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.
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.
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!
As I sit here listening to the rain outside my window in Copenhagen, I am staying warm and dry by prepping for next week’s classes. I have a great mix of international students who have given up their summer to explore new frontiers in business. Staying ahead of them is keeping me busy! I am always amazed at the insights to be gained by crossing interdisciplinary boundaries. The business professors also come in from all over the world and our lunch and dinner conversations keep ideas flowing. I think the beer in Denmark has something to do with it!
This week our focus in advanced market research at CBS is on Aristotle and social innovation (phronesis). “Telling the story” is the job of marketing in the world of business. And exploring new markets gives ample opportunity for developing a new story. Hopefully – to change the ending of our current economic tale. As a reference guide, Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters is an invaluable tool that works equally well for strategists. In order to gain competitive advantage, you need to go where other people are not (remember Blue Ocean Strategy)?
Michael Tierno has done a masterful job of walking the reader through the best of Aristotle. Whether or not he realizes it, Tierno has also done a masterful job of walking the reader through the complexities of experiential marketing. The principles are the same: engage your reader – engage your customer. Create a memorable experience. A story worth telling. A story worth remembering. If you need to insert some new life into the ‘story’ of your business, here is a worthwhile primer. And you get a little philosophy lesson as a bonus. Contemplation for the beach perhaps? You can bring the beer.
I waited a long time for this baby. Lee Sheldon has come out with his second edition of a fabulous resource book on character development. I know it says for games. You may not be a gamer, but if you ever construct a story – then this book deserves your attention. Storytelling is a discipline and as a discipline, it has some basic structure that is the difference between a good and a great story. The same holds for developing characters. So if you are building personas in scenario planning or marketing, this book is a great guide. If you are thinking of working with transmedia, then this book is invaluable. When you read this review, I will be starting a new course in marketing and storytelling at the business school in Copenhagen. Reviews over the next 6 weeks will be done in one of the oldest schools in Europe. Museums, cafes, architecture and great food are on the agenda. I’ll keep you posted.
When you straddle the world of business and the world of the arts, it can sometimes be a stretch. Josh Linkner reminds us that the only thing that can’t be commoditized is creativity. He has come up with 5 steps to follow that both discipline and enhance creativity process – for as those of you know who work in a creative space, creativity is also a discipline. When you are fighting to maintain ‘share of mind’ – some solid tools help the process. Simple and yet effective. The five steps are : (1) Ask (2) Prepare (3) Discover (4) Ignite (5) Launch. Linkner believes that this methodology can help anyone and encourages you to let your ideas come out and play. In order to play to win – instead of playing not to lose – to stand out and be truly remarkable – creativity is the only sustainable competitive advantage.
Some questions from the book to whet your appetite:
1. What percentage of your time is spent creating something new, as opposed to working out operational details or protecting the past?
2. List five ways you can beat your competition. How can they beat you?
3. If you were entering your industry as a start-up, how would you break the mold to beat the incumbents?
4. What elements of the past or status quo are you clinging to? What do you need to let go of?
5. List five ways your company is stagnating; for each of these, list at least two ideas addressing how to break through those barriers?
Some great food for thought and would work at the beach.
I have to admit I’m getting a little nervous. In a couple of weeks (or as my niece calls it – 15 more sleeps), I am getting on a plane for Doha, Qatar to speak at the Global Innovators Conference in Education. Certainly one of my passions and pet peeves at the same time. Education needs reform the same as our economy – and if you work in any large organization – you know how difficult it is to change bureaucracy. One of my favourite authors to read when feeling discouraged is Tony Wagner. His previous book, The Global Achievement Gap, outlines some of the changes currently taking place in education (reviewed last year). It might be slow but it is steady and we need all the support we can get. In Creating Innovators, he speaks to both educators and parents as to how to keep that wonderful creative spark alive in all of us. He provides countless examples of school programs that encourage both art and science – both sides of the brain – that spur creative and critical thinking. He also has included video content right in the book – technology working at its best. Download the Microsoft Tag Reader into your phone and you can watch various interviews with both Tony Wagner and many other innovators he has interviewed for the book. Available in both the Kindle edition and hardcover, this is a great read to add to your library of how to make the world a better place. I’ll let you know what happens in Qatar – some incredible work being done in education world-wide. So, patience for a little while longer. We are working as fast as we can to bring about educational reform.
Starting the New Year off right, to me means honouring my roots. The Power of Story. Paul Smith has written an excellent guide to why the art of story is the most probably the most important leadership skill. As Director of Consumer & Communications Research at Proctor and Gamble, Paul got a lot of practice. Storytelling and the power of story has finally come of age in the business world. Most successful companies now use storytelling as a leadership tool. Some examples:
At Nike, all senior executives are designated “corporate storytellers.” 3M banned bullet points years ago and replaced them with a process of writing “strategic narratives.” Procter & Gamble hired Hollywood directors to teach its executives storytelling techniques. Scenario planning (or storytelling in multiple forms) is now a highly effective form of strategy. And if you are in my faovurite transmedia space, well … I don’t have to tell you about the power and profitability of narrative. The rest of North America is slowly catching on to what successful global organizations have been using for years.
Business schools are beginning to add storytelling to coursework. I use story and build storytelling into every course I teach – strategy, competitive intelligence, consumer behaviour, marketing – all benefit from the use of the best communication tool ever invented. Start your New Year off by joining a movement that is both instructive and fun. If you want your organization to prosper in 2013, why not increase your competitive advantage? Sometimes, the old ways are the best.