In his latest book, Chief Culture Officer, Canadian anthropologist Grant McCracken argues for the need for organizations to understand culture. The subheading of the book reads How to Create a Living Breathing Corporation and I think this summarizes the point of departure pretty well. In short, 21st century corporations need to inhale and exhale culture.
Inhaling culture involves understanding fast changing trends and all things cool. However, it goes beyond this. Grasping the everyday life and the mundane details is every bit as important. Exhaling culture refers to the ability of some companies to contribute to culture – create new lifestyles, iconic brands and slogans that become part of our everyday speech. McCracken’s examples include the likes of Apple, Nike, and Coke. Surely, all of this is very much in line with some of the things we’ve read – Consumer Culture Theory (Arnould & Thompson 2005), tribal marketing (Cova & Cova 2002), and cultural branding (Holt 2002) – but still very much ignored in many companies, as McCracken argues. How do we make a corporation inhale and exhale culture?
McCracken writes that the success of companies like Apple is often attributed to individual gurus. He, however, argues that it is possible to reverse engineer Steve Jobs. The book proposes the addition of a new member to the C-suite. The Chief Culture Officer is responsible for systematically supplying the corporation with cultural intelligence. For a better description of the position, see the author talk about CCOs in an interview:
By the way, Grant McCracken also writes a blog worth following – This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics – where he shares his observations about American culture. You can also follow him on Twitter.
Would you like to work as a CCO?