At Simon associates Management Consultants, a client of ours recently struggled with sluggish growth. As this is not an uncommon problem in today's business environment, we showed him how to use some of the tools of corporate anthropology to help him see the possibilities that were all around him—which he had sadly ignored.
What kind of little "dots" were right there waiting for him to see them? Well, calls were coming into his customer service center that his staff were disregarding because the requests didn't fit their usual business. Emails were coming in requesting products that weren't easily available in local markets. And good customers were leaving for other vendors who offered different types of solutions. Clearly there was change happening but he and his people weren't seeing these as possibilities. To them, they were problems, not opportunities.
What could a little anthropology do to help? A lot! This is particularly important as you adapt to changing times—and they are certainly changing fast today.
Here are 10 ways to use anthropological tools to help your business keep growing.
Anthropologist's Tool Kit
- Spend a Day in the Life of Your Customer and see who is waiting for your solutions.
- Listen. Sit on your customer service telephones and listen to what you “are not” doing—that you could be doing.
- Go on a Thought Walk. Let the ideas in your head have a moment to percolate amd see what might emerge.
- Go Observing. Shadow your staff: sales, production, R&D, marketing, even your colleagues. Watch and listen for their “pain” points that are possibly impeding their effectiveness.
- Observational Research reveals much. Watch how your products, services and solutions are being used—and not used at all.
- Lunch and Listen. Take a client or prospect out for a “Lunch and Listen.” Don’t say much or sell anything. Let them tell you about what’s happening and see where you can open a new market that no one's recognized yet.
- Stories tell it all. Storytelling sessions with customers or non-customers are easy and highly effective. Just ask them to tell you about their challenges, happiness or problems. Listen for the possibilities.
- Try your hand at the job at hand. Participant Observation is just that. Participate! Take a client and try and do their job with them. Think Undercover Boss and model your efforts accordingly.
- Culture Assessments might be just what you need. Take the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (www.ocai-online.com) to discover what you think your culture is today and what you would prefer it to be in the future. Then have all of your employees take it and see what they think now and are hoping for in the future. This is the first step in changing your culture.
- Give up? Hire anthropologists. If you run out of energy trying to instigate change yourself, hire some anthropologists and let them go exploring for you. But don’t outsource your eyes. Make sure you observe with them.
So try these on your own. Let us know how you are doing. Or you may want to learn more first. Here is one blog you might find of help: