Practical Ethnography


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 ….

Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector

The Orange Line


I love doing keynotes! It gives me a chance to not only share my story but also to hear the story of others – where they are and where they may yet go. Recently I keynoted a conference of Women Entrepreneurs in Guelph, Ontario in celebration of International Women’s Day. The conference was sponsored by Innovation Guelph, a fabulous organization dedicated to the entrepreneurial spirit.  Many women and men brought their daughters to the opening keynote and I had the chance to speak to many of them. What incredible potential waiting in the wings! I started thinking about what kind of advice I wished I had been given when I started my career path. And, I found a great book especially for women. So I am sharing this gem with you.  The Orange Line is about creating the space to realize that potential in all of us … in many of us, yet untapped. It is about recognizing the social conditioning that informs limitations rather than opportunities. Its about choosing BOTH a career and a life. The authors research uncovered how women get trapped in outdated modes of thinking that define the “perfect woman”.  An easy read on a difficult topic that needs exposure to sunlight! Many thanks for Jodi Detjen, Michelle Water and Kelly Watson for telling it like it is.

So that we can change it.

The Orange Line: A Woman’s Guide to Integrating Career, Family and Life

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution that’s Transforming Education


Some books you just inhale, and this is one of them.  I have loved Ken Robinson since his first ted.talk where he speaks to how schools kill creativity. Viewed over 33 million times, you might say it struck a collective nerve. His latest book does it again. One of my colleagues mentioned it to me today and I grabbed it on Kindle almost immediately. Over dinner, I read. Feed the body and feed the soul.

He speaks of the need for revolution by thinking of how schools current work (or most don’t actually), asking what counts as a school and how we might tell a different story about education. Why? His words. “If you design a system to do something specific, don’t be surprised if it does it. If you run an education system based on standardization and conformity that suppresses individuality, imagination and creativity, don’t be surprised if that’s what it does.” This books belongs in the hands of every parent who is worried about their child’s education. It belongs in the hands of every teacher who is passionate about their students – who knows that educare means to ‘draw forth’ NOT stuff in. We need to stop the profit focus on what has been called “educational puppy mills”.  If you care about educational reform, this book is a recipe for revolution. Other countries are paying attention and have transformed their educational system.

So what are we waiting for?

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education

How Google Works


Google is one of those companies that everyone admires but secretly feels that such a structure/approach/strategy/corporate culture (take your pick) would never work in your field.  The book “How Google Works” is a fascinating read for many reasons. “If you hire the right people and have big enough dreams, you will finally get there” is the mantra offered by Larry Page, CEO and Co-founder. When Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google in 1998, they had no formal business training or experience. That was considered an advantage, not a liability. We are challenged to explore our own relationship to aiming high if not higher, as well as our own views about failure and experimentation. Ours view about how we learn. Our views about how and why we work. Our views on the role of technology. Our views on most things that drive our behaviour. Google strategy? Hire as many talented people as possible and get out of their way. I love their fascination with ‘smart creatives’ – those who have a combination of technical knowhow and multidimensional management flair. Hands on experience combined with rich data narrative. Difficult to manage? Yes. And if you don’t possess the skill to do so, get out of the game. So a wake-up call for any organization still run by micro-managers using antiquated methods of command control. Think of dinosaurs mating … soon to be extinct.

A great talk featuring Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg about their work at Google and the book. Interviewed by Salman Khan of the Khan Academy, this is a real eye-opener – honest, sometimes bluntly so, transparent in management style, very inspirational and I also found it hugely entertaining.

A great book for a snowed-in weekend. Or a leisurely read on a beach. Just a great book period.

 

How Google Works

Scaling Up Excellence


Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao have written a great little book on how to scale up farther, faster and more effectively. After having spending last week at the HRPA conference and talking to over 1,000 eager HR professionals committed to improving organizational performance, I thought this book would be a great addition to any library. In it they uncover why it is so difficult for most people to link everyday actions to the organization’s long-term goals. My take is that the science behind gamification will contribute to that understanding. Engagement is crucial – and this book covers much of the ground that is missing in today’s current engagement practices. One of my favourites is their take on the size of teams. I always hated the two pizza rule – mine is one large pizza only! So a team of six or less is highly effective. Groups that are larger tend to talk a lot, waste a lot of valuable time and accomplish little. If that is the norm in your organization, this book is for you!!

Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less

Finding Your Creative Core, 2nd Edition


So happy to announce the 2nd edition of my workbook, Finding Your Creative Core, is now available. Its been a really busy Fall!  Building a creative environment within any organization starts with values – your own and the values-in-action within the organization. How often have you articulated your own values?  Even thought about them?  Something that most of us take for granted and yet, values form the foundation of almost everything we do.  My workbook provides a starting point of exploration – a personal Heroic Journey to the centre of Self.  For it is there that you will find the creative core you have always had.  I love working with the Heroes Journey – I admit my bias! Many business books have been written that utilize the idea of the Hero, but most play at a superficial level, failing to address the power of the archetype itself.  In November, I published  an article in the Integral Leadership Journal that gives a more in-depth look at why the Heroes Journey has such power to transform. Suffice to say that the Journey always begins with each of us, willing or not, ready or not. An old Roman motto says it best – the Fates aid those who will … those who won’t they drag. When you are touch with your creative core, you are better prepared for the Journey. I wish you safe passage!

2015 will be again be a busy year. I’m getting ready for the 2015 Human Resources Professionals Association national conference in Toronto.  I’ll be speaking on corporate culture and the ‘secret sauce’ of design-driven innovation. I hope to see you there! Best wishes for you and yours for the holiday season and 2015. Our journey continues.

Creative Confidence


The Kelley brothers from IDEO are at it again. After David Kelley has his brush with cancer, he decided to focus on what was most important to him – a wake up call not so gently delivered. The result is this new book on Creativity. Ever since Ken Robinson stated that ‘creativity is as important as literacy‘ – it has become a cause worth promoting and celebrating. I had the pleasure of listening to David Kelley last week talking about design thinking, bringing to the forefront the human element in products and in organizations. Innovation comes from people, and people can enhance their innate creativity. Nothing is more important to economic viability then leveraging creative capital in our people. A message worth repeating over and over again. The piece that many executives seem to miss is that working from this mindset increases employee engagement, reduces turnover, keeps your talent at home and drives profitability. So what is holding us back? A worthwhile read to get you headed in the right direction.

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All