Once again I’m packing for my return to the Copenhagen Business Summer School (ISUP). I am so looking forward to teaching Business Anthropology and Organizational Ethnography – big mouthful but basically … its people-watching with some theory thrown into the mix. Key textbook is written by a fellow Canuck, Sam Ladner who is an Anthropologist at Amazon. She has written a yummy book, Practical Ethnography – a what the heck is it and how to do it book. Great for students. Great for those who wish to explore the new worlds of understanding meaning. Ever taken a survey and found you didn’t fit into the neat little boxes? That is because traditional market research uses an ‘etic’ position – defined by the researcher. Somewhat useful but sometimes misses the mark.
Ethnography is the study of culture. As Ladner explains “Ethnographers connect details to wider patterns of social life.” It connects direct insights about people and what they care about and why. It takes what is called an ’emic’ position – being from the person’s point of view. Redefining the box or in many cases, removing the box altogether to obtain actionable insight that leads to a game changer. Ethnography puts the needs of the consumer first. And its about time.
If you care about having a competitive advantage, its time to care about ethnography. I can hardly wait to introduce it to the excellent students at CBS. People watching! in the summer! in Copenhagen! Let the educational games begin ….
If you are serious about understanding your customers, you need to hone your ethnographic skills. In plain english, how you watch and listen to people in order to obtain actionable insights. My favourite go-to book for advice is a gem from Hy Mariampolski. It is a practical guide to understanding ethnography – for those of you who didn’t study anthropology. Some business schools are getting smarter and suggesting business students study both anthropology and psychology in order to obtain better and faster customer insights. As Mariampolski states: “The greatest challenge for market research nowadays is to deliver value by linking findings to the strategic business decisions that confront corporate decision makers. Ethnography responds to this challenge by observing consumers in the their ‘natural’ environments and then turning these consumer encounters into ideas that transform brands and product categories.” The book gives you basic theory and very practical guides to implementation. For beginners or experts, this is a great reference guide. A recommended text for my business anthropology classes in Copenhagen and here in Canada.
Margaret Wheatley said that “whatever the problem, community is the answer.” When social innovation is a hot topic, knowing how to engage your community in whatever business is occupying your time is an underdeveloped if not forgotten skill. Author Paul Born brings back community engagement and outlines ten simple techniques for community conversations. How to start them, keep them talking and then utilize the information in a constructive way that produces a win-win scenario for both business and community. Born is a master storyteller, and draws from decades of experience in community action where common goals are embraced by a diverse group of people . His conversational writing style makes this an easy, enjoyable read. People sometimes forget that communities are living things – they need to be tended and nurtured in order for them to grow and more importantly, flourish. If you wish to engage your community, this book is a great place to kickstart your process.
I’ve been busy preparing for a new summer course at the Copenhagen Business School this summer called “Corporate Anthropology and Organizational Ethnography” – a juicy title for academics! For normal people, the course is designed to examine corporate culture – how to create and maintain cultures that drive competitive advantage. One company who will be coming to visit the class is ReD Associates, a group of corporate anthropologists who have offices in Copenhagen and New York. I found this interesting group last year while wandering Copenhagen. Two of the partners, Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen have written a new book – The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve your Toughest Business Problems. I am also using this book as a text for the business course – so you know how much I like it! Why? To quote the authors “The business culture is using the wrong model of human behaviour. It is getting people wrong.” The authors are introducing a different lens to look at customers, consumers and employees – one that takes into account human emotion. They also show why smart organizations are looking for business anthropologists to join their ranks. The authors deliver a practical framework rooted in both theory and experience and a problem-solving method to help you start to get people ‘right’.
Do you want to attract top talent to your organization? This book helps pave the way. Its available in hardcover and kindle (I have finally succumbed to carrying my favourites on my computer – it helps to eliminate overweight luggage). Happy reading!
Back from Copenhagen and getting over jet lag. So catching up on my reading and went looking for a little treasure that is a great start to the Fall madness. Seth Godin put this book out in 2010 and if you haven’t done so, its worth the read. Our economy is sluggish and the only people who can pick it up – is us. Linchpin is a reminder – sometimes not so gentle – but maybe a little push is needed. One of the quotes from the book that sticks in my mind is “Raising the bar is easier than it looks, and it pays for itself. If your boss won’t raise your bar, you should.”
Maybe its the influence of hanging out for the summer at a world-class business school in Copenhagen. Maybe its heat stroke. But it gets me to thinking. What if we all decided to raise the bar? Regardless of what our employers expect? What if we all started to change the ending of our own journey? Godin speaks to the fact that many of us have been asked to hide our empathy and our creativity in service to a job description which is more than likely, outdated. What if we went outside our own ‘box’ and started using our innate creativity – for our own purpose? Even if you aren’t sure what your purpose is, you probably won’t find it in your job description. Your family doesn’t know either or else you wouldn’t be looking for it now.
So a little expansion while we still have great weather? Methinks its worth the effort. Part of my expansion is working on a Tedx talk for September 14th in MIlton, Ontario. A little part scary and a big part exciting. The theme? Linchpins. Hope to see you there.
My adventures as a Visiting Professor here in Copenhagen are coming to an end. Teaching at the Business School here has been a fabulous experience – even more so by the realization that I don’t have to explain the importance of storytelling in Denmark. Nor to the international students or faculty who are in attendance. As I found in the Middle East, storytelling is considered foundational to insightful communication. It signifies sophistication. So keeping up with my reading in this area was a double delight.
I have a newly released offering for you. Ty Montague has supplied a welcome addition to the field of storytelling. Taking the telling into actionable results. He starts from the premise that all of us have a personal story or metastory. From there, he makes the move towards interpretation of these metastories, as a shortcut to understanding the people around us. He drives home the point that our stories are about meaning, what we value.
Montague then moves towards brands – also emphasizing meaning over product and the corporate cultures that drive the brands. He speaks of “story doing” and claims this is the new landscape for brands. He asks an interesting question for consideration: What if you built a process around first understanding the story that needed to be told, and then used that story to inform every aspect of the company? The emphasis to be placed not on the telling – but on the doing. He offers an action map that can be used to drive this process. Everything stems from the metastory – any new products or serves, new experiences, new team structures, new processes and new communication. This new approach? Social innovation by design.
It’s an interesting lens on a powerful proven method. It follows the same logic that Roberto Verganti gave us in his “Design-Driven Innovation” with a few additional twists. Bottom line is narrative communicates meaning. Narrative is here to stay and for any business that doesn’t realize its potential well – survival is optional.
OK the title got me. I spent years hitting those keys. Needing a little break from summer school, this book called my name. Yes, fun reading – but big message. The new true marketing imperative is telling a great brand narrative. One word? Storytelling. Mitch Joel takes us on a journey that will open your eyes to the future that is already here. He maintains the true opportunity for business going forward to to create and maintain a direct relationship with consumers. To look forward with the eyes of a consumer and not as a business person. Consumers are social – more than they have ever been before. Consumers are more hands on – because they can be. A great example used by Joel is “Kickstarter” – a New York startup founded in April 2009 and has raised more than $275 million for more than sixty-five thousand projects since it started. Can’t get the attention of venture capitalists because you are too small (or too whatever)? Kickstarter may be the vehicle for you. Driven by consumers. Supported by consumers. A great example of crowdsourcing – if your public supports you, who needs VCC’s?
Some simple rules:
1. Deliver value first.
2. Be open.
3. Be clear and consistent.
4. Create a mutally beneficial world.
5. Find your true fans – your evangelists.
Start looking at media as one platform – text, images, audio and video. Once your delivery platform becomes one digital pipeline – you can put it anywhere. The biggest challenge will be to figuring out exactly where that ‘where’ is. Our world now entails the exponential growth of new media. What does that mean? Think fast and agile AND slow build. Responding to market forces or even better, staying ahead of the trends while at the same time, a slow build with your customers – relationships take time. That relationship gives you insight – not just data. And then he turns to rebooting your life. A very interesting read!