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On the Brink

On the Brink

Can A Little Anthropology Help Your School Change?

On Feb 7, 2018 7:00:00 AM

/ Rachel Carney

, Culture Change, corporate anthropologist, anthropology, culture, change, school culture

 

When I started writing this blog, I was interested in how schools use anthropology and its observational research methods. I wasn't curious about how schools were teaching anthropology, but how they applied its theory, methods and tools to help address the significant issues of climate and cultural changes. As I scanned the research trying to find how anthropologists help schools change, grow and improve, I came to the realization that anthropologists are not being used to help schools. But quite frankly, they should be!

So how can anthropologists help our schools?

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Need To Change Your Organization's Culture? 6 Best Ways To Do It.

On Feb 6, 2018 6:30:28 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Culture Change, Corporate Anthropology, Corporate Culture

 

As many of you know, I love talking about anthropology—specifically, how corporate leaders can apply its tools and methodology to bring about culture change, greater success and bigger profits. But, change is hard. In many cases, change is literally pain. The brain actually fights it, which is why real, lasting change is so difficult to come by. As a culture change expert, I see this all the time with clients. But the good news is that yes, change can happen! And with a little guidance, you can actually make it stick. Yes, indeed you can drive change.

In my recent interview with Thomas Fox, these concepts are exactly what we talked aboutanthropology and culture change and how each influences the other. As I explained to him, in a corporate setting, leaders espouse values, beliefs and expectations so people know what to do and how to get it done. Everything is fine until something begins to change and then that culture must change, too.

But knowing how to "do" culture change can be tricky. To help businesses achieve success, I offered the following six steps (abbreviated here):

6 steps for achieving successful culture change

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What is Corporate Anthropology and Why Should I Try It?

On Jan 16, 2018 8:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Culture Change, Corporate Anthropology, Corporate Culture

 

Now that “On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights,” my award-winning book on how corporate anthropology can help businesses grow, is being read by CEOS, business leaders, entrepreneurs and even anthropology students, I'm frequently being asked, "What is this thing called 'anthropology' or 'business anthropology' and why should I know about it, much less use it to help grow my business?"

In addition, I cannot tell you how many parents have contacted me about their son or daughter who is in love with business anthropology in college or with just anthropology itself. What kind of jobs are out there for an anthropology major?, they want to know. As an anthropologist myself, what I don't want to tell them is that only a few years ago, Forbes and Kiplinger ranked anthropology as the worst major for finding a job after college. 

Maybe it is time to change that!

There is now a very big role for anthropology and anthropologists in business.

Given the business trends I am seeing as I travel around the country working with clients or leading workshops, I am convinced that now is the time to make anthropology less academic and more easily understood and applicable, particularly in the business world. Indeed, the tools and methods of anthropology are what can help your business or organization sustain growth during these rapidly changing times.

So what is this thing called "Corporate Anthropology?"

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How to Dramatically Transform Your Company Culture

On Jan 11, 2018 10:51:39 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Andrea Simon, Culture Change, business change



In a recent blog ("4 Great Ways to Become a More Innovative Company"), I wrote about CEO's and other executives who typically have spent much of their leadership time at the head of a successful ship. But when it comes time to adapt to change, they have a hard time keeping their companies afloat when the market winds shift and they need to rethink strategies to change course. Do they just need to add some innovation? Or do they have to change their company culture?

Maybe a little of both. How does that kind of change actually happen?

Let me tell you a story.

At my consulting firm Simon Associates Management Consultants (SAMC), we've been working with a Fortune 500 company whom I'll call “Client X.” The challenge before us is to figure out how to reconcile, on the one hand, a business that has grown to dominate its market by doing things well in one particular way, with on the other hand, changing customers who are demanding new things from their network of retail outlets. 

Additionally, and almost right on cue, new managers from Generation Y are rising in this company's ranks and proposing new, innovative ways of doing things. A big collision is coming. 

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Are You Becoming a More Vulnerable Leader?

On Jan 11, 2018 7:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Andrea Simon, Culture Change, business change

 

Here at SAMC, we are watching a situation in which a business leader is trying to transform an organization that has really been allowed to wallow for a long time. Staff has been coming to work and doing a job but not much has been happening to either inspire or frighten them.

But now, with new leadership and a fast-changing market, they are threatened. While trying to mobilize and motivate his employees, the new CEO is finding that they are throwing up the classic four hurdles of those who know intellectually that they have to change but really don’t know how—or even if they want to.

The four hurdles (and you may have seem them yourself) are: 

  1. The cognitive one where they claim they really don’t know what the leader is talking about.
  2. The motivational excuse where they just really don’t want to put any effort into changing.
  3. The resource resistance where they blame the slow pace of change on not having the resources.
  4. The politico hurdle where they are waiting to see what others are going to do before they risk their own necks embracing the leader’s initiatives. 

The new leadership team is responding with a wonderful mix of business acumen, personal strength and at times, softer concerns. They are showing that they are vulnerable, caring and concerned but also strong and determined to help this organization adapt, or die. Watching this careful dance made us realize that the growing body of research and literature about the success of a vulnerable leader was playing out right before us. 

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4 Great Ways to Become a More Innovative Company

On Jan 9, 2018 8:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Andrea Simon, innovation


For years, I opened my CEO workshops with this question:

“Are you an innovative leader helping your company remain competitive in a fast-changing business environment?” 

As soon as I asked it, every hand would go up.  However, when I asked for a success story about an innovation or a product improvement, I would only hear stuttering and stammering.

