In an age when the business world is dominated by technology and data analysis, financial journalist and anthropology PhD Gillian Tett presents a radically different strategy for success: businesses can revolutionize their understanding of behavior by studying consumers, markets, and organizations through an anthropological lens.
Tett thinks we can — and should — shine the spotlight on our own peculiar and exotic natures. Admittedly, this creates some philosophical problems, most obviously how we can best ensure that our subjective observations are objective. Nevertheless, it’s easy enough to sympathise with Tett’s position ... Refreshingly, Tett is not afraid of self-admonishment ... Tett is highly critical of my 'tribe' of economists, demanding that we stop focusing on money and markets and spend a lot more time considering “externalities” such as the environment. This is unfair, perhaps reflecting Tett’s excessive exposure to economists and financiers expounding narrow-minded 'Davos-think' ... Tett’s book may be anthropological, but it also embraces a style of accessible economic writing that, sadly, went out of fashion as the mathematicians and their models took over. Anthro-Vision reminds me of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society (1958) and The New Industrial State (1967). Some economists may regard this as a criticism. I can think of no higher praise.
[Tett] comes pretty close to asserting that a field that arose in the 19th century to help the imperial West confirm the 'inferiority' of colonized people, and that changed in the mid-20th century into the polar opposite of its colonizing origins, is a panacea for our present-day ills. Some may find this claim too sweeping; others will be swept along by her enthusiasm ... Her conclusions are bright and buoyant—cynics might say a little blithe.
It’s hard to argue with her common-sense case that companies should strive to take an outsider’s view: 'There are multiple ways to live,” she writes, “and everyone seems weird to someone else.' Packed full of insight, this has the power to change minds.