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What is Business Anthropology?

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What is business anthropology? Business anthropology is the discipline that applies the theories and methodologies of social anthropology in the investigation of (or for) organizations and their ecosystems.   

In this article, we will describe:   

  • What is business anthropology?  
  •  What are its main characteristics?  
  •  Why it’s so essential in today’s business contexts.   

At the end of this post, we will tell you where and how you can train in this discipline that is sweeping the most innovative companies.  


What is business anthropology?  

The vast majority of manuals define business anthropology as the application of anthropology to business challenges. Although this definition could be considered correct, we wanted to propose an alternative that represents much better the discipline’s different nuances.  

 Business Anthropology is the discipline that applies the theories and methodologies of social anthropology in the investigation of (or for) organizations and their ecosystems.  


Business anthropology is not limited exclusively to companies, and its application can occur in many different organizations, such as museums, schools, or hospitals. We must also understand that business anthropology is imminently holistic and integrates both organizations and their stakeholders (ecosystems) in the same analysis unit (such as clients, suppliers, investors, competitors, regulatory frameworks, the environment, etc).  

In short, business anthropology allows us to raise our gaze and understand the challenges and problems of organizations systemically and from a broad, and varied, cultural and qualitative approach.  


 Main characteristics of business anthropology  

 -Focused on people and their groups  

The origin of the word “anthropology” is apparent and straightforward: humans’ study and knowledge. That is, in the very essence of everything we do which lies a tireless search to better understand people: their behaviors, their emotions, their thoughts, ways of communicating, the objects they surround themselves with, and how they use them, etc. . Unlike other approaches such as psychology, anthropology understands people as “social subjects”, so its process will always take into account their groups and cultural contexts.  

 – Ethnographic research   

One of the main characteristics of business anthropology is the intensive use of ethnographic techniques, that is, people’s study through participation and observation. Anthropologists know that to understand a phenomenon fully, it is necessary to feel it and breathe it in the specific context in which it occurs. Only in this way can the profound differences between what people say and what they do.  

 – Thick Data  

Unlike big data approaches specialized in solving questions of the type What? How? Where? or When? Business anthropology delves into human complexity and seeks to understand the why? These qualitative data types are known as Thick Data, a term coined by the anthropologist Tricia Wang and inspired by the concept of “thick description” by the anthropologist Geertz. If you want to know more about Thick Data, we recommend reading this article.  [Read more about Thick Data]

– Holistic thinking   

The whole is much more than the sum of the parts. To understand different human groups in all their complexity; anthropology observes reality as an integrated WHOLE: consumption, work, kinship, religion, politics, economy, class, gender, ethnicity, identity … Thanks to its holistic approach, anthropology is an excellent ally when it comes to uncovering insights and understanding contexts.  

 – Socio-anthropological Analysis   

It’s important to understand that both anthropology and its cousin sociology have a long history as a discipline. Numerous theories have been generated throughout time and allow us to evaluate, test, and interpret social and cultural phenomena. From the anthropology of business, we use it to understand organizational dynamics, emerging trends in society, the creation of patterns of behavior, and many more.  

 – Practical and strategic approach  

Business anthropology is an imminently practical discipline that seeks to solve organizations’ problems and challenges through the generation of strategic insights.  


The value of anthropology in business  

Due to high business uncertainty and the increasing need to understand users or undertake cultural transformations within companies, business anthropology is experiencing a real BOOM both in the world’s most innovative companies and in the world of agencies: research or boutiques.  

The complementation between in-situ ethnographic research, holistic view, and socio-anthropological theory allow obtaining data, approaches, and field insights to get through other techniques such as surveys or digital metrics.  

When companies understand that they are immersed in cultural realities (of their clients, their workers, and the market itself), they turn to anthropologists. Within companies, anthropology allows:   

  • Understanding customers and users in-depth  
  • Exploring new contexts  
  • Discovering new trends, 
  • Marketing blue oceans Design products   
  • Servicing and experiencing putting customers at the center   
  • Validating proposals with the market   
  • Transform the business culture of organizations   
  • Improve user and worker experience   
  • Optimize internal processes and equipment   
  • Reduce costs and uncertainty  

Learn and get trained in business anthropology  

There are few places in the world where one can get proper training in business anthropology. However, some stand out such as the programs at University of Copenhague (Denmark), University North Texas (USA) o Wayne State University (USA). These programs require two years of study, in-person attendance, a high level of English, and a considerable investment of financial resources. Leaving many without a chance to learn more about this amazing area of knowledge. 

In Antropología 2.0 we wanted to contribute to change that situation! What happens with the thousands of people in LatAm that are reading our blog and ask us about learning programs? Why shouldn’t they receive proper training in Business Anthropology? And even more, shouldn’t they receive training that considers their context and cultural nuances so that their transition to the professional world will be more smooth? We answered yes to all of these questions, and that is why we worked hard for a full year and can now proudly announce the First Spanish Course on Business Anthropology ever!!!

If you want to know everything about this discipline, without compromising your time or money, 100% online and in Spanish, you can consult the course in business anthropology developed by Antropología 2.0 in partnership with Umanyx.   

In this course, we address ALL aspects of business anthropology (fundamentals, history, market research, design, cultural transformation, research techniques, analysis techniques, deliverables, working as an anthropologist …). Its a master at the price of the course!  

You can also enjoy interviews with more than 30 world experts in business anthropology. These are highly renowned figures such as Jay Hasbrouck (Facebook), Simon Roberts (Stripe Partners), Sarah Pink (Monash University), Sergio López (author of the book Antropología de la Empresa), or Andie Simon (Simon Associates). 

Finally, with the course’s purchase, you will become part of the largest Slack community of business anthropology in Spanish. In this dynamic and lively space, you can ask your questions, participate in activities and debates, propose group activities and do networking.   

If you are looking to launch your professional career within the social sciences or differentiate your work profile with TOP training in the humanities, have no doubt. TRY the business anthropology course for FREE. 

Co-founder and CEO in Antropología 2.0 I contribute to the development of innovative business strategies by providing in-depth knowledge of human complexity. As a social anthropologist, I am qualified to conduct ethnographic research based on empathy and a holistic understanding of social phenomena. I collaborate with multidisciplinary teams providing valuable insights on which to build unique and differentiated strategies. My passion for people-centred innovation has led me to train in fields such as Business Anthropology, Design Thinking and Customer Experience (Cx)

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