nthropologists spend their time on remote Pacific
islands or in the depths of the Amazon rain forest
studying tribes unspoiled by modern life. At least
that’s what most people think, on those rare occa-
sions when they think about anthropology at all. Not so, says
cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken. He argues that modern
commercial culture is not only authentic but incredibly interesting
to the observant anthropologist. Has there ever in history been
such a dynamic, diverse culture, where so many new customs,
habits, and meanings are surfacing and disappearing so fast?
An anthropologist’s job, he writes in Chief Culture Officer:
How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation, is “the urgent work
of noticing.” That, too, is the job of any company that wants to
succeed in the marketplace that shapes and expresses our turbulent
culture. McCracken, a Ph.D. who has taught at Cambridge, Mc-Gill, and Harvard Business School, now spends most of his time
helping companies use anthropological insight to improve their
marketing. He also writes a lively blog at CultureBy.com.
But McCracken isn’t a guru. In fact, the whole point of his
book is that paying attention to culture is a skill that can be
learned—no gurus required.