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!
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.