Often, I don’t know where to start when writing about what I do. My notebooks are filled with notes for the next post, the project reports I turn in are full of ideas and information that I’ve found and the desire to put things down in words is always there. Lack of time and, often, the difficulty of writing about what you do without revealing information that is critical to the client or the project are a real obstacle. On top of that, for years now I’ve been trying to convey my ideas and share my work in a simple way that anyone can understand, which further complicates things. Because, for better or worse, the projects I work on and have worked on are normally anything but simple.
So, suddenly, these last few days I’ve come across these two articles, which are very interesting:
- Applying the sociological imagination: a toolkit for tomorrow’s graduates
- Building an Innovation Strategy from Cultural Insights
If you’ll allow me a bit of poetic license, in reading these two articles the stars aligned and this post has, finally, taken shape. Because both articles are about my interest in the social sciences and, specifically, sociology. Because they both discuss what the consultancy side of my job has been over these past years. Every time I start a new research project it is because there is an organisation behind it with a specific interest in a topic. Sometimes it is consumer behaviours, others understanding and using data, still others the impact a specific social phenomenon has on actions, services and/or products and innovation processes. But thinking about it (and going back to the two previous articles), I’ve realised that my first approach to any project is always to try to answer these questions:
- Who are they?
- Where do they go?
- What affects them?
- What do they want?
And then, I look at the client’s specific request.
Subject, context, interactions, groups, organisations, diagnosis and specific actions. Applied sociology.
This methodology, orientated to both the whole and specific details at the same time, is very well suited to the social sciences. It is value added, very important, in a world aimed at searching for solutions that, at times, don’t take into account any of these elements. And behind each project there is always an organisation (whether a company or an institution). We have tools, we have theoretical frameworks, we know how to apply them and now we have technology that helps speed up the processes (not critical thinking). Sometimes we are the bearers of bad news, sometimes we have to stop, think and re-direct a project, but the explanation is simple: we’re divers and we like to throw ourselves into the deep end of a job, to explain it, work on it and come up with a solution that makes sense for the client.
In a liquid society (a concept that has become extremely popular but is not for that any less real), the understanding and solutions we can contribute are extraordinarily useful.