I so enjoy my Authority magazine interviews. Not only do I get to really think about how to grow a business, change your culture, be an effective leader or become successful as a woman entrepreneur, I get to share my thoughts with all kinds of business people, either established or emerging. I love it! The most recent installment was part of the magazine's interview series, “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business.” You can read the entire interview here.
What the heck is corporate anthropology?
People often ask us: "What do you do?" and "How do you do anthropology?" They are familiar (maybe) with anthropologists who work in small-scale societies in far away lands. My response: I tell them that companies or organizations in more complex societies are like those small-scale societies. We observe their interconnected networks, and the way people get their jobs done every day. They have many of the same dynamics as tribal or hunter-gatherer societies. They also have different ones which reflect how they have evolved into effective, or dysfunctional, organizations. Our job as corporate anthropologists is to help them "see, feel and think" in new ways to sustain their growth during these fast-changing times.
I am thrilled and honored that my book, Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business, was recently given the bronze award for Best Women in Business Book by Axiom Business Book Awards. (My first book, On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights, also won Axiom's bronze award.) Presented in 23 business categories, these prestigious and competitive awards serve as the premier list to help readers discover new and innovative works, says Axiom. Previous medalists include Nobel laureate Robert Shiller, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Pulitzer Prize winner Doris Kearns Goodwin. So I'm in good company.
11,000 business books are published each year. Why was mine honored?
More and more, business leaders are beginning to understand the value of corporate anthropologists, and more importantly, how they can help people at all levels of a company better "see, feel and think" about their business with fresh eyes. As a corporate anthropologist myself, I preach that the importance of anthropology lies in its ability to help people pause, step out and look at the way they have always done things in new ways, and then make these new ways happen. In my recent article in BusinessNewsDaily, I had the chance to expand on this ethnographic approach to business. Perhaps this could help you and your company?
Corporate anthropology is about adaptation
In March of this year, I had the pleasure of interviewing global credibility expert Mitchell Levy for a terrific On The Brink podcast. Then recently the tables turned and I was the interviewee! Mitch is on a quest to interview 500 thought leaders on credibility for his Thought Leader Life show, and I was honored to be included. I really enjoyed our talk, mainly because it focused on helping organizations change their corporate cultures and grow their businesses in these changing times. As you know, I'm a Blue Ocean Strategist® and a culture change expert so this was right up my alley.
More importantly, can you understand what it's saying?
These days, more and more (and more) data keeps coming at us, and if you're like me, you're wondering what to do with all. Can it help you run your business better? Can it reveal important facts about your customers? Can it identify nonusers of your products or services and show you how to convert them into users?
For those in management and strategic planning in healthcare systems, can data help guide CEOs' decisions? Can it help hospitals respond more quickly to market and cultural shifts taking place all around them? These are all important questions.
To have meaning, data has to be visualized
As I write in my recent article in Healthcare Marketing Report, perhaps the true value of data lies not in the data itself but in how people visualize it. The challenge is our own brains, which tend to sort through incoming data and only capture those data points that affirm what we already know or believe to be true. The rest we simply discount or ignore.
I assert that to really understand the meaning of data, we need to take it and turn it into a story that helps people act upon it and share it, thereby influencing and leading others. (You can read my entire HMR article by clicking here.)
How to hear what your data is saying and turn it into the right story
Despite how much people love the abstract notion of change, when it really happens, they hate it. That's because real, lasting change requires some big shifts in how you do things. And what we're seeing with many of our clients is that adapting to today's new technology, new business environments and new generations’ approach to the workplace is bumping up against people’s resistance to change and their understanding of what this thing called “culture” really is.
Changing corporate culture is particularly difficult because the human brain is designed to rely on habits and certainty. When people hear the words, “We have to change the way we do things here,” their brains immediately look for ways to protect the status quo.
So given all the roadblocks that people's brains put up, how do you drive change?
The challenges of changing a culture, particularly a professional services firm
A perfect storm of disconnect: higher education and changing times
At SAMC, we do a good deal of work with higher education institutions. Why? Because we're all about culture change and helping organizations find their Blue Ocean Strategy so they can adapt to what's coming (or in many cases, what's already here). And what we're finding is that today's colleges and universities desperately need both — culture change and Blue Ocean Strategy.
Case in point: If you look at classrooms from the years 1900, 1950 and today, you might be surprised, or dismayed, to see that they are all very much the same. Take a look:
While this antiquated educational system still hasn’t changed much, the world outside is changing faster than ever before. What to do?
Higher education needs to re-think its entire approach
Is your company developing a new product or service? Are you planning a product launch? Do you want a better understanding of customer behavior and needs? Finally, are there major pain points which your product or service needs to solve?
Every successful entrepreneur knows that to grow your startup into a thriving business, you need to understand your customer. Easier said than done...particularly when you're about to introduce a new product or service into the market and compiling a group of statistics isn’t an option. That’s when the smartest course of action is to rely on corporate anthropology.
As an entrepreneur building a business, you can gain a crucial competitive advantage by using the methods and techniques of anthropology to help you tap into the behavioral patterns of your consumers. From a customer's first encounter with your product to the purchase stage to their return visit, anthropology enables you to get a better grip on how individuals interact with your brand.
As a result, you'll be able to successfully develop a product offer and a customer experience that meet consumers' demands and solve their challenges. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here are a few examples of how to successfully apply anthropology to your business.
Recently I was interviewed by INSIDE Public Accounting on the business applications of corporate anthropology. I will be speaking at IPA's 2018 PRIME Symposium conference, so this interview served as a kind of sneak peek into what I will focus on in the culture change workshop I'll be conducting. (You can read the entire interview here.)
My focus was on the importance of observational research to better understand why people behave the way they do, especially when interacting with a product or service. By observing behaviors, anthropologists are trained to see things people do not always know they are doing. These observations then lead to all types of insights, changes to processes, modifications to services, and even innovations.
Equally important was how these "new" ideas and insights help organizations rethink what they are doing. Often, they can better hone in on their targets because now they have a deeper understanding of their own "ways of doing things" and how well they align (or don't align) with their customers' needs.
Since we know that change is painful, observing with fresh eyes how something is being done can often enable people to better see ways to change those habits. Pretty amazing insights emerge from a little anthropology!