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 ….
Fall is always an exciting time for me. Maybe because it is the start of a new school year – so therefore full of possibilities and potential. Maybe because Fall is my favourite season – transformation is literally in the air. I had an excellent summer in Copenhagen at the Business School. It is such a pleasure working with students who are dedicated to their learning and celebrate their own potential. Is that every student? No, but enough to rejuvenate my spirits and feed my soul.
One of the highlights this summer was visiting NOMA – an experience best described as living ‘food art’. Definitely a bucket-lit item for any foodie. The meal was superb as could be expected, but the experience was made transformational for me in hearing a sous-chef state: “I don’t work for a restaurant. I serve NOMA. I serve my country. I serve a movement.” The statement left me in tears, for I have never heard such a powerful statement about corporate culture. I only wish I could hear that level of commitment more. But first, it has to be earned. And that is the role of the leader.
Simon Sinek has written a great book about leading an innovation culture. How you get it and how you keep it. What if you got up every day and could not wait to get to work? How many of us can actually say “I love my job” let alone “I serve” as above? The title comes from a marine general who states that leaders go to the back of the chow line and the most junior soldiers eat first. Why? Because it symbolizes in no uncertain terms that the role of a leader is to sacrifice individual comfort in service to the good of those in their care. Walk the talk. What a novel concept and what a shame it is so rare. Have you had an experience of that type of leader? I have. And would follow them anywhere.
Sinek also covers his topic from a biological/sociological perspective which provides additional insight into how cultures thrive. If you are contemplating any initiatives this Fall, as part of your own organizational transformation, this book is a must. It is one of the best business books I have read in a while. And for this book addict, that is high praise indeed. A Fall Feast for you.
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.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch The door is round and open, don’t go back to sleep. – Rumi
Another exceptional find for you from the Spirituality and Creativity in Management conference in Barcelona. Judi Neal has written an exceptional book about those who walk on the leading edge of creativity and innovation. A friend of mine calls it ‘the bleeding edge’ – as you can bleed to death out there. It is not a place for the faint-hearted. Judi Neal has courageously walked this path all her life.
Judi Neal is the retired director of the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas. Judi has been one of the earlier and consistent professionals and academics dedicated to the topic of Spirituality in the Workplace over the past years. She created the Spirit at Work association and website more than a decade ago, played an essential role in creating and establishing the Management Spirituality and Religion interest group within the Academy of Management and developed the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace from 2009 to 2013 as its first Director. Judi is an officer at the Academy of Management and co-founder of the Journal of Management, Spirituality and Religion. She has earned her place as an Edgewalker and moves freely across the bridge she has built.
Edgewalkers tells the tales of those change agents who wish to truly revolutionize the role of business in the world. Edgewalkers are those that don’t ‘fit’ the conventional roles in an organization. Edgewalkers have a strong sense of their purpose in life. Edgewalkers are the ‘bridge builders who link different paradigms, cultural boundaries and world views’. Judi speaks to five major attributes of all Edgewalkers: self-awareness, passion, integrity, vision and playfulness. Who do you know that has these traits? She believes that Edgewalkers are the leaders of the future and calls them the corporate shamans who walk into the invisible world and bring back wisdom and guidance for their organizations. Any organization that embraces and nurtures their Edgewalkers will have a unique competitive advantage. I couldn’t agree more!
This book provides both stories that inspire and practical tools to enhance your edge walking skill. So … will you come to the edge?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.