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Digital Designs: Business Anthropology Anyone?

Time to read: 5 minutes to gain a different perspective

During a recent design session, I was met with silence and bewilderment when I recommended that the problem statement that we were facing may benefit from the insights that business anthropology could provide.

Business anthropology!!!

 What eschewed was a healthy discussion regarding the rise, fall and rise of business anthropology, and of course how human sciences could assist the problem statement.

 At risk of showing my age, in the late 80’s/ 90’s business anthropology was all the rage. It in simplest form, business anthropology is the application of human sciences to business. I am sure a friend and Professor at a leading International University will take me to task regarding the definition.

 As we have moved through our times and welcomed the onset of the digital age. The re-emergence of design thinking, digital anthropology and customer-centric designs have increased in permanence. The digital age has ushered in human-centred products and services that have forced designers to re-think designs and move away from focusing upon aesthetics and superficial re-branding.

 Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IOT) and Machine Learning (ML) are no longer concepts that were the bastion of sci-fi movies. Business anthropology within the digital context can and is allowing businesses to address complex future facing business problems in an open ended manner. From experience, business anthropology can engender a richer understanding of the experience customers, colleagues and partners have when interacting with services, products and / or a system. A number of leading organizations have employed anthropologists, these include Microsoft, Adidas, Samsung and Toyota, to name a few. In some cases, business anthropology resides with Business Strategy, Product Design and R&D business units.

 It is fair to state that the discussion challenged the conventional thinking about target states, and more importantly the sought-after end user (i.e. customer, colleague and partner) experience and business outcome. Business anthropology has the capacity to test norms and provide insights that should help designs to remain relevant with increased longevity.

 So next time you are faced with a complex business problem, consider business anthropology as an additional and alternative way to challenge / understand the problem statement in greater detail. Leveraged in the right manner and circumstance business anthropology may be a difference between a design and a human centric design that positively differentiates you from competitors.

If you would like to discuss any of the themes mentioned in this or any of my other articles, please do not hesitate to contact me via LinkedIn. Please feel free to like and share this post – sharing is caring, after all.

About Ambrish: Ambrish is an accomplished, well-rounded financial services director with a 20-year career spent shaping and delivering business outcomes. He is an executive-board-level advisor at the intersection of business, technology, digital transformation and FinTech (

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All views expressed are my own.


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