The old is changing, the new is not yet there. Learning in the phase of not-knowing is the route to move forward, when everything is still possible. Anthropologists call this phase ‘liminality’, being betwixt and between the old and a new. In this phase the learning happens, so getting comfortable with this insecurity is essential to innovate. There’s a lot to learn from anthropology on how to navigate this phase of not-knowing and growing.
To innovate one needs to understand how people make sense of their world, how they perceive products, services, and what emotions and relationships they foster. Wouldn’t it help to truly understand the people you’re innovating for? To understand the way they act instead of how they say they act? To understand the impact of being online and connected in ever more areas of our lives? To move from big data to thick data? Understanding people from an inside perspective. Seeing the patterns. Not talking about the lives of people but participating within them.
Innovation is about making a difference. Literally. Building a new reality. The challenge for organizations is how to build an inviting environment for innovation. How to build a culture that fosters innovation, to discover new ways of thinking? It is about creating an environment where many different ideas, perspectives and initiatives can thrive. The field of anthropology has made the field of difference and diversity it’s own and to make help your organization build a culture of innovation, there’s a lot to learn from anthropologists.
Innovation is about challenging your own assumptions, testing, learning and adjusting your plans. Not working from project plans and developing ivory tower solutions but finding answers based on real-world conversations and insights stemming from real people. Learning on the go and testing your assumptions continuously, not with quantitative big data, but with qualitative thick data and deep understanding.
Innovation is about people.