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Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation Hardcover – December 1, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. McCracken (Flock and Flow), a research affiliate at Convergence Culture Consortium at MIT, argues that every company needs a chief cultural officer to anticipate cultural trends rather than passively waiting and reacting. CCOs should have the ability to process massive amounts of data and spot crucial developments among an array of possibilities; they will be able to see the future coming, no matter which industry they serve, and create value for shareholders, move product, create profit and increase the bottom line. McCracken provides an impressive list of individuals deeply connected and in tune with the zeitgeist including Steve Jobs, A.G. Lafley, Mary Minnick, Joss Whedon and Johnny Depp—who fought Disney in order to create a campy male lead in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie—as well as such corporations as Starbucks and Nike that have refashioned culture. McCracken's case is persuasive, and his book, peppered with pop culture references and enlivened by his restlessly inquisitive nature (and ability to strike up conversation with just about anyone), makes for enlightening and entertaining reading. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Seth Godin, author of Tribes & Purple Cow
“The title of this book is a lie. It's not merely for companies that decide they need a Chief Culture Officer, or even just for those who aspire to that job. It's for you. Right now. If your job involves marketing, inventing, selling or simply investing in companies that make stuff, this book is a must read.”

John Deighton, Brierley Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
“For those who are open to its thrall, Chief Culture Officer will change the trajectory of their lives.”

Faris Yakob, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Strategist, McCann Erickson New York
“In Chief Culture Officer, Grant McCracken highlights the increasing importance of cultural understanding for brands that wish to remain relevant—and profitable—in the protean flux of the modern marketplace, as he carves out a new role for the 21st century corporation. The best marketers can hope for is to create something that resonates so strongly it becomes part of our cultural fabric. This book is an indispensable tool for achieving that goal.”

Tyler Cowen, author of
Create Your Own Economy
“I have deep admiration and respect for Grant McCracken, a nimble thinker who combines a mastery of marketing, culture, anthropology, and modern business practice. Chief Culture Officer has many lessons for anyone interested in understanding how to run a successful business in the early 21st century. It will prove one of the most stimulating books of the year.”

Philip Kotler, author of Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence
“Marketing gets failing grades when it comes to understanding and using culture. In Chief Culture Officer—a delectable cultural soup that is sure to stir your taste buds—Grant McCracken makes a compelling case that culture will be marketing’s next silver bullet. I whole-heartedly endorse his call for bringing culture-thinking into the company.”

Ben Casnocha, author of My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey through Silicon Valley
“This is a marvel of a business book: highly entertaining, original, and provocative. Entrepreneurs who want to understand their customers, target market, and the cultural dynamics that shape the business world—which is to say all entrepreneurs—need to read it.”

Richard Grefé, CEO, AIGA | the professional association for design
“Grant McCracken, once again, sees clearly the patterns in which innovation, enterprise, and smart people can influence change, create value, and respond to popular culture, where real people experience choice. The book is terrific and spot on.”

Marian Salzman, partner and chief marketing officer, Porter Novelli
“Grant McCracken has cracked the holy grail of what’s next to blend talent management, corporate strategy, and trendspotting, and his storytelling style captivates and educates. I am blown away.”

Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
“Building on decades of eye-opening research into the culture of consumption, Grant McCracken demonstrates why many companies get blindsided by cultural factors that were hidden in plain view, and offers a compelling argument for why they need to bring cultural expertise into their executive suite. Here's hoping more corporate executives hear his call.”
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (December 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465018327
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465018321
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #736,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Trained as an anthropologist (Ph.D. University of Chicago), Grant has studied American culture and commerce for 25 years.

He has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and worked for many organizations including Timberland, New York Historical Society, Diageo, IKEA, Sesame Street, Nike, and Kimberly Clark.

He started the Institute of Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum, where he did the first museum exhibit on youth cultures.

He has taught anthropology at the University of Cambridge, ethnography at MIT, and marketing at the Harvard Business School. He is presently a research affiliate in the Department of Comparative Media at MIT.

He is a long time student of culture and commerce. He has explored this theme in two books: Culture and Consumption I, and Culture and Consumption II.

He has also looked at how Americans invent