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On the Brink

On the Brink

It's Time to Change the Workplace So Women and Businesses Can Thrive

On Apr 20, 2017 2:29:32 PM

/ Andrea Simon

, Culture Change, Corporate Anthropology, Corporate Culture

Did you know there are 5 million empty jobs in the U.S. waiting to be filled? And even though 47% of the workforce are women, if businesses don’t enable them to enter that workforce, then re-enter it after pausing to raise children, who is going to fill those empty jobs—657,000 of which are in IT? Perhaps Lisen Stromberg’s new book, “Work Pause Thrive,” has some answers.

Work, pause, thrive. Not just a nice idea—more like a recipe for success 

As I describe in a recent article I wrote for The Huffington Post (which you can read here), having a career and having a family might be a little easier than it was, say, 30 years ago, but not all that much. At least, this was Stromberg's experience. She found it quite hard to pursue a career in advertising and marketing while raising children so she paused, pivoted and became an award-winning journalist. Along the way, she realized that other women were struggling with the same choices, which caused her to ask, is pursuing a career and having children an either/or for women? And if so, does it have to be this way or could things change?

Like a true entrepreneur, Stromberg got to work seeking ways to solve the conundrum. First, she conducted research, surveying 1476 women (and a handful of men) and personally interviewing 186 women, trying to discover how well (or not well) women are managing to balance their working lives and mommy lives. What she found was that irrefutably, the U.S. has become a nation of women breadwinners (almost half of all American workers are women) and with numbers come power—in this case, the power to change.

To change the workplace, change the workplace's culture

Stromberg believes that for the workforce to be transformed into one where women and men can perform across all their roles—home, work and familythe workplace culture needs to change, focusing less on work/family needs as a problem to solve and more on creating a better work environment for both genders.

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Great Interviews on Techonomics About Business Anthropology

On Apr 5, 2017 11:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Culture Change, Corporate Culture, anthropology


Few things bring me more joy than talking about how anthropology can re-ignite a stalled business by getting its leaders to shift their to focus from what they think customers want to what customers actually want. To do this, CEOs and their staff need to leave their offices and venture out into the field (think "Undercover Boss") so they can look at their company with fresh eyes as if it was a foreign, small-scale society. This can't be done inside the walls of the C-suite.

So it was just terrific to be interviewed by Jason Middleton of KGO-810 Radio for his Techonomics radio broadcast recently. He "got" what I was saying, he asked really insightful questions and it was just a pleasure to speak with him. The interview was broken up into two parts, which you can listen to here: 

Andi Simon Interview with Jason Middleton/Techonomics: Part 1

Andi Simon Interview with Jason Middleton/Techonomics: Part 2

We covered a lot of ground, from Blue Ocean Strategy® to what men and women want in the workplace to my book, "On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights."  To whet your appetite and encourage you to learn more, I'll summarize both parts here.

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Successful Entrepreneur Sees “Holes in the Cheese” and Builds Great Companies to Fill Them

On Mar 17, 2017 11:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Corporate Culture, women in business

What is it that makes entrepreneurs different? The personal traits that enable them to look at things in ways most of us miss? For explanation, I love the way serial entrepreneur Kim Shepherd described it in our recent interview: entrepreneurs see “the holes in the cheese,” not the cheese itself. She added: “If men think things through, women feel things through.” 

Since we buy with emotion and justify with logic, it is the power of emotions in building businesses, particularly by women, that interests me. In fact, I recently wrote an article on the subject for The Huffington Post, which you can read here

Successful business-builders tend to share some common traits

What I am finding in my series of interviews with successful women entrepreneurs is that CEOs of startup, early stage and mid-market businesses typically “see” something that needs to be fixed (the holes in the cheese), “feel” the scope of the problem and then develop the processes to solve it. They believe in systems and accountability, yet intuition is key in turning their observations into innovations.

Kim Shepherd, most recently CEO of Decision Toolbox, is one such amazing business builder. As I listened to her describe how she looks for unmet needs and then figures out innovative ways to solve them, I realized that she (like many successful entrepreneurs) is a great observer. She is able to see things with fresh eyes and successfully implement new solutions by creating systems that enable people to not just do their jobs but do them remarkably well. 

Kim is very much a Blue Ocean Strategist® not seeking to do "more of the same"

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Terrific Anthropology Podcast With Roger Dooley @ The Brainfluence

On Feb 21, 2017 11:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Corporate Anthropology, Corporate Culture

It's so refreshing to speak with someone who is truly eager to learn about corporate anthropology and how it can help businesses better understand their customers and see their culture with fresh eyes. One of those someones is Roger Dooleyspeaker, author, blogger, founder of the marketing consultancy Dooley Direct and co-founder of College Confidential

Roger recently interviewed me for his podcast The Brainfluence, and there were so many things he wanted to know about what I do, such as why observing customers is an effective way to find out what they really want. I shared some success stories from my book, "On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights," of seven companies that were literally "on the brink" but using the tools and methods of anthropology, were able to turn their businesses around. We also discussed the importance of culture—those ties that bind people together through shared values, beliefs and behaviors—and how strongly it influences a company's productivity.

Roger is terrific and I urge you to take a listen. Just click on the link below.

Listen to The Brainfluence podcast

What you'll learn from this podcast

For a delightful half hour, we talked about:
  • Why tech and manufacturing companies are turning to anthropologists for help communicating with their customers and employees.
  • How people’s habits and mental shortcuts likely affect their voting habits, and how this held true in the recent U.S. election.
  • Why you must observe your customers first in order to understand them.
  • Why you should be asking employees and customers for their stories, not just facts.
  • Some of the digital observation tools that we use at SAMC to understand customers’ habits.
  • How to affect cultural change within your organization, and what you should do as a leader to facilitate it. 

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3 Ways A Female CEO Built A Successful Business With A Culture of Collaboration

On Feb 18, 2017 11:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Corporate Culture, women in business


Recently I have begun interviewing successful women to better understand the role culture has played in their personal and professional success. Apparently I'm not the only one curious about this, as there is a great deal of interest today in how corporate cultures can impact the success and ultimate value of a business.

However, my focus at the moment is specifically on the type of culture women CEOs create in their businesses and what impact, if any, this has had on their bottom line results. My other motivation for conducting these interviews is to hopefully uncover insights to share that might help other women as they build their businesses.

My first conversation was with Stephanie Breedlove, an entrepreneur who is now turning her business success into a pathway for other women. (Like minds.) My observations became a recent article for The Huffington Post, which you can read here

Want to listen to me read the article? Click here:


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To Be A More Effective Business Leader, Try Being More Likeable

On Feb 11, 2017 11:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Corporate Culture

I think my Vistage colleague, Elisa K. Spain, may have hit on something.

A Leadership Coach and Vistage Master Chair based in Chicago, Elisa recently wrote a blog examining the relationship between likeability and business success. She starts her piece by relating the story of Sally Field's famous Oscar acceptance speech when she gushed, “You like me, you really like me.”

Guess what? That's not what she said. Her actual words were, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me.” Elisa makes the point that we probably "misremember" the quote because "it isn’t just actors who are primarily motivated by being liked, we all are. Psychologists say this misquote is so sticky because it exemplifies a central human need." (Read Elisa's blog here.)

Does this mean that the more likeable we are, the more successful we will be? Not necessarily, but in many cases, yes.

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Great Interview with Adam Gamwell, Ryan Collins and Aneil Tripanty @ "This Anthro Life"

On Feb 7, 2017 11:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Corporate Anthropology, Corporate Culture

I totally enjoy talking about anthropology, applying its methods and tools to business and organizational settings, and teaching people why corporate anthropology can help their business or non-profit "soar."

So you can understand why it was a pleasure to speak with the TAL team—Adam Gamwell, Ryan Collins and Aneil Tripathy—recently about corporate anthropology on their podcast "This Anthro Life." (You can listen to all of their podcasts on iTunes and download individual ones here.)

Over 38 minutes, we discussed:

  • How can we make change easier?  
  • Do women lead differently from men?
  • What is corporate anthropology?

and a whole lot more. To listen to the podcast, click on the link below.

Listen to This Anthro Life podcast

And here is a 4-minute overview of our conversation that you might enjoy: 


The team's questions, my answers and the discussion that followed were truly amazing; I share some of them here.

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My Randi Zuckerberg Dot Complicated Radio Interview

On Nov 19, 2016 11:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Corporate Culture, women in business


On October 24, 2016, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Randi Zuckerberg on her show Dot Complicated for Wharton Business Radio. Randi and I then followed it up with a Q&A session for her #52Women52Weeks series on LinkedIn. Truly honored. Time to share this with you because this was a great conversation that took our ideas in new directions.

Randi has a format for asking interviewees to rate a statement "yea" or "nay." Do you agree or disagree? They were tough questions. Read the recap of the entire interview by clicking on the title below and see if you agree with my yeas or nays:

I'll highlight one of them for you. During her life's journey, Randi has had many careers: Director of Market Development at Facebook (and Mark Zuckerberg's sister), a Broadway actress, an author, founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, Editor-in-Chief of Dot Complicated, radio host for SiriusXM/Wharton Business Radio and currently a vocal advocate of women in the digital landscape. So I wasn't at all startled by her question: "How can anthropological perspectives help women accelerate their roles as innovative leaders?" This was an easy yay!

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Why Are Women Largely Absent In The World of Hi-Tech?

On Nov 17, 2016 11:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Corporate Culture, women in business

Whether we acknowledge it or not, every company has a particular culture (as does every group of humans, actually). As a corporate anthropologist, I have always been deeply interested in the role culture plays in business, studying the ways it can propel a company forward or hold it back. Along those lines, I've lately started looking into how culture helps or hinders the advancement of women in business, and conducting research on the type of cultures in which women prefer to work. (For more details, read the article I wrote for Forbes in June of this year.) 

Where are all the women in business?

Apparently I hit upon a hot topic! I have had several interviews lately on radio shows where our conversation turned from "What is anthropology, anyway?" to "What do you see happening to women and corporate cultures today?" And by the way, where are those women in the Silicon Valleys of the world? Is their absence a reflection of the cultures that arise in male-dominated world of hi-tech?

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking with Jason Middleton for the San Francisco KGO 810 Techonomics radio show.

It was a wonderful discussion about things that really matter to Jason — like why there are so few women in hi-tech firms. And why aren't women finding more VC monies to start their own businesses? And if hedge funds run by women do far better than those run by men, why aren't more of them, and more companies in general, for that matter, developing women for those C-suite jobs?

But rather than steal the whole show, I invite you to listen to our radio podcast  Jason produced two of them (highly unusual, I'm told) — and then tell us what you think. Just click on the links below.

Andi Simon Interview with Jason Middleton/Techonomics: Part 1

Andi Simon Interview with Jason Middleton/Techonomics: Part 2 

We look forward to hearing from you at info@simonassociates.net.

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