20 July 2017

Anthropology in a Tag Line

Anthros...tell me if you've heard this one before:

Question: Oh, you're an Anthropologist? So, you dig up bones, right?
Answer: Well, some anthropologists excavate bones and others work with material culture, but I look at aspects of culture...
Follow up question: So wait...are you like Indiana Jones?
Answer: Erm...Well, I think the film 'tomb raider' is an apt depiction of his real job title... 

This conversation happens with non-scientists and scientists alike and reminds us of the important question: How do you define Anthropology for those who are less familiar with what the discipline does? 

This is not a discussion of Anthropology's "PR problem" (for more on this see Matejowsky and Reyes-Foster's  Guest column: Anthropologists should do a better job of promoting their field from 2013 and Anthrodendum (then Savage Mind's) response entitled Anthropology: It’s not just a "promotion" problem from the same year). 

While Public Relations may be a factor of this conversation, it is also important to think about how anthropologists describe and define what Anthropology is to others because this happens everyday. To make this even more challenging, can we summarize what anthropology does in a 'tag line'?

Enter Andi Simon. Who is Andi Simon? She is a Corporate Anthropologist who helps executives see their companies with more observant eyes, achieve “aha!” moments, and discover new and profitable opportunities. By applying the concepts, methods, and tools of anthropology to business environments, she turns observation into innovation and revitalizes businesses seeking growth.

Simon's tag line for her business is Observation into Innovation

In a synopsis of her book On the Brink (2016), Simon defines anthropology as: ... anthropology – the science of observing humans to understand how they live – corporate anthropology encourages business leaders to step outside their day-to-day processes to observe not only how their enterprises operate, but where unmet needs truly exist.

Is Anthropology so easily definable? I hear a rally cry of NO! and yet, one might argue that the dedication to observation and as we see below, situated observation with an eye to context and holism, do speak to many of the hallmarks of an anthropological toolkit. 

Simon was recently featured in an article by Adam C. Uzialko entitled Adapt or Die: How Cultural Anthropology Can Inform Business Strategy

In this interview, Simon describes anthropology's real value as the ability: to help people pause, step out and look at the way they have always done things in new ways – and then make them happen. Simon continues on to state Anthropology is a vital part of the business toolkit today for those who want to understand their business and how to keep it active and agile in fast-changing times

Simon is not the only anthropologist crafting usable and consumable definitions of the discipline. Such interpretations of the discipline surely drive curiosity of non-anthropologists about who we are and what it is we can do. 

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