Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Harvard Business Review: The Next Big Thing

Some reading from the Harvard Business Review about "The Rise of Corporate Anthropology," by Tom Davenport.

Davenport holds the President’s Chair in Information Technology and Management at Babson College, where he also leads the Process Management and Working Knowledge Research Centers. His books and articles on business process reengineering, knowledge management, attention management, knowledge worker productivity, and analytical competition helped to establish each of those business ideas. Having him tout this type of socio-cultural anthropology and highlight observation as the "Next Big Thing" in business, to me, reaches out to an audience that is just beginning to recognize (again) that ethnographers have much to offer design and technology because artefacts are products of culture. Culture, being the key word here.

"I have been predicting for years that anthropologists would soon be in demand in the workplace, and now this is finally coming to pass. Anthropologists are social scientists who study human behavior through systematic observation. There are a variety of types of anthropologists --physical, archeological, and medical. I am primarily focused here on social and cultural anthropologists, some fraction of which are interested in social relationships in the contemporary workplace. I also believe that sociologists (my own background), social psychologists, and even some behaviorally-oriented economists will be of increasing use in corporate life, but I am particularly bullish on anthropology because of its emphasis on observation.

What’s so good about systematic observation? It’s the key to knowing what’s working and what isn’t, how people are using technology and other tools in the course of the workday, how workers extract meaning (or don’t) from their work, and so forth. We all make sweeping generalizations about these and many other topics, but we don’t really know. Corporate anthropology provides the possibility of actually knowing what’s happening and why in organizations."

more in the article>>

Shout outs to Martin B. for the heads up on this article!

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