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:
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.
Part 1 of Jason Middleton/Techonomics podcast
At the beginning of our discussion, Jason was very interested in how anthropology applies to the ways in which businesses attract customers, especially in terms of knowing what the customer really wants. I explained that people can't easily tell you what they want—you have to go observe them. The problem is that people are so comfortable with their habits, and the mindset of "This is the way we do it here," that it becomes very difficult to get them to see things in new ways, and then change. By and large, nobody is taught how to change.
By hanging out with your customers to understand the essence of what they are doing, you can then step back and ask yourself, "What could we do to help them?"
As Jason and I discussed, at Simon Associates Management Consultants we work with companies that want or need to change. When we work with a client, we're looking for that "a-ha" moment where the brain finally allows a new idea to burst through. It's this "seeing with fresh eyes" that lets you focus on the customer.
The key is to listen to what people are asking for that you don't do. Then your opportunity is to figure out ways to do this.
Part 2 of Jason Middleton/Techonomics podcast
In the second segment, Jason and I talked about the role of women in leadership roles in corporations, including Silicon Valley and tech companies. What women want in the workplace is surprisingly in line with what men want at work: collaboration and mutually beneficial recognition and praise. The data is very compelling, as this preference for teamwork is clearly seen in the results of our research among both men and women.
I explained that at SAMC, we use a wonderful diagnostic tool called the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) that was developed at the University of Michigan by Dr. Robert E. Quinn and Dr. Kim S. Cameron. Using this tool, we analyzed 3000 men and 3000 women in the U.S. What we were trying to determine was which type of corporate culture each gender would prefer: Clan, Ad Hoc, Market or Hierarchy. You can read about the research here.
What floored us was that both males and females preferred a strong Clan culture that emphasizes collaboration, teamwork and a focus on people. The second-most preferred culture was Ad Hoc, or innovative, creative culture. These were followed by a Competitive culture and then a Hierarchical, controlling one. This underscored what anthropology has always taught: that people are tribal. There is great power in the tribe. As humans, we are most comfortable living in the equivalent of "social herds."
As I told Jason, when you enable people to become more empowered and you encourage them to be more innovative, they're more able to capitalize on the changes that are before them. This means that they can better adopt and adapt, so they can continue to thrive instead of being thrown off course. If we do more together, what great things might we accomplish?
You too can learn more about how observational research can help you and your business! Our toolkit is a great place to start.
This blog might also be of interest:
3 Ways Anthropologist's Toolkit Can Revitalize Your Company
Or, to learn more, read our White Paper:
Perhaps "a little anthropology" could help your company grow?
At Simon Associates Management Consultants, our experience and expertise enable us to help business leaders step out of their comfort zones and see, feel and think about their organizations with fresh eyes, leading to those "a-ha" moments which make innovations possible. Is your company stuck?
Please contact us for a free consultation. We'd love to show you how you can invigorate your company's growth.
From Observation to Innovation,
Andi Simon, Ph.D.
Corporate Anthropologist | President
Simon Associates Management Consultants