Innovation and development projects: a business anthropology perspective

Throughout the years we have worked with dozens of organizations, assisting them in understanding a specific conjuncture, external and internal, and being pivots and reference points for projects that were about change and doing something different in essence.  With every client and associate, with every team we have been a part of, we have understood the art and science of innovation and have produced many relevant insights that might be of interest for executives and leaders looking to drive their organizations to a new level.  Corporate and organizational culture are central to achieving success, and are usually the main or secondary reason why such projects don’t succeed.

Let us share with you some key insights, from the business anthropology perspective, on how to drive innovation and change in your organization:

Cultural- Organizational Pivots: having a partner is more than useful, it is important.  Determining the right person to own the project internally is an absolute.

Executives this day in age are aware of the difficulties they -and the organizations they represent- face when embarking on innovation and business development projects.  A company that wishes to grow significantly in a determined period of time, or to enter a new line of product or a new market, needs, first and foremost the liquidity and resources necessary to carry on the additional investment.  Hence executives, managers and the dream-team of the company need to assure those resources, taking care of actual business while allowing themselves to identify the opportunities and the strategies to pursue them.

Cultural- Social Capital available and necessary: carefully understanding and drawing who we’re playing with, how they play and what would be needed is basic in achieving success.

Change and innovation will generate friction, real and bloody friction, inside an organization.  Always.  For many different reasons going from individual personalities and expectations to bureaucratic rhythms and motivation.  To successfully innovate, you have to either rampantly remove all the loose pieces, or very tactfully and delicately lubricate the social and cultural mechanics of the equation.

In many occasions this is where change begins: understanding the state of your team and organization and figuring out what, why and how would be a force against innovation.  There’s a place for everyone in the world, but it is hard to find a place in an innovation driven organization for a person who is just friction.

Language: there is true power in getting a team of people to work towards one end, understanding each other in every relevant level, and focus on what’s most important, while making decisions with attention to detail.

Language is key to achieving that.  It must be an integral part of planning, getting everyone to speak the same language, understanding the different meanings of each concept when understood by different departments, disciplines, etc., and how to be operative about it.

Habits: the best way to generate a culture is through habitual activities for a determined time period.

Once people have a habit, they will own the project, it will be aprehended as an integral part of their work lives.  Especially if the project has been endowed with meaning.

Symbolism: projects that are not meaningful are bound to fail.

And symbolism is the tool necessary to translate the essence and spirit of the project into everyday actions and decision making.  It takes a bit more in resourcefulness, but the effects in the mid and long term of investing in symbolism and meaningfulness are considerable in the success of the project.

For more insight on the anthropological perspective of business success don’t hesitate to write to us.  If you’re looking to start an innovation project within your organization, our program might be the perfect fit for you.