For a summer, Dev Patnaik and his team of researchers hung out with teens preparing to go away to college. Trained in anthropology and sociology, they observed while the teens and their parents shopped for the essentials of college life. Some of the students struggled with doing their own laundry and worried about dorm living.
The strategists took it all in. Then they came up with a line of products for dorm rooms. Now items like a kitchen-in-a-box kit and a hamper with laundry instructions are marketed to the back-to-school crowds at the chain store Target.
Patnaik's firm, San Mateo-based Jump, is part of a growing trend in which anthropologists are helping to design new products and business ventures, as well as organize the inner workings of companies.
Work done by anthropologists -- who observe people in real-life settings -- has translated into products including Yoplait's portable Go-Gurt, Whirlpool's "refrigerated oven" and Yahoo's photo service. >>continue