Eventually I realized that executives raise their hands because they want to be seen as innovators, but the reality was that they were long on promise and short on performance. I don’t fault these leaders—their hearts are in the right place. We all want to be innovators, but when it comes to making it happen, we often falter.

What’s the innovation problem?

We see examples of extremely innovative corporations, like Apple, Amazon, Uber and Google, but they are notable because they are not the norm. The norm is that corporations are good at a few core things, but when the market changes, they are slow to respond—and often aren’t able to respond at all. Maxwell Wessel wrote a great article in HBR literally titled "Why Big Companies Can't Innovate.”

As a corporate anthropologist, companies usually call me in when they are going through one of these crises, so I have the good fortune and tremendous challenge of working with smart executive teams right at the moment when the things that have worked so well for them in the past aren’t working so well any more.

Over decades of doing this kind of work, I have seen many reasons firsthand that stand in the way of innovations. Here are a few of the themes I see over and over:

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Frustrated By 5 Big Must-Do Changes In Your Business?

On Jan 4, 2018 8:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Andrea Simon, Culture Change, Blue Ocean Strategy

You must be reading a lot about what everyone is getting set up to do in the next year. We thought we would share with you some of the trends we are seeing in our trenches as we are out in the field working with clients or conducting CEO workshops. Give some thought to how these might be relevant to you and your growth strategy, and as always, please share your ideas with us. We’d love to hear from you.

What are our clients’ growth and innovation goals for 2018?

Here are some of the ones we’re seeing:

1. Redesigning the business. One client is repositioning their services firm for the growing demand among their clients and prospects to be better able to solve complex business needs. This is much more than what they used to do for them. Increasingly, they are finding that their clients want a partner with expertise who helps them become more agile in fast-changing times.

It doesn’t matter if it is CPA firm or a law firm or a design firm—limited scope of services seems to be out. Broader capabilities are becoming essential. If you cannot do it yourself, you need to bring in collaborators or freelancers or partners and operate as a general contractor. In today’s market, you never want to say you cannot do something (because if you do, clients/prospects will go elsewhere).

2. Culture change has become essential. As culture change experts, we work with and provide coaching for a number of executives, both in the U.S. and globally. We are seeing a big change in their realization that culture is “everything” or at least “a lot of the things.”

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How Women in Leadership Roles Can Finally Change The Workplace

On Nov 1, 2017 8:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Culture Change, Corporate Culture, women in business

Did you know that firms led by women are more profitable? And that the number of women-owned businesses grew 45% from 2007 to 2016, compared to only 9% growth in overall businesses? Clearly, as women have taken on greater leadership roles in the business world, it’s paying off for both them and business, as I explain in my recent article for smallbizdaily (which you can read here).

As a corporate anthropologist, what interests me about the rise of female business leaders is their ability to restructure company cultures in order for women to thrive in the workplace. But then, what type of culture do women really want and is it all that different from what men want, too?

Recent research conducted by my firm, Simon Associates Management Consultants, revealed that in many ways, men and women want similar things in the workplace. Both prefer a strong clan culture that emphasizes collaboration, teamwork and a focus on people.

What kind of workplace cultures should women in leadership positions create?

Here are three ways women leaders can make the workplace more attentive to the needs of both men and women:

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How Women In Leadership Roles Are Improving The Workplace And The Bottom Line

On Oct 11, 2017 7:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Culture Change, Corporate Culture, women in business, women entrepreneurs

Are women good for business? You better believe it.

As women have taken on leadership roles, it’s paid off for both them and business

As I cite in a recent article in WE magazine for women, a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that firms with women in the C-suite were more profitable. (Read the article here.) This should come as no surprise, given that the number of women-owned businesses grew 45 percent from 2007 to 2016, compared to just a 9 percent growth in the number of businesses overall.

For me, as a corporate anthropologist and culture change expert, this begs the question: With all these women in leadership roles, will they change workplace culture to make it more female-friendly? (Uber, Fox News and The Weinstein Company, take note.) Furthermore, what type of culture do women really want and is it that different from what men want, too?

To answer this and other gender-workplace issues, we at SAMC did some research. As it turns out, in many ways men and women want similar things at work. Both prefer a strong clan culture that emphasizes collaboration, teamwork and a focus on people.

Important lessons for women who head up or start their own businesses

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Bob Dylan Was Right. The Times, They Are A-Changin’.

On Sep 28, 2017 8:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

, Healthcare, healthcare change

 

Are you changing with them? You really must. Because the alternative is really quite frightening.

All around us we're dealing with tumultuous change, nowhere more so than in healthcare. And it's not just change itself but the breadth and pace of it that's confounding doctors, patients and entire healthcare systems. How to innovatively adapt to these healthcare changes and not let them steamroll over you is something I tackle in my recent article for Hospital Impact (which you can read here.) 

Pressure to change, felt by hospitals, doctors and patients

At SAMC, we're currently working with a number of healthcare clients and what we're noticing lately is a shift from hospital-based services to community-based care delivery options—affecting everything from the best place for same-day surgery to where to get an X-ray.

Hospitals are being pressured to reduce costs while still keeping patients healthy. Patients are being asked to change where they go for care, which is particularly hard for older patients who find comfort in the familiar, even if the “new” place can deliver the care they need at lower cost to the system and themselves.

As I write in my article, "add to this situation the highly influential generation of millennials, the sons and daughters of baby boomers and Gen Xers. These younger patients are less loyal, less obedient and less concerned with traditional service delivery points in the system. Instead, they focus on fees, quality and ease of access. They want the care they need when they want it or they will skip the referral until they end up in the emergency department at 10pm.”

This requires a culture change, not just shifting where you get an X-ray

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