5 Ways Anthropology can help you be a better project manager
Olivia Jardine has been involved in project management for five year. She holds a B.A. She holds a B.A. in history and anthropology from the University of Sussex.
Anthropology is often thought of as a colonial Brits who sailed to distant islands and recorded details about their “subjects”
Despite this grim depiction of the origins and development of anthropology’s history, it has since flourished.
Anthropology now examines important global issues from a sociocultural perspective. Anthropologists study culture and society to answer questions like “How does gender impact social mobility in the U.S .?”;”; “How can we improve access mental health care?”; “What can Silicon Valley learn from female IT workers at Bangalore?”
The anthropology of business is a newer area of study in this field. The anthropology of business is a new field that trains anthropologists to study topics such how different office cultures can affect company outcomes or how certain working cultures can cause the downfall of their sector. Karen Ho, for example, describes this phenomenon in “Liquidated”: An Ethnography on Wall Street. She explores the volatility in investment banking and how it is not always the result of boom and bust capitalism but a consequence of Wall Street culture. These anthropological studies are often essential reading for MBA courses.
Microsoft, the second-largest employer worldwide of anthropologists, is investing in people with anthropology backgrounds. It’s not surprising that anthropological training has helped businesses improve their products and understand their markets.
These skills are vital for project management. Here are five ways that anthropology can help you.
1. Use ethnography to influence your project stakeholders
Ethnography is about understanding a group of people or cultures by studying their customs and habits as well as their differences. Companies have used ethnographic research for years to gain a deeper understanding about their customers.
Professor Barry B. Levine, sociology and anthropology professor at Florida International University, discusses in the introduction to his book “GeoPants” how Levi’s uses ethnography for their campaigns.
Levi Strauss, a jeans company, asks its designers to immerse in the culture of their customers. They become change-sensitive anthropologists to anticipate fashion trends and conduct field research on their customers’ favorite music, radio and TV shows, bars, and shopping outlets.
Levi’s designers gain a deeper understanding of their target audience’s tastes and aims to create a product that answers their audience’s needs holistically. They also show how Levi’s jeans can help them reach their goals. This is a much better approach than simply looking at the jean preferences of their target markets.
Project managers must take the same deep approach to understanding their stakeholders and the market for agile projects. Fumi Kondo (managing director of management consulting firm Intellilink) explains what makes a good project manger in CIO. “Project managers can’t influence others if it’s not clear what motivates them.” They must learn the concerns of their stakeholders about a project and take them seriously. Then, they need to address them.
To ensure that your project meets all requirements,