When your Business Stalls, it’s time to Evolve: Unpacking Corporate Anthropology with Dr. Andi Simon

How can we make change easier? Do women lead differently from men? What is corporate anthropology? Ryan, Adam, and Aneil are back to answer these questions and more with Dr. Andi Simon. Change is hard, but with Dr. Simon’s toolkit of anthropological knowledge, games, and theater she is able to help businesses change a little easier.

We have a copy of Dr. Simon’s great book On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights to give away to one lucky listener. How do you do that? Drop us a review on iTunes within a week of this episode release (Released January 25th), and email us with what review you wrote. We’ll pick a lucky winner from the reviewers and send you the book!

Who is Dr. Andi Simon?

Dr. Andi Simon founded the company Simon Associates Management Consultants and uses her anthropological training to help corporations change during times of stagnation and even times of growth. Simon views businesses as “pretty interesting self-contained social entities with culture, values, beliefs, and behaviors and every time someone says ‘oh no that’s not the way we do things here’ you know the power of culture is not to be underestimated”, with this in mind it is no wonder her training as an anthropologist fits so well in the corporate world.

Dr. Simon wrote the book On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights and maintains a blog that discusses the uses of corporate anthropology and the need for anthropological methodology. She has also appeared in Forbes and Bloomberg Businessweek.

Check out the links below to learn more about Dr. Andi Simon!

Is Your Business on the Brink?

Andi Simon Observation into Innovation

What is Corporate Anthropology?

If we consider corporations as “self-contained social entities with culture” then it follows that anthropologists will study them. Corporate anthropology uses anthropological theory to study everything to do with corporations and business practices. The field looks at company organization,  marketing strategies, and business trends to look at culture in the business world. In Simon’s case, she is providing “fresh eyes” to look at both the internal and external practices of a company and help to reformulate them to better suit the changing times.

Using anthropology to better understand office culture is not a new concept. A study conducted by Elton Mayo in the 1920s and 1930s at the Western Electric’s Factory in Hawthorne found that worker productivity was tied to their surroundings and their relationships with their coworkers. Changes to the employee’s’ work environment suggested a special interest was being placed on them, thus causing them to be more productive. The Hawthorne Effect, or the observer effect was born out of this study. The Hawthorne effect is the idea that people will change their behavior if they believe they are being watched. Studies like this laid the groundwork for corporate anthropology as a discipline.

Check out the links below to learn more about the origins of Corporate Anthropology.

The Hawthorne Effect

Ok Ok! What is Corporate Anthropology and Why Should I Try it?

Here’s Why Companies Are Desperate to Hire Anthropologists

How Does She Convince Corporations to Change?

Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”John Kenneth Galbraith

One of Dr. Simon’s most effective tools for change is using metaphor. Dr. Simon often uses games and theatrical metaphor in order to help her clients look at themselves and their problems objectively and come up with solutions. Games and performances allow for her clients to think differently in a less structured setting where there is not as much riding on their responses. It allows more freedom for thought and innovation.

“Now that you are playing Macbeth really really really well it’s great, but nobody is coming to see you anymore, so tomorrow we have to start learning Hamlet The only problem is you don’t have a script.” – Dr. Andi Simon

Another important facet of Dr. Simon’s process is including her clients in the anthropological approach (i.e. participant observation). She describes this as akin to the concept of Undercover Bosses, but it is more than that. Dr. Simon is giving her clients the ability to think through their problems themselves. The client’s active role in coming up with a solution to their problems through participant observation gives them a better understanding of why they need to change and makes the change easier to swallow.

Check out the links below to learn more about making changes easier.

Driving Change

Innovation Games

My Favorite Games and How They Work

Youtube: Star Wars Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base- SNL

Where is She Going Next?

Dr. Simon’s biggest critique On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take your Business to New Heights is that none of her case studies featured a woman as CEO. She hopes to remedy this with another book that looks into the business cultures corporate women create. Two of her Forbes articles What Type Of Corporate Culture Do Women Really Want? and How Corporate Anthropology Can Help Women Drive Change begin to delve into this very topic.

Using a data assessment tool, Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI), Dr. Simon found that men and women desired the same changes in the workplace, namely, a move to a more collaboration based clan culture and a stronger emphasis on innovation. Given some trends that suggested hedge funds run by women perform better than men and the women’s more frequent desire for collaboration, Dr. Simon began to wonder how women build an office culture and if it was a more collaborative or competitive space. The data on the performance of women in hedge funds does not consider enough subjects to really be statistically significant, but a book on companies run by women can only add to the scholarship and help us understand what really works in the corporate world.

Check out the link below to learn more!

Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI)

Hedge Funds Run By Women Outperform Those Run By Men

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