Listening Topic: Anthropology – News report on corporate anthropology

A. Listen to the report about corporate anthropology. Then answer the questions.

1   According to Sara Patton, how is her work in corporate settings similar to her previous work?

2   What is an example of something an anthropologist might do or study in a company?

B. Listen to the report again. As you listen, choose the correct answer to complete each statement. Listen again if necessary.

1   Using anthropologists in the business world started as an experiment in ____.

      a   many companies

      b   a few companies

      c   one company

2   Anthropologists working in a company use ____.

      a   the same skills they would use in other situations

      b   the same skills but with extra skills as well

      c   different skills from the ones they use in other situations

3   Sara Patton ____.

      a   has always worked in corporate situations

      b   worked in a village near the Arctic Circle

      c   traveled to the Arctic Circle for the job she has now

4   In her current project, she is studying the group dynamics of ____.

      a   managers in an office

      b   workers in an office

      c   workers in a factory

5   A colleague of Sara’s ____.

      a   observes how people use technology in their homes

      b   askes people how they use technology in their homes

      c   asks people how they use e-mail

6   Companies might use the information from Sara’s colleague to ____.

      a   improve products

      b   design new products

      c   improve products and/or design new ones.



 She studies communities and people in the same ways, no matter what the setting.

 Answers will vary: An anthropologist may study how workers interact in a factory or how people use technology.


1 b   2 a   3 b   4 c   5 a   6 c


A = Molly, B = James, C = Sara

A:   When you think of an anthropologist, you probably think of someone who goes off to study a community that is far away and often very remote. That may have been true for anthropologists in the past, but things are changing. Today, while you still may find anthropologists who travel halfway around the world for their work, you might also be surprised to find one working just down the hall in your office. James Wu has a report.

B:   Thanks, Molly. Yes, it’s true, more and more anthropologists are being hired to work in the corporate world. It started out as an experiment in a few major companies but now it’s become a big trend. Companies use anthropologists to understand their workers and customers better and to help design products that work best for their customers. So, how do the anthropologists get this information? With detailed observation, careful interviewing and clear documentation. In other words, they use the same skills they would use in a remote village in the middle of nowhere.

Now, I have Sara Patton here. She is an anthropologist who has worked in a small Eskimo village up near the Arctic Circle, and she now works for a major telecommunications company. Are they two very different jobs and situations or not? Tell us about it, Sara.

C:   Of course, there are some differences, but really, the way I study people and communities is the same, wherever it is. People often don’t realize that corporate settings are usually very complex – really pretty much like a small community. I mean that there are all different kinds of people with different opinions and personalities who work – or don’t work – together in different ways.

B:   And, what is your job like in a company? What exactly do you do?

C:   Well, it depends on what the company needs at a given time. I’ve been working on a major project for a few months now, studying how workers interact in the factory. It’s very interesting because management tried to bring in a new program to check quality, but it wasn’t working very well. We’re not finished with the work yet, but I think that a large part of the problem was that management wasn’t paying attention to the dynamics of this group. Some workers were upset because they weren’t consulted about the change, and then they influenced the other workers who might have accepted this new program more easily. Management had no idea what was going on. They just knew the new program wasn’t accepted.

B:   That’s interesting. What other kinds of work might an anthropologist do in a corporate setting?

C:   Let’s see. A colleague of mine, in another company, looks at how people really use technology. I mean he goes in and observes them in their homes over a few days to see what they really do with technology. I think this is an example of how anthropology can really help business. In the past, people might have just asked people how they used e-mail or cell phones or whatever. Now when you ask people how they use something, they’ll give you an answer, but it may not give a completely accurate picture.

B:   You mean, for example, they might say they use e-mail less than they really do or something like that?

C:   Yes, exactly. And that’s where direct observation can help.

B:   OK, and then a company could use this information as they improve old products or design new ones.

C:   Yes. They might also look at a certain population. For example, the focus might be on how teenagers use home computers or something like that. And, in that case the anthropologist might spend a lot of time with teenagers.

B:   I think I’d prefer the village near the Arctic Circle! Seriously, this is all very interesting. Do you expect this kind of work to continue to be in demand?

C:   Yes, definitely, I do. I think the business world is only going to get more complex, not less. And, as a result, I think companies will continue to need people who are trained to observe carefully. When I started out in anthropology, I never planned to work in the corporate world, but now that I’m here, I expect to be here for a while.

B:   Well, thank you very much for talking to us. Back to you, Molly.

A:   Thanks, James. I guess this means if we see someone with a notebook in the back of the office watching us carefully, we shouldn’t worry!

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