For the past two years or so, we all have been operating in a strange work environment. Many of us have experienced trying to work full-time virtual, part-time in the office, and even full-time in the office. For each of us, it has been good, bad, or none of the above, as post-pandemic work styles range from virtual to in-person to hybrid to pick your own style, causing business leaders to hide or run for cover...or in some cases, listen carefully for new solutions.
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.
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them." John F. Kennedy
This time of year is when we at SAMC reflect on the past and prepare for the future. It is also a time to express our appreciation and gratitude for successes, as well as what we have tried and may not have achieved.
Reflecting on gratitude and expressing it is as essential to people's personal lives as it is to their businesses and careers. In fact, those who focus on expressing their gratitude tell us that it repays them in spades. So why don't we all do it?
Gratitude: what does that really mean?
While the terms gratitude and appreciation may seem interchangeable, there are actually some subtle differences. While appreciation is a way of recognizing a job well done, gratitude is more personal. It expresses thanks for a benefit one has received.
As we work with companies and not-for-profits, we often find that people seem to have a hard time saying a simple "thank you" to someone. We're not talking about an award or special recognition for completing a task, just a simple "Hey, thanks for doing that so well. I truly appreciate it."
It's rare to hear business leaders say how grateful they are for their team, their clients or their successful company. Why is this?
There's one exception: a long-term client of ours whom we just adore, in large part because they are always expressing their gratitude to us (their consultants), their staff and their clients. As we receive their thanks and hear the same from their staff, we believe that their success is mainly due to this feeling of and consistent expression of gratitude.
Today's blog is about this gift of gratitude: what is it, why you and your company should embrace it, and how it will make you and those around you smile and shine. Most of all, it is about how to build an organizational culture that goes beyond the functional things that have to be done and creates an entirely new perspective on the people getting it done. Along the way, it also shines a light on how company culture really matters.
Why should we worry about appreciating others and expressing our gratefulness or gratitude?
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.
What if each of your employees felt really appreciated, an integral part of the team? And what if these positive feelings then translated into better performance, higher output, more idea generation and greater company profit? Wouldn't that be great!
Storytelling is a great way to change your company culture
Guns on display at the Dick's Sporting Goods store in Danvers, Mass., on Wednesday. (C.J. Gunther/EPA/Shutterstock, courtesy of The Los Angeles Times)
Here we go again. There's a school shooting, then a lot of tears and hand-wringing, then nothing happens.
But wait, maybe, just maybe, this time is different.
I'm of course referring to the recent mass shooting in Parkland, FL that killed 17 people, including 14 students, a geography teacher, an assistant football coach and the school's athletic director. In response, three major U.S. retailers—Walmart (one of America's largest firearm retailers), Dick's Sporting Goods and Kroger—have "voluntarily restricted gun sales to make a policy statement and manage their image with consumers," reports The Los Angeles Times.
According to the article, these retailers "are responding to the national uproar that followed the shooting...especially the feverish debate on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. They are not waiting for legislative action to improve matters."
In a recent blog, I wrote about the daunting challenge facing Human Resources Directors who are tasked with helping their organizations assess and change their cultures. During a workshop on this topic, I explained the tools they could use for diagnosing the values, beliefs and behaviors that make up a company’s culture today and how to determine what these defining attributes should become in the future.
But implementing lasting culture change is far more complex than simply saying: “Let's be more innovative.” Or, as one client said to me: “I want a culture that really delivers results.” They really need to know how to drive change.
For culture change to work, 3 things need to be in place:
- A shared understanding of what the culture is today.
- Agreement about what the company’s leadership would like the culture to become in the future.
- A process to begin and sustain that transformation, along with ways to monitor, measure and celebrate the successful culture change as it evolves.
It's hard to believe. But then again, maybe it's not. Last weekend, Uber’s food delivery service, UberEats, ran a promotion for Wife Appreciation Day. But instead of urging its male customers in Bangalore, India to do something special for their spouses, Uber suggested that husbands “let their wives take a day off from the kitchen.”
When Bozoma Saint John, Uber’s new chief brand ambassador, heard about it, she immediately fired off a damning tweet: "Oh hell no. This is completely unacceptable. Will take care of this."
(Lest we forget, Uber conducted an investigation this year into claims of sexual harassment within the company, and fired more than 20 people following a damning review. Senior executives who left the company included Uber founder and chief executive Travis Kalanick.)
The bigger problem: trying to change a culture all on your own
I give Saint John huge credit for working hard to change Uber’s “boys' club” culture, but she’s fighting a losing battle on her own. One person cannot change an ingrained, toxic culture, as I said to Entrepreneur, when asked for my reaction to Uber's latest sexist misfire. (Read the article here.) Here are my comments:
Outliers and change agents are lonely. The core cultural values, beliefs and behaviors are usually pervasive. People still share the same jokes, the same stories and same perceptions of what is important, valued and respected.
To truly sustain your customers you may have to change a culture, it takes a (committed) village
Several clients have recently asked us to help them change their cultures. One is a healthcare client that is preparing for value-based payments. Another is an organization that needs to eliminate layers of management and become more innovative, thus empowering people in the field. A third is ready to open new markets and wants its staff to lead the charge.
Without a good process for driving change it is hard to build a successful business.
Whatever type of organization you are, change is painful. But once you put a process in place, the changes you need can actually happen. People know how to play a new game or get on stage and perform a new role. Why can't they do the same in their jobs? Maybe they need a script, rehearsal time and a good coach—you!!