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 ….
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.
George Friedman is a NY Times Best Seller author for a reason. As CEO and founder of Stratfor, the world’s leading private intelligence think tank, he is called upon frequently to speak to upcoming trends. In “The Next Decade”, Friedman speaks to the political shifts taking place, decisions, their consequences, and how North America will handle the conflicts and opportunities that lie ahead. Well worth curling up by the fire and exploring how the next decade will impact your life and the lives of those you love. What better holiday present?
I have been following the work of Grant McCracken for a while and have yet to be disappointed. McCracken is an anthropologist that studies culture in organizations and has taught at MIT, Harvard and is a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge. Following his previous work Chief Culture Officer in 2011, his latest book on Culture is just as informative and more importantly, for summer reading, entertaining. Culturematic is about making an ingenuity engine that drives performance – something sorely needed in this economy. For emerging producers of culture, this book serves as a digital guide to the territory. For traditional producers of culture – hopefully the book will act as a source of inspiration. How to manage innovation from the C-suite? This book provides some welcome guidelines for creating a culture of innovation. If you want to get ahead of your competition, the most secret sauce of competitive advantage is your culture. McCracken shows you both why and how. He blogs extensively at culture by.com on the intersection points between anthropology and economics. Worth checking out.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter has written an fascinating book on values and purpose, the meaning behind management. Change is indeed everywhere, and we need a new story to communicate our transition. Consider this: a corporate global village where a common culture of management, based in values, unifies the practice of business. A pipedream? Maybe not. Kanter presents what works and what hasn’t – and highlights the current challenges of leadership and innovation. Kanter’s most valuable message? The importance of treating people as assets, not costs.
In our changing business landscape, a new map is necessary. In The New How, author Nilofer Merchant explores the mandatory role of collaboration – and why going tribal creates business solutions that provide competitive advantage. Merchant claims that the best strategy is one that is driven by employees at all levels and across all business silos. Novel concept! Working together. Why do we need this reminder? Engaging employees means getting people to talk to each other – not in a political sense, but an authentic one. Main message? Don’t tolerate behavior that limits collaboration. I know that is where I want to work!
Before writing Beyond, Simon Dolan and friends predicted the fundamental change required in order for us to pull out of the recession – and that is a return to ethical standards in business. Novel concept. In Managing by Values, the authors explore why values can position an organization for competitive success. They provide a strategic leadership tool and practical applications to mine market potential. This book is indicative of why ESADE business school in Barcelona is one of the best.
The book gives a step-by-step implementation guide to working with values in any organizational setting. A true competitive edge!