Business Development & Marketing General Turnaround

Apply the insights from business anthropology to your company

business anthropology and the evolution of human behaviourHaving introduced business anthropology in a blog last month, now is a good time to start applying what you have learned.
To remind you, business anthropology looks at the relationships and interactions between people working with each other. It looks at the relationships and motivations of individuals and teams and how you might ‘press the right buttons’ to improve productivity.
Great insights cam be gained by observing people and how they behave with others. This can be difficult for leaders as it involves watching and listening objectively and not interfering while carrying out their research. It raises their level of awareness.
It can also be used to look at clients and consumers whether looking at their interactions with your products and staff, or at your staff and how they deal with customers, rather like a secret shopper.
Essentially business anthropology insights can be used to make improvements to your business.
There are three areas where you might consider applying such insights. These are in changing the corporate culture, refining relationships with customers and clients, and in developing new or improving existing products/services.

Business anthropology and corporate culture

In a situation where the age profile of the workforce may be changing as new, younger employees join your business and have to learn to interact with older employees it may be that you should pay some attention to understanding the differences in approach and work style of the two groups and introducing ways of encouraging greater integration.
There will be many more areas to look at but the approach begins with awareness of a need to change and is implemented through engagement with those affected.

Business anthropology and customers

This is about listening for unmet needs, pain points and challenges.  It is also about how your employees interact with customers.
It can be helpful to go through the process of buying and using a product yourself and this can often feed in to developing a new product or service.
An illustration of this is from 1999 when Procter & Gamble, suppliers of cleaning products, engaged anthropologists who watched people cleaning their floors. They noticed that the process also involved a significant amount of time spent cleaning the mop itself.  The result was the development of the Swiffer, floor cleaning equipment that came with a handle/applicator and a collection of disposable pads to attach and use for wet or dry cleaning.  This remains one of the company’s most popular products.
It worked because the observation of the process identified a “pain point” and provided an adaptable solution that cut down on the amount of time needed to clean a floor.
Please let me know if you have applied business anthropology methods to your business and what insights you gleaned from your observations.

Banks, Lenders & Investors Business Development & Marketing General Turnaround

What is business anthropology and how useful is it?

business anthropology and the evolution of human behaviourAnthropology is the study of humans and human behaviour and societies in the past and present and business anthropology applies the same methodology to the business world.
It can therefore focus on a wide range of business behaviours, including management, operations, marketing, consumer behaviour, organizational culture, human resources management and international business.
If you read my blogs regularly you will know I am a firm advocate of knowing, understanding and monitoring every part of your business, from operations and processes to cash flow and profitability and of regularly reviewing your management accounts.
These are all very practical and crucial aspects of a business’ performance, but I would argue that no business can hope to sustain its success and profitability without also understanding the human beings with whom it engages.

So how and where is business anthropology most useful?

Understanding the interactions and likely behaviour of the human beings with whom your business is involved is important to many aspects of a business if you want to increase profitability and grow.
It can be especially important if you have identified a problem that needs to be addressed.
Employee engagement is crucial to sustaining and improving productivity, whether it is in developing new and more efficient processes or simply increasing sales. Issuing instructions is not enough.  Productivity initiatives are unlikely to yield results unless people are well-motivated and feel valued and it is therefore important to understand what matters to them and what is likely to motivate them. This is where business anthropology can be a useful tool.
Another aspect of business anthropology that can add to your insights is how the workforce communicates with each other and with external stakeholders such as customers; essentially this is its corporate culture.
Crucially, your behaviour as a leader and that of your managers defines the workplace environment and over time embeds the business culture. But if you want everyone to buy in to the business’ vision and culture you need to understand how to “press the right buttons” and again business anthropology can bring insights into this.
Knowing the causes of and how to manage performance and stress alongside profiling staff and customers to understand how they are likely to react can be helped by using business anthropology’s insights to improve the success of growth and productivity plans.
And finally, in an increasingly global culture where it is likely that once the UK has left the EU businesses will have to redouble their efforts to build trading relationships with many other countries the insights found in business anthropology can help to understand and apply the conventions found in other cultures and countries.

Business Development & Marketing General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Preparing people for change in your business

Ready for Tomorrow?Business survival and growth mean being prepared to change aspects of your business and sometimes change the business model including historical plans or processes when they are no longer yielding the best results.
However, before implementing change directors and business owners should think carefully about how they should be introduced.
Too often the approach is “top down”, where somebody senior, or the CEO, has an idea and decides it should be implemented. Unfortunately, with this approach the changes often do not take root and often this is due to a lack of planning and a failure to involve others, in particular those who are necessary to implement the change and those who are affected by its consequences.

Involve employees for successful change

If, however, a business has a culture of continuous improvements and involves employees in the process of identifying and determining changes that need to be made, the chances of successful implementation are considerably higher.
While time spent discussing change with others may take longer, generally it will mean that not only do people understand the need for a change but they are likely to be invested in making it work. Furthermore, consulting with those “at the sharp end” sends out the message that their competence and their views are trusted and valued.
It is a theme that underlies the arguments in the book “Being Human” by Steve Hilton, former adviser to David Cameron, which examines the structure and effectiveness of government, business, politics and various sectors such as education, the NHS and business. The book advocates that power and decision-making should, as far as possible, be delegated to a local level for people to feel that they are involved and have influence.
Equally, in a culture of continuous improvement, where as many people as possible in a business are engaged, it is possible to make smaller, incremental changes rather than one gigantic change that has the potential to cause massive disruption.
The process of engagement early on will identify any resistance and address it before actually effecting the envisaged change.
Indeed, a consultative approach is more likely to result in initiatives being successful than decisions that start off as a good idea by management being sabotaged because those who have to work with them have not been asked whether the change is actually workable let alone beneficial.