The Anthropology of Business: The Ties That Bind

This post originally appeared as Part 1 of a guest series called The Anthropology of Business on Momentum Canada’s fantastic platform.


Every business tells a story. Simon Sinek might say that the story of a business constitutes it’s why and it’s why constitutes it’s raison d’etre. If manifested correctly it is the why of a business that we interact with most intimately. To sell is human and we are uniquely wired to fall for a good story. To fall for wonder. To immerse ourselves first in what could be rather than what is.


Everyday, we inherit sensory perceptions from the external world, we process them internally and then we behave based on the beliefs we form around those perceptions. The world gives us what it has to offer and we do what we will with it.

 Businesses are in some ways different from the world because they get to craft their own story. They get to choose the stories that are on offer and the worlds they create.

 I’m fascinated with why we enter into those relationships and how we interact with those stories.

 What makes you light up when an email is worded just right? What is it in us that can size up the person in front of us in an instant, but if someone asked you to explain your intuition in words you couldn't do it? Inevitably you would fail. You would babble about a feeling or an instinct.

It comes down to a simple idea; the anthropology of relationships.

Every single decision that person made up until this point, here and now, told you a story. The way they crafted the cold-email, the way they were sitting when you arrived, what others told you about them, and how they greeted you gave you everything you need to form the basis of the infamous first impression.

 We choose to enter into relationship based on at least 1 of the 3 following options:

  1. We trust this person or thing

  2. We’ve heard good things about this person or thing

  3. We have cause to imagine what this person or thing could be.

Option 1 is straightforward. This person is smart and we’re aligned. You’ve bridged the gap between conviction and credibility and I trust that you’ve been forthright and can produce. Does anything feel quite so good as when you choose to trust someone and they prove you right?

Option 2 will always be worth our time regardless of how dull it may sound. The 5-star review. The most up-voted comment. Amazon’s choice. “This kid’s something special.” Easy. Simple. Go get the five stars.

 Now, if you’re anything like me, Option 3 makes your arm hair stand at attention and your mouth curl into a smirk. Option 3 is what every single company in the Third Industrial Revolution should be striving towards. Option 3 is when you’ve been told a story. You’ve been transported to a future where your relationship with this person or thing is indivisible from life itself. Life itself! You can’t possibly imagine being without it. In fact, you vaguely remember the days when you didn’t have it.

Apple and Disney are two of the worlds most iconic corporations for a reason. Yes, you trust them to knock it out of the park because they frequently do (even if Finding Nemo didn’t need a sequel). Yes we’re berated by our peers that we have to see what the iPhone X camera can do and we can’t miss seeing Frozen, but that’s the easy stuff.

 What they both do better than anyone is they sell us a story. Indeed, even more than that, they sell us new worlds. Limitless possibility and limitless potential. Especially Disney. We enter into relationship with them because of what could be! The opportunity to be something more. To do more. To want more. To expect more. They sell us the story that gives us a why.

 Go forth, and see what could be today.

 The introduction to The Anthropology of Business Series can be found here.