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!
As you may know, our mission at Simon Associates Management Consultants is to help organizations change. Whether it's a large high-performing organization or a mid-size owner/operator, helping businesses change is our focus and our specialty. It's exciting work!
But, change is something that people hate. The brain hates it. The culture hates it. We see this all the time with our clients. Most organizations have a hard time implementing new ideas and new ways of doing things, even if they are good ideas and better, more productive ways of doing things.
So, what to do? How can you successfully change your organization? As corporate anthropologists, we have found that what works over and over again is "a little anthropology." Watch this webinar and you'll learn why and how you can do it too.
Applying the humanities to business isn’t anything new. In fact, the corporate world has a long tradition of embracing various studies of human society and culture to explain and benefit its many strategies. And when it comes to anthropology — the study of human and social behavior — the story isn't much different.
But as the pressure mounts for college students to take STEM courses (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), the humanities and social science programs are struggling to sustain their relevance. Nevertheless, there are still humanities majors who dominate the business world, and 75% of today's entrepreneurs were liberal arts majors, in part because there were no programs teaching entrepreneurship when they were in college.
Fortunately for those with anthropology degrees, there has been an increase in recent years in the application of anthropology to the world of business. This has given birth to the term "corporate anthropology" — the study of human values, beliefs and behaviors in the business environment. Now, anthropology is thriving in business, driving change and innovation in a number of different areas.
Here is a brief overview of how corporate anthropology is changing its role in the business arena, how business is changing anthropologists, and why should you try it for your own company.
Want to read one of the best books on corporate innovation? Pick up mine!
I just got some great news that I wanted to share with you right away. Fupping.com has recently named my book "On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights" to its list of 9 Best Books To Read On Corporate Innovation. "On the Brink" comes in at #7!
I guess I shouldn't be surprised, as it's a book all about using the tools and methods of anthropology to step out and see your organization with fresh eyes, then turning these observations into innovations. And corporation innovation is the focus of Fupping's Top 9 list. Here's how Fupping describes it:
If you are an emerging entrepreneur searching for a big idea or a budding business owner building your new enterprise, you are probably great at seeing things with fresh eyes. You know that people are waiting for new solutions to their recurring problems.
Maybe they are struggling with a problem for which they have still not found the right answer. Maybe your partners and suppliers have pain points dealing with your processes and systems. Or, maybe your own employees might be struggling with company practices that aren’t working.
Whatever the situation, people need some great entrepreneur to see things with fresh eyes—and bring them the help they need!
It isn't more of the same, cheaper.
Whether it is the needs of a new customer you want to serve, or the challenges of your staff with your business model design, or the irritated supplier who wants you to get it right, you have some work to do.
But before you can solve your customers' and employees' issues and improve the situation, you need to know how they really “feel.” What are their thoughts? Their opinions? What changes do they hope to see? Which of your products or services do they wish were different? How do they solve their problems now? Do they decide to use competitors' products?
To answer all these questions, you need to go to the source. Please don't just ask them! Go Exploring!