What Anthropology Can Do for Your Organization
You may know your clients, but do you know the stories behind them?
Your goal is to deliver the best possible user experience, building your brand and
your profit as they grow to trust that you can best meet their unique needs. Mixing
ethnography, empathy building, direct communication, and secondary research, anthropology
provides a rich explanation of the behaviors, desires, and unmet needs of your clients,
employees, and stakeholders. This deep knowledge creates indispensably products and
services that distinguish you from your competitors.
Anthropologists have the unique ability to set aside biases and objectively represent
the viewpoint of the customer. Holistically trained, anthropologists work across the
silos often created within marketing, R&D, and decision making chains, and ensure
the voice of the everyday user is present throughout the design and delivery process.
Common anthropological skills include:
- Approaching problems from multiple perspectives while withholding common biases
- Researching across cultures and within multicultural groups
- Trend analysis and identification of patterns in consumer behaviors
- Understanding consumer motivations and unmet needs
- Facilitating empathy based, user-centric design research
- Developing, coordinating, implementing, and analyzing key research methodologies (e.g.,
focus groups, co-creation, surveys, interviews, in-depth ethnographic studies)
- Communicating accurate, accessible, and actionable findings and recommendations to
stakeholders and decision makers
Anthropologists also apply their skills to understanding organizational culture and
improving work processes and productivity.
Studying your "insides" means streamlined processes, healthier work environments,
increased creativity, and happier and more productive employees. Better performance creates
better products and services, decreased costs, increased profits, and creates many
other benefits for your people, brand, and bottom line.
Where We're Working In Memphis and Beyond
Faculty member Dr. Robert Connolly (second from right) with staff from Electrolux,
AmeriCorps, and the Westwood Neighborhood Association.
From Microsoft to Proctor and Gamble and even Words with Friends developer Zynga, companies know that anthropologists add value to an organization.
University of Memphis faculty, alums, and students have worked with formidable industry leaders
like St. Jude, Electrolux, and FedEx and the nationally recognized growth strategy and innovation firm, Southern Growth Studio.
Masters Candidates complete a 300 hour practicum, gaining firsthand experience working
in applied anthropology. Contact Keri Brondo, Graduate Program Coordinator, for more information about placement within your organization.
Forward thinking businesses around the global are employing anthropologists in research,
development, marketing, human resources, innovation, corporate culture, and elsewhere. The
articles below highlight how anthropologists are helping businesses with both client
and user insights and a better understand of their own corporate cultures.
What is Business Anthropology- The Society for Applied Anthropology
Anthropologists Go Native in the Corporate Village- Fast Company
Intel's Cultural Anthropologists- CNN Money
Anthropologists Dig into Money- Mercury News
Olson's Anthropologists Bring Meaning to Marketing- MINNPOST
Business Anthropology Unlocks Opportunities- Memphis Daily News
R&D 2.0: Fewer Engineers, More Anthropologists- Harvard Business Review Blog
Breakthrough Market Discoveries Often Hide Out in Latent Form- examiner.com
EPIC- EPIC is an annual professional conference promoting ethnography and human behavior
studies in business settings.
CoPAPIA- CoPAPIA is a committee within the American Anthropological Association dedicated
to practicing applied and public anthropologists.
University of Memphis Alumni Amy Santee's blog, Anthropologizing, has a wealth of resources on business anthropology as well as interviews with several
of our alums who are currently working in Memphis and across the US.
What Anthropology Can Do for Your Career
Graduate student Cole Bradley (far right) conducting consumer validation with the
Southern Growth Studio Street Team.
The University of Memphis offers a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a Master of Arts in Applied Anthropology in two core concentrations- Medical Anthropology and Globalization,
Development, and Culture. The major prepares you to serve business clients and consumers
from diverse communities and to compete in a global marketplace. Our nationally recognized
Graduate Program is one of the oldest Applied Anthropology programs in the US and
is designed to train you to apply the theoretical and methodological foundations you
learn in the classroom in professional settings.
The Applied Medical Anthropology program is designed to link scholarship with practice, training you to investigate
development and the distribution of health and illness within populations, health
disparities, prevention initiatives, medical care, and caregiving within a global
The Applied Globalization, Development, and Culture Anthropology program offers three focus areas: Community Development, Environmental
Justice and Sustainability, and Cultural Heritage and Identity. You will learn how
to apply your knowledge of the creation of identity, community, power, and development
in our increasingly globalized world in professional settings ranging from housing,
tourism, museums, non-profits, governments, businesses and corporations, and many
Both concentrations provide you with the opportunity to work directly with organizations
who benefit from your unique knowledge and, in turn, give you real world experience
in the community development, community health, and business arenas. The networks,
knowledge, and experience you will build through this first hand learning is invaluable
to your future employment prospects after graduating from our challenging, rewarding,
and award winning program.
Business anthropology focuses on organizational and corporate culture, culture changes,
marketing and consumer behavior, user-centered design, intercultural communication,
international business, and human resource management.
We hope that you'll find this page helpful for understanding what anthropology can
do for your business, what anthropology can do for your career, and how the University
of Memphis Department of Anthropology can help you meet your business and professional