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

Intellectual Shamans


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Recently, I attended the Spirituality and Creativity World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. I was presenting a couple of papers but focussed on the other presentations offered rather than my own. I was fascinated by a presentation by Sandra Waddock of Boston College entitled “Intellectual Shamans and Difference Makers: Creatively Working to Heal a Troubled World”. I immediately bought her book, inhaled it …  and now, am sending it out to you. There are many of us in academe who are here because we love teaching, love our students and hope to make a contribution to our field. It may not be the public perception of teaching, but I assure you, we are not here for the money!  The hidden pressure in academe is to conform, to repeat what has been done before and to not “rock the proverbial boat”.  To go against the norm, to innovate educational programs or create new (thus different) bodies of work is not encouraged and can limit if not ruin your academic career. Keep your head down and your citations up.

Waddock’s book “Intellectual Shamans: Management Academics Making a Difference” rocked my world. She defines intellectual shamans as scholars “who become fully who they must be, and find and live their purpose, to serve the world through three capacities: healing, connecting, and sense making, and in the process seek or come to wisdom.” Waddock interviewed twenty-eight thought leaders who have dared to challenge and then change the face of education. She tells their stories truthfully … meaning the painful trials and tribulations of questioning the oldest priesthood on the planet. People who now are revered in management education tell tales of how they were laughed at, ridiculed and in some cases fired for being ‘different’.  It is a book that gives me hope, much needed inspiration and maybe even a kick in the butt to try a little harder.  If you live now in academe, or are considering graduate work in any field, this book should be compulsory reading.

Waddock states: “If we reinvent education, if we reinvent universities, if we reinvent organizing, if we reinvent societies, economics, and sustainable enterprise of all sorts, we can perhaps tap the potential within human beings to reinvent our relationships with each other and change our world for the better. We have to dream a new world into existence.”

It gives me courage to keep going. I hope you read it.

Intellectual Shamans: Management Academics Making a Difference

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

What’s Important ….


If you want competitive advantage, here is the place to start.  Hyatt and De Ciantis take us on a journey of discovery in one of the most interesting areas of our lives – our values.  Working with values allows us to keep track of what is really important to us. I use this process and program within academic courses at the undergraduate and graduate level as well as executive education. We also use the software package – you can go online and explore, the details are all in the book. It will be added to my course work for Business Anthropology at the Copenhagen Business School this summer (only 7 more sleeps until my flight!)

It makes for a great discussion around the kitchen table or the office. A conversation that needs to happen on a regular basis – just as a reminder that there is more to life than daily routine. The Values Perspective Survey is one of my favourite tools, I highly recommend it.

Popular, thought-provoking, stimulating and (best of all!) fun – working with values perspectives will give you insight towards making better judgments and decisions – for yourself, your family and your organization.

What’s Important: Understanding and Working with Values Perspectives

Community Conversations


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.

Community Conversations: Mobilizing the Ideas, Skills, and Passion of Community Organizations, Governments, Businesses, and People, Second Edit

The Moment of Clarity


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!

The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems