More anthropologists and R&D 2.0

Commenting on the recent GE investment in research and development for emerging markets, Navi Radjou recently cautioned against the traditional approach.  Too often, he says, this hires only engineers and scientists.  “Global R&D model 1.0,” he calls it. 

R&D 2.0 needs new personnel, Radjou argues, including anthropologists and economists.  What a wonderful idea, resonant for those of us who loiter at this intersection!

Radjou concludes:

Goldman Sachs predicts that the bulk of the global economic growth over the next three decades will occur in emerging markets like India, China, and Brazil. But multinationals can’t capture this explosive growth unless they first upgrade their technically-skewed innovation model to a multidisciplinary R&D approach.

References

Radjou, Navi.  209.  R&D 2.0: Fewer Engineers, More anthropologists.  Harvard Business Blog.  June 10, 2009.  here.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Susan Mazur-Stommen and the AnthroDesign list serve. 

Background

Navi Radjou (pictured) is the Executive Director of the Centre for India & Global Business at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge.

4 thoughts on “More anthropologists and R&D 2.0”

  1. Engineers, scientists, anthropologists, ethnographers and development economists will still be employees of multinational corporations engaged in the creation of proprietary mass-market products in R&D v2.0. Customers customize those products. The fundamental conflict of interests between “customers” and “producers” will persist until “hackers” are venerated on R&D v3.0 teams.

    “No user-serviceable parts within.” is the unambiguous sign of olden times.

  2. In poor countries, lots of people “hack” or repair their stuff because they can’t afford to do otherwise. An important stage of development–which most of the population of these countries is now reaching–is precisely when people stop hacking because prosperity reaches the point that their opportunity cost of time has risen so much. They’d rather pay more to get reliability or to replace things when they break or become obsolete.

    Hacking and other forms of tinkering-for-fun then re-occur (for a small subset of the population)at a later stage of development when leisure time has soared beyond the level available during industrialization. They are probably still at the waning stage in most durable goods markets in these countries. Product planning based on customer-generated tinkering will probably miss the window of growth.

  3. Numbering these as sequential seems a mistake and ignores the important historical history of mixing “hard” and “soft” scientists with writers and artists:from Bletchley Park in England, Riverbank Labratories in the U.S. to Xerox PARC. It’s important to have those successful historical precedents, especially when trying to break through resistance to this concept.

  4. Josh Levy (of Free Press) in scrutinizing the AT&T/iPhone relationship says:
    “These ‘exclusive deals’ remind me of the days when AT&T held a monopoly over all phone communications. Consumers could only use one phone, on one network, at rates set by one company. No innovations could take place without AT&T’s permission. When federal rules forced AT&T to open its network, an explosion of innovation occurred with new fax machines, Internet modems and answering machines.

    I’m content to illustrate my contention with a cheesy reference to “Eloi”.

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