Simplify or expound

The preferred method of communicating anything of substance in the business environment is through bullet points and one-page summaries. Video is arguably of greater importance in terms of getting immediate results and increasing, but video is principally valuable when combined with a PowerPoint presentation and a series of bullet points. To be sure, the large written document is still part and parcel of the anthropologist in the business world, but only insofar as it can be used segmentally by various people in various departments. The truth is, that while this essentializing may result in problems we never intended, more often than not rendering data into highly simplified forms actually serves to get the proper funding or actions taken that would not be forthcoming if we were to present our findings in their entirety.

When applied to design, findings that are misinterpreted because of an oversimplification of the data can result in products or services that are destined to failure. While these misapplications may cause the consumer/user significant harm, they typically do not, usually causing no more than mild annoyance. However misapplication in design is rarely the result of essentializing our findings – it stems from our lack of engagement during the development process. If our findings are presented in too academic a fashion we are excluded from the process and the information we have gathered is ignored entirely. Appreciably simplified data are used primarily to get buy in and/or to draw the attention of one department to issues they might normally ignore. Bullet points and synopses are meant as overviews rather than the schema by which products are designed and built and are typically used as such.

In the eyes of the corporate consumer, there is no such thing as anthropological research. A business executive wants market research, futures forecasting, strategic planning advice, new product design, packaging design, or some form of business oriented information. The anthropological aspect of the research is only tangential in as much as it can bring fresh insight to the situation.


By Gavin

Published by gavinjohnston67

Take an ex-chef who’s now a full-fledge anthropologist and set him free to conduct qualitative research, ethnography, brand positioning, strategy and sociolinguistics studies and you have Gavin. He is committed to understand design and business problems by looking at them through an anthropological lens. He believes deeply in turning research findings into actionable results that provide solid business strategies and design ideas. It's not an insight until you do something with it. With over 18 years of experience in strategy, research, and communications, he has done research worldwide for a diverse set of clients within retail, legal, banking, automotive, telecommunications, health care and consumer products industries.

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