Opposites: A Must-Have Tool For Every Research And Innovation Professional

If you are a fan of the show Seinfeld then you might remember that episode where George Costanza decides to do the opposite of everything his instincts tell him to do. It is perhaps the only episode where everything George touches turns to gold. 

That episode always reminds me of an important concept in anthropology that can serve as a critical tool for innovation and research professionals. It’s the concept of opposites. In the early part of the 20th century, linguists and anthropologists figured out that when human beings are presented with new ideas, they make sense of them by contrasting them with existing ideas that are well understood.

Read the full article here on Forbes.


Perception vs. Reality.

More often than not our job as anthropologists is to help our clients distinguish between perception and reality. Here’s one such recent example.


Consumers’ primary concern for probiotics is its efficacy.

When beginning to lose market share on their probiotics offerings, our client assumed that they needed to fight to prove the efficacy of their products.


It’s about food’s interaction with probiotics, and specifically about Oxalates!

Following consumer breadcrumbs uncovered a different reality. As consumers learn about probiotics, they also learn about the role of oxalates in the foods they are consuming. [Consuming too many oxalates can negatively impact gut health and nutrient absorption.] 

Efficacy wasn’t the problem consumers were trying to solve. They were looking for insight – and assurances – into how to pair pre- and pro-biotics with their diet to maximize gut health impact and perhaps most importantly, enjoy the foods they love.

You’ll notice in the above chart that ‘oxalates’ in the context of probiotics is still in the early consensus stage of maturity. What’s interesting to note however is that until recently this was an idea that was volatile to the consumer and has only recently begun to stabilize and impact the probiotics macro culture. But despite being in Early Consensus it offers a better ‘fix’ for the probiotics landscape than a simple ‘efficacy’ fight…which is neither novel nor valuable to the consumer’s needs.


Season 2 of “Why Meaning Matters” is well underway.

In Season one, we tackled the role of anthropology in business. We also looked at why studying meaning was critical if you wanted to understand where culture was going and how it may impact your work and the success of the projects you are bringing to market.

In Season 2 we look to explore a wide range of cultural shifts underway, and how they are reshaping different categories and issues.

Let’s take a look at some of the areas we covered thus far:

Episode 1.

The Future of Interior Space – The Meaning of Home Decor & Design

In this episode we explore the meaning of home design and decor via three themes – accessible living, calming retreat, and working & learning – and how retailers can jump on the opportunity of helping consumers to create multifunctional spaces.

Episode 2.

The Future of Fashion – The Meaning of Luxury Apparel

In this episode we delve into the meaning of fashion by exploring size inclusivity, the second-hand market and sustainability. Just like in the conversation around home (in episode 1) – there’s a discernible shift in the conversations and the meaning of Luxury apparel presenting an opportunity for those in the retail space to capture more hearts and minds.

Episode 3.

The Future of Community Immunity- The Meaning of Infection and Disease

In this episode, we explore the changing meaning and consumer understanding of infectious disease. Infection and disease has been seen by North Americans as an ‘other’ problem. But, triggered by a global pandemic striking close to home, that cultural meaning is changing by leaps and bounds.

Episode 4.

The Future of Skincare – The Meaning of Healthy Skin

In this episode, we look to uncover what it means to have healthy skin in today’s society. MotivBase and folks in the skincare industry have been tracking and waiting for the meaning and importance of skin health to become mainstream. And now, it has! Our hosts make the connection between wellness and skin health through deep healing, achieving balance and embracing imperfection and why that’s important to the industry moving forward.

Episode 5.

The Meaning of Wellness and Altruism – A Case Study

In this episode, we discuss the results of a report produced from a recent partnership with Nielsen IQ where MotivBase. In it, we were tasked with decoding the implicit meaning of altruistic purpose when it comes to health and wellness. What is altruism in the context of wellness? Fundamentally, when it comes to our health and wellness, it’s a human being’s recognition that, for our own betterment, for our own mental health and physiological health, people also need to do things with others in mind.

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Each week, we are talking about how meaning shapes our experience and sets our expectations. Be sure to sign up via any of the links above, or add us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to your favorite Podcasts.

What do you want to research today?