"I listen to people, observe what they do, and make recommendations."

September 6, 2013

I had a great conversation with the principal of a brand strategy company. Over a brief coffee meeting, we learned about each other's business and talked about how research informs strategic decision making. He told me a story about how, while on a panel at a conference, a speaker kept referring to him derisively as "the brand guy" and how "brand guys" are never able to solve problems. Finally, the speaker asked him "so what is it you do anyway?" and he replied, "I listen to people and make recommendations." His succinct and meaningful response threw the speaker off track and, as it turns out, led to further conversations and changed how the speaker understood the value of brand strategy.

His response was meaningful to me as well. Breaking down what he does to its essence, listening to his clients' customers and providing direction for his clients, is very similar to what I feel I do as an anthropologist. With the addition of observation, because it is so important to understand how people experience products and services in context, I will summarize what I do in this new way:

"I listen to people and observe what they do to make recommendations."

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What people say,

what people do,

and what people say they do

are entirely different things.

Margaret Mead,
Renowned Anthropologist

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