Radical Human Centricity

Fulfilling the Promises of Innovation Research
by Paul Hartley (Author)
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The book Radical Human Centricity sits between two worlds: business and anthropology. It is a critique and reassessment of commercial innovation research from an anthropological perspective born out of years of experience in innovation research consulting and anthropological scholarship. It demonstrates the many failures of contemporary commercial research, from market research to research approaches in design thinking and human-centered design. After identifying the key problems, it provides a set of solutions to elevate commercial research and allow practitioners to fulfill the empty promises of design thinking and human-centered design. The book ends with a clear articulation of how to fix what is broken and actually be human-centric, just now from within the radical human-centric approach. 

This book is written for two audiences. The first is a business reader involved in innovation and strategy. It helps this business reader to understand the growing problem lurking in commercial research and offers practical advice to develop a research practice better able to fuel innovation, strategy, and design processes than anything currently available. It provides a practical and theoretical engagement with research practice to change how companies study human lives. It identifies the many gaps in more typical research methods, fills them with new tools and approaches from anthropological and ethnographic practices, and finally contextualizes them within an end-to-end radically human-centric research process.

The second reader is an anthropological scholar or student interested in the applied anthropological practices in commercial research. This is an increasingly important area of theory and practice within contemporary anthropology, and few books in this area are written by practicing commercial anthropologists. While the theoretical treatments will be known to an advanced anthropological reader, it applies them in contexts and examples not commonly discussed in the ethnographic disciplines. Additionally, the methodological examples and practice anecdotes introduce the reader to a world few academic researchers ever experience. Consequently, this book adds insight into an area of anthropological practice not well understood by academic social scientists and offers a window into new avenues of applied anthropology.

The purpose of this book is to create a space for a new form of applied commercial ethnography, called radical human -centricity. It is unique in that it addresses the problems of business research in a thoughtful, scholarly way, while also providing practical examples for innovation researchers of all backgrounds to emulate.

There is a problem with innovation research. Many of the methods used to study people for strategic and design innovation purposes are not up to the task. They are holdovers from market research or are simplified versions of tools borrowed from other fields of research. The problem exists because these methods cannot provide the kind of understanding, or grounding in people’s lived experience to meet the requirements of design and strategy innovation. The world is only becoming more complicated, and innovation’s impacts on people’s lives and the environment are only increasing. It is essential we work to fulfill the promises of human-centered research with better research practices, and create positive interventions into people’s lives while resisting the reductionist, damaging, and wasteful tendencies of design thinking research and human-centered design (HCD). This book critiques many of the common methods used in innovation research and provides directions to overcome their weaknesses by developing a radical human-centric approach.

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Publication date
August 02, 2022
Page count
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