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.
Tett makes a compelling case ... With case studies and examples ranging from Google’s errors to pandemic beards, Tett explains anthropological revelations invisible to computers ... Inventing words in the hope of creating a brand has become a tiresome fad in business publishing, but 'anthro-vision' is a useful way to illuminate much that can’t be seen any other way — and so are philosophy, literature and history ... In an age obsessed with hard science, it’s becoming painfully obvious that the so-called 'soft' subjects — social sciences and the humanities — have the power to reveal what otherwise remains obscure. One of the glories of Anthro-Vision is that it never argues (as many do) that its way of seeing is the only way. It’s a timely call for decision-makers to wean themselves off their dependency on big data and embrace the full complexity of human life.