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

Leaders Eat Last


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.

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

Edgewalkers


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?

Edgewalkers: People and Organizations That Take Risks, Build Bridges, and Break New Ground

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

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.

Daring Greatly


I’ve admired Brene Brown for some time. Her honesty, her humour, her courage. Inspiring enough to watch repeatedly myself and also bring into the classroom. Its been a really busy Fall and I’m glad for some downtime. Enough that I finally got around to reading her latest book, Daring Greatly.  What a treat!  If you haven’t had the pleasure of her first talk, or her follow up – the Ted videos are are great place to warm up.  Daring Greatly was an even greater pleasure.  Mainly because I had the time to absorb the message – and its a tough subject – shame. What holds us back and keeps us from attempting whatever it is that is within us trying to get out.

Jung always said that there are no accidents. The timing for me was perfect – the beginnings of a new research project. Time to read and reflect. Time to spend with student researchers plus a little time in the classroom.  Time for an adventure into the unknown and uncharted. Mapping out new territory. Time to dare greatly.

Brown gives good advice. She says she only accepts and pays attention to feedback from others in the arena. I’ll try and keep that in mind! Wise words to to start a new project, a new adventure, a New Year.   I’ll let you know what I find out on this next phase of the journey. Best wishes for 2014!

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead