Anthropology is the study of humanity. Another
way to define the discipline is as the study of human groups. When you
consider anthropology in this way, its application to businesses and
organisations becomes clear. Anthropology has offered business and
organisations solutions for many decades. Far from being a profession of
explorers of foreign cultures, anthropology is concerned with how
humans structure their relations to each other.
Originally, anthropologists provided cross-cultural assistance to
businesses, such as helping to design products that would be understood
in more than one culture, most famously contributing to car dashboard
design. In other cases, anthropologists have helped to extend business
presence into new international markets. But increasingly anthropology
is proving useful in improving the operation of businesses and
organisations in their traditional markets.
Businesses and organisations have their own internal cultures (often
known as “corporate culture”), and anthropological tools are useful in
adjusting and changing the outlook that the staff take towards their
roles, their markets, and their teams. If people are an organisation's
greatest assets, then improving or realigning the culture they operate
under gives greater value.
Anthropology improves “process interfaces” which are the zones where
processes interact with other processes, with other teams, with machines
and computers, other companies, or branches in other places. Process
interfaces are often where “the ball is dropped” when a process trail
fails and it is usually because something about the corporate culture
led to the wrong assumption or behaviour about what was happening at the
interface. Processes rarely fail at interfaces because of process
design flaws, but usually because the human didn't behave in a way that
supports the process. Why humans should make decisions to act in a way
that breaks a process is a matter of the their culture – their mindset
and how they're thinking about what to do.