflict in the culture of the workplace through observation, listening to, and interacting with, all voices in all levels of the business to replace assumptions with addressable realities