Does Your Business Need an Anthropologist?

How do your perceptions about the past affect the way you behave in the future?

If you’re like most people, you carry around a story. Whether it’s a story about yourself, your company, or your family, or all of the above, your stories inform your beliefs. Your beliefs in turn, inform your actions.

For example, if you believe that you come from a family of self-starters, you’ll be more likely to jump into challenging situations, than someone whose family story is about failure.

So what does that have to do with anthropology? Everything.

As a consultant, one of the roles I play is that of business anthropologist. I uncover the stories that bring the soul of their business to life.

One of our clients is Dave & Buster’s. The two founders, Dave and Buster, came dave and buster logotogether because they had complementary business models. As their website says,

“Back in the 1970s, Buster opened a restaurant known for its tasty food and friendly service. A few doors down, Dave opened an outrageous place for fun and games for adults. The two young entrepreneurs noticed people rotating between their establishments, and an idea started to form: What if they put both under one roof? With Dave’s name first because he won a coin toss, they opened the first Dave & Buster’s in December 1982. Since then, more than 70 stores have opened across the country.”

That’s part of the story. As a business anthropologist you have to go deeper. The American Anthropology Association says, “Anthropology is the study of humans, past and present, to understand the full sweep and complexity of cultures across all of human history.”

Digging deeper into the full sweep and complexity of Dave & Buster’s history, we unearthed more than just two guys with complementary business models. We found two men who loved to give parties.

Unpacking the story of your business is more than just facts and logistics. It’s about unearthing the soul of your business. The soul of your business is the feeling you want people to have when they interact with you. It’s the essential essence of your organization.

In Dave & Buster’s case, the soul of their business is about helping people experience laugh-out-loud fun. It’s been the core of their model from the start.

Every organization has a story. It doesn’t have to be a famous story, like Hewlett and Packard in the garage. Or a fun party story like Dave & Busters. It’s your story. Perhaps it’s the story about how you were fired and had to figure out what to do next. Maybe it’s the story about how you impact the lives of your students.

Naming and sharing your story enables you to drive your culture and the behaviors of your team.

Humans are hard-wired to make meaning. Our stories tell us who were are, and what our existence means. If you want to create a successful organization, find your story and share it.

Your story embodies your soul. An organization with soul ignites a spark in everyone they touch. An organization with no soul is doomed to a life of disengaging transactions.