ANTHROVATION! A Rite of Passage Board Game

Moving from the outer edges of your life's variables up to the "mountaintop." How do you successfully navigate a rite of passage?

Moving from the outer edges of your life's variables up to the "mountaintop." How do you successfully navigate a rite of passage?

There are 3 variables in your life that you need to balance -- personal, professional and organizational. To make this even simpler, it boils down to your self, your skills/knowledge, and your group(s). To take it one more level it is who you think you are, what you know and do, and how you get along with others. You can apply this logic from infancy to old age, from grade school to grad school, and of course through all your phases of work. To add one other dimension to it , you can think about the cultural, social and economic pressures on these three parts of your life and how they impact your decisions, behaviors and actions. 

In everyone's life you go through very specific rites of passage (e.g. adolescence, marriage, first job, etc). During these times, the tension between these three areas of your life are very front and center. But in reality we are constantly balancing these variables everyday and, you might even say, in low level rites of passage at all times.

Why call it a rite of passage? Or draw attention to these moments as rites of passage? Because the interplay of these three variables define your identity, who you are, and literally map your destiny! And to leave this process up to chance seems like a wasted opportunity to have intentionality and control over your life course. 

For all of these reasons, I have created Anthrovation -- a rite of passage game, to give people a chance, a structured moment, in a playful format, to openly evaluate these three variables in people's lives. In so doing you get to assess and evaluate how you are doing, decide on any changes you might want to make, and most importantly where to start/begin a path forward. 

Because many people feel the most pressure in their career, profession, workplace, and work/life balance, Anthrovation is clearly useful for this phase of people's lives.

In addition, Anthrovation can be used within organizations to focus on individual and team growth as well as departmental issues.

Businesses can also use Anthrovation to focus on the three variables and how they play out for the success of the business and its relationships with its customers.

But Anthrovation can also be used at any life/situational stage. High schoolers making college decisions, stay at home moms entering the work force, career shifting, and other life events both positive and potentially traumatic are well suited to the Anthrovation process. 

I came to Anthrovation because I am a cultural anthropologist with 25 years working in business and academia. As cultural anthropologists, we know that our lives are a series of constructions that we either consciously or subconsciously link to one another. By helping companies and students "innovate" (or Anthrovate!) I have seen the value of intentionally focusing on these life variables and rites of passage -- and how this process positively impacts people and businesses.

If you are interested in more information about Anthrovation -- a rite of passage game, and how it might work for you and/or your organization/team, please contact me at

You can learn more about me -- Robbie Blinkoff, and my business -- Context-Based Research Group, at



R.O.R. (return on relationships)

Robbie getting some ROR after his Keynote Speech on Culture of Presence... 

Robbie getting some ROR after his Keynote Speech on Culture of Presence... 

When we hit the pearly gates, there is only one metric: did you make a lot of friends? Our ROR is the most important metric in life. And so it is in business and marketing. As a cultural anthropologist, I can assure you of this fact. Make ROR your key driver and you will have a great business and get a great life thrown in as a bonus (or vice versa!)

Must Have Slide on Global Economics ("the elephant")

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You know how you keep hearing the world is better off as a whole, but you keep feeling not so better off? And you wonder why? And you wonder what that means if it is true? Well here you go! "The Elephant" graphic. What you see in this slide is how the poorest and rising economies in the world are feeling and having massive economic growth. While the developed middle class is in massive decline. And the trunk of the elephant? Well the richest of the rich are doing really really well too. It's not a slide that will give you answers or next steps. But it will help you understand why people, especially the middle class in the west, are feeling the way we do and consider what that means for the future -- for us and the globe

Throwback Thursday: Jimmy Carter's Crisis of Confidence Speech (1979)

It's a really good idea to go back for perspective to help us make sense of today's world. In 1979, Jimmy Carter (quite the populist himself) gave his famous "Crisis of Confidence" speech. Carter went out and spoke with "the people" and among other insights found that for all the crises out there (the gasoline shortage among them), what was most troubling had to do with our culture of consumerism. Rather than just show the speech, this video is a motion capture experiment to juxtapose Carter's speech with images from today's world. Culturally, certain trends that impact our worldview and behavior never go away -- and I think you will see that Carter's words are as powerful today as they were 38 years ago. 


Next Big Thing? BOOKS! (seriously!)

I heard a person in publishing say, in all seriousness, that books are the next big thing! Yes, books! Book sales are actually up (read here). And book publishing is looking like it is about to rise too! The reason this is important to me and why I bring it up? Because as a researcher, anthropologist, and consultant the increase in BOOKS suggests a shift toward this "culture and economy of presence" I have been talking about. People wanting a clear signal through the digital noise. To focus, to breathe. Sometimes the next big thing is the old thing, huh? That's cool!

Margaret Mead Journalism

At some point during election night, Brian Williams on MSNBC said something about the need for Margaret Mead Journalism. His point? The numbers had "lied." A bigger story existed outside the data. Everybody, even the conservative pollsters, had it wrong. People hid behind the "objective" numbers when they felt they were getting too personal or subjective. But the problem? The "objective" numbers (garbage) going in were created by the "subjective" people!  Shockingly the they ended up spinning a false narrative. The postmortem?  We need not throw out the baby with the bathwater, so the solution is to 1) ensure the right numbers are getting into our data sets and 2) a little bit of small data vis a vis the cultural anthropological approach of immersion and observation goes a long way. Thank-you Margaret Mead.

Social Design Projects are Culture Change Projects

As a cultural anthropologist I’ve always felt design thinking and social design resonated deeply with me.  I believe I figured out why, or at least figured it out for me. Social design projects (design think projects focused on social change -- or service design projects focused on consumer change) are culture change projects. To me, not approaching projects with this in mind is like getting a birthday gift with no gift wrap (or perhaps a wrapped birthday gift with no actual gift inside?). Re-designing society (or service), especially for disruption and innovation, means changing norms, behaviors, values and beliefs -- in other words you are changing culture. Whether these projects are about changing behavior for social innovation (such as women’s reproductive health) or for consumer innovation (such as automating grocery delivery) the challenge is bigger than just adding a great new road tested product or service. As a cultural anthropologist working in business, I have 110% confidence my clients can create products and services that can change the world. But success and failure will have much more to do with people’s ability to change their cultural behavior than the quality of the product or service. And there's the rub. 

Cultural Breakdown (?)

I'm a college professor for 20 year olds. Apparently this "re-cession generation" is hard to figure out. Some might say they're experiencing a cultural "breakdown." Or that our society is experiencing a cultural "breakdown." As a cultural anthropologist, one who studies culture, I find the way the word "cultural" is used as problematic and misunderstood (not just in this case but all the time). I also find the use of the word breakdown as problematic. A student in my class said, "isn't culture kind of always breaking down, not fixed, static and fluid?" Exactly. And I also think that the use of the word breakdown is definitely meant in a negative sense. Why can't breaking down be a good thing -- like a cultural renaissance or resurgence or opportunity? Certainly my students see it that way. But then they don't have much power in determining which "cultural" path is right. People need to know that culture is a verb. Culture is about the way we learn things, and how that knowledge is shared, and the symbols and objects that reflect that shared knowledge. Yes, that stuff is currently breaking down. But something is emerging. And it's like water flowing through stone, it will change things. But better to think and act as if it is an opportunity than a "breakdown" from which we see little hope.

Work at Gates Foundation

A former research director at Context landed a position at the Gates Foundation and I was lucky enough to get out there and work on a project with them. The experience was transformational for me. The "social innovation" movement is in full swing and it was my chance to see it in action. In short, the same processes for business and tech innovation are at work in places like Gates to create "social innovations." The Foundation is committed to creating technological solutions to improve people's lives around the world. The people you find working at Gates could seamlessly switch to jobs in the world's leading tech companies. It's great to see and be part, if only a small one, in this work. I certainly hope I get a chance to do more work in this "category."  A quick note on the picture above. Bill and Melinda gates clearly are managed for best optics on their global trips. But the two of them seem visibly engaged and fully immersed in these experiences. Empathy.

Small Scale Fishing in Panama

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 I started my career as a cultural anthropologist by studying fishing communities -- in particular, small-scale family based commercial fishing communities. When we were in Panama last summer we came across a family setting a fishing net off the beach. I was thrilled. That's me in the back of the picture with our good friend Katherine who is helping translate my English to Spanish to ask questions. I could say a lot about that morning, but one little story is about what I am doing in the picture. I asked the older man if I could help him bring in the rope. He motioned that would be fine. What I quickly found out is that the work was much harder than it seemed. Pulling yards and yards of rope on a sandy beach in the Panamanian heat and humidity is a chore. And there I was, learning by doing, embodying the work, feeling what it felt like (at least a little bit) to live and work as a small scale commercial fisher on the beaches of Panama.