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Transcript of Corporate Anthropologists
Corporate AnthropologistsJennifer J. Laabs
By Gabriel Kislik
Setting the Stage
0 Written by Jennifer J. Laabs, and published in 1992 as a magazine article from Personnel Journal, Vol. 71, No. 1
0 Discusses the profile of corporate anthropologists, and their importance in today’s increasingly global world.
0 Anthropology commonly refers to “the science of human beings” as it “studies people in relation to their distribution, origin, classification, relationship of races, physical characters, environmental and social relations and culture.”
The Importance of Business Anthropologists
0 In the past two decades, anthropologists have thoroughly studied corporate culture and its importance in our increasingly global world.
0 Very few actually refer to themselves as “anthropologists” (only 12) whereas there are more than 200 individuals currently working for corporate America.
Developing our Understanding of Corporate Culture
0 Lorna M. McDougall, a staff anthropologist at Arthur Andersen’s Center for Professional Education, has been a key player in developing our understanding of corporate culture.
0 Greatly contributed to the creation of the ELIT (ELIT (Business English Language Immersion Training)
0 Today, anthropologists are more interested in observing and analyzing group values and behavior in a cultural context.
0 One can clearly identify a connection between national culture and organizational culture.
Developing our Understanding a Little More0 McDougall was also involved in several other studies, all teaching
associates and employees how to better understand and utilize cultural differences.
0 Understanding cultural differences is crucial in order to avoid cultural misunderstandings and errors.
0 She insists on the fact that today, the challenge is to understand the differences in cultures, as well as in work, and family values.
Boosting Creativity through Anthropology
0 Example of the Houston based, Generon Systems, which faced a creativity crisis in an increasingly competitive and global world.
0 As Generon Systems faced major issues, it hired Roger McConochie and Anthony Giannini for anthropological advice.
0 Introduced concept of “bridging” or “scaffolding”, which stimulated creativity and enhanced employee’s understanding of their colleagues cultural differences.
The Quintessential Component
0 McConochie and Giannini believed that no matter what approach was adopted, creativity will only increase if employees are given the “opportunity to be creative and an opportunity for challenge and growth.”
0 Creativity also needs to be supported by a corporate culture.
0 To be the most efficient and productive, one must use anthropology in order to better understand cultural differences, and use them in required situations.
A Little Journey!0 Remember Gulliver's Travels? Written in the early 1700's by Jonathan Swift,
this delightful book (which was actually meant as social satire) recounts voyages to one strange place after another. The most well-known of those places is Lilliput where Gulliver is "captured" by a race of minuscule human beings, an event depicted in this antique advertisement by a thread company.
0 Gulliver's third voyage takes him to the flying island of Laputa. The inhabitants of that island speak a language that Gulliver does not know.
0 Suppose you were to travel with Gulliver to that flying island where you can communicate with people only by using objects that you are carrying with you. Suppose you could take only five things with you to "tell" people on Laputa about yourself.
0 What would those objects be? Once you've decided on them, write them on the chalkboard.
Last Stop!0 You are space travelers who have been beamed down to earth from the planet Pegasi. You
don't know anything about life on planet earth but you have been instructed to carefully study what is going on and to report back your conclusions. When you were beamed down, you ended up in a McDonald's restaurant which you assume is typical for the entire planet.
0 A McDonald's restaurant has thus become an ethnographic "text" for you. Look for things
which reveal something of cultural values and practices. From your observations of the following things in the restaurant, what might you conclude about life on the planet earth?
0 Sex or gender roles