Last Holy Week, our graduate class in Anthropology embarked on a field methods project to learn how to use some ethnographic tools that were only previously discussed inside the classroom.  As the only member of the research team with no social science background, I knew I needed this course so I can start earning my stripes as a novice anthropologist.  Ethnographic research, after all, is the core of the anthropological discipline and in any research endeavor; methods used can make or break the entire study. 
 
Nevertheless, I brought in my own influences into the field – where my marketing training has honed my sense making in terms of identifying insights– based on consumer behavior (proxemics or participant observation) as well as language and expressions used by customers (content analysis) while my business experience has trained me to recognize opportunities (synthesis) that could leapfrog initiatives while considering the best way to execute for customer acceptance.  My entrepreneurial spirit, of course, has shaped my predominantly positive outlook in life where everything is an adventure that can be overcome by determination and hard work.  In many ways, I knew I was ready for that field experience in Banton, Romblon during Holy Week despite the challenge to my middle-aged bones trying to keep up with death-defying treks and motorcycle (habal-habal) rides.
 
And then just a few days ago, I checked out a webinar from the MIT Sloan website on the topic Exploring the Innovator's DNA by Hal Gregersen who spoke on the five skills of disruptive innovators which were put together from an eight-year research study that looked into, how the most innovative leaders are able to arrive at “value-generating ideas”.  These skills are as follows (from http://executive.mit.edu/):

  • Questioning the status quo
  • Observing the world like anthropologists
  • Networking with diverse people to get new ideas
  • Experimenting in small, fast, and cheap ways to reach novel solutions
  • Connecting typically unconnected insights to deliver disruptive new business ideas

Gregersen shared how top disruptive innovators spent twice as much time as regular executives in thinking differently -- by asking many questions,  observing and then acting on something immediately because the culture of the organization or environment is responsive to game-changing ideas with a corresponding strong disposition toward action.
 
This perspective has once again merged my business and Anthro lenses where upbringing in the home, church, community or school, has various influences on how innovative disruptors are molded.  The skills of observation and critical thinking, for example, must be shaped from childhood such that children should be encouraged to ask questions instead of being silenced or reprimanded for being too inquisitive.  School and community authorities must be open to being “challenged” with new ideas and suggestions instead of being defensive.  Work places must inspire collaboration while building on each other’s ideas without passing judgment or without restraints of silos.
 
Several researchers have written about the creativity crisis particularly in the US. 
 
Kyung (2012) noted in her study:  “The scores from the Checklist of 13 Creative Strengths show creative attitudes are decreasing continuously since 1990.  We are becoming less verbally or emotionally expressive or sensitive and less empathetic, less responsive in a kinesthetic and auditory ways, less humorous, less imaginative, less able to visualize ideas, less able to see things from different angles, less unconventional, less able to connect seemingly irrelevant things together, less able to synthesize information, and less able to fantasize or be future-oriented. Creativity requires CAT: Creative Climate, Creative Attitude, and Creative Thinking.  Displaying Creative Attitudes requires an encouraging Creative Climate.  As the Climate becomes continually antagonistic to creative expression, Creative Attitudes will diminish, Creative Thinking will diminish, and creative potential will be lost.”
 
My field experience in Banton reminded me of my summer vacations in my grandmother’s farm in Cavite during the early 70s where there was no electricity and running water.  As a carefree child back then, each day was a practice of versatility and resourcefulness and it was fun because it was play.
 
I went into the field of anthropology not just because it was very interesting, but also because I wanted to find out if there was a simpler or better way to teach insighting or creativity.  Of course when I started, I kept adjusting my marketing focals’ as my social science exposure grew - and I am almost convinced now that yes, creativity and innovative thinking can be taught – but that it would be so much easier or more painless if we had nurtured this child-like inquisitiveness and playful openness while growing up.


 
Chiqui Escareal-Go is the CEO and Chief Service Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc.  For inquiries, please email info@mansmith.net or call (02) 584-5858 or (02) 412-0034.