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Gillian Tett on a New Way To Understand Business and Life

How we can all use anthropology in our own lives to make better decisions, navigate risk – and even work out what our peers are really thinking

Think about what an anthropologist does and chances are you’ll picture someone who spends time in ‘remote’ locations, trying to understand the ways ‘exotic’ peoples act and think. But these days you’re as likely to find an anthropologist embedded in an Amazon warehouse as in the Amazon rainforest. In fact, anthropologists are found in all kinds of contemporary contexts, using the same methods to illuminate the behaviour of business, consumers, government and the media. 

To explain the power of anthropology to help us better understand the modern world, Financial Times journalist and bestselling author Gillian Tett came to Intelligence Squared in June 2021. Tett has a PhD in anthropology from Cambridge University and has long used her training to break new ground in financial journalism, most notably predicting the 2007-8 financial crisis after she observed the behaviour of bankers around the world. Outlining the ideas in her acclaimed new book Anthro-Vision, she showed how we can identify what she calls the ‘webs of meaning’ that underlie consumers’ behaviour in very different cultures across the world. She revealed the concealed systems of barter that shape our relationship with Silicon Valley, and delve into the cultural shifts driving investments in new markets and green issues. And she will revealed what anthropology can tell us about our own workplaces too (even when we are working from home), identifying the hidden tribes and rituals within a team. 

In conversation with former BBC economics editor Kamal Ahmed, Tett showed how business leaders and policy makers can benefit by asking themselves the questions every anthropologist asks: ‘If a Martian were to land here, what would they see? What am I ignoring since it seems so familiar?’


Praise for Anthro-Vision:

Absolutely brilliant.‘ – Daniel Kahneman

Anyone working to rebuild a more equal world will benefit from Tett’s well-argued case that to solve twenty-first-century problems, we must expand our fields of vision and fill in old blind spots with new empathy.‘ –  Melinda Gates

In a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, we need an antidote to tunnel vision, argues Gillian Tett. That antidote is Anthro-Vision . . . Admirers of her journalism will love this book, but they will also learn a great deal from it.’ – Niall Ferguson



Gillian Tett

Chairman of the US editorial board and U.S editor-at-large at the Financial Times

Chairman of the US editorial board and U.S editor-at-large at the Financial Times. She is the author of many books including Fools Gold and the new book Anthro-Vision: A New Way to see Business and Life. Gillian holds a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge and has won numerous awards, including Columnist, Journalist and Business Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards.

Kamal Ahmed

Journalist, author and former BBC News Editorial Director

Journalist who has been Editorial Director of BBC News and BBC Economics Editor. He has also held senior roles at The Telegraph Group, The Observer and The Guardian. He recently co-founded The News Movement, a start-up dedicated to tackling misinformation. He is the author of The Life and Times of a Very British Man.



Speakers subject to change.