Anthropologist Grant McCracken discusses the thinking behind his latest book, Chief Culture Officer, a clarion call for the integration of culture into corporate strategy.

At our 2010 New York conference, Anthropologist Grant McCracken discussed the thinking behind his latest book, Chief Culture Officer, a clarion call for the integration of culture into corporate strategy.

Watch Grant’s presentation below:




Some highlights from his talk:

- “Culture is the mystery for capitalism” – and while there’s no failsafe formula for solving it, acknowledging the necessity for cultural acumen within a company is the first step. In his talk, McCracken made the compelling argument that corporations need to make room for a ‘Chief Culture Officer’ in the C-Suite – a ‘club’ in which creativity and disruptive thinking is not generally rampant or rewarded. Chief Culture Officers would be charged with anticipating and uncovering ways to harness cultural trends to make business decisions that resonate with their audiences, rather than alienate them.

- Being attuned to the zeitgeist can mean the difference between success and (sometimes irrevocable) failure. McCracken makes this point clear in the first line of his book: “Levi Strauss, the jeans and apparel maker, misses hip-hop. The penalty: $1 billion.” McCracken pointed out that beyond being in touch with one’s consumers and their worlds, elevating the importance of cultural perspicacity results in financial gain. Companies like Apple, Nike, and Starbucks have established themselves as categorical leaders in large part because of their ability to understand and create products that embrace emerging trends and shifts.

- Beware of ‘buzzword bingo.’ Losing oneself in “company culture” – and its own set of rules, habits, and vernacular (FTP/Bottom Line/ROI/etc) – is a danger many of us face, and can be a hindrance to a business’s growth and innovation. Being in touch with the dynamic cultural reality of the outside world not only fosters new ways of thinking, but ensures a better connection with the communities you’re trying to serve.

Grant McCracken

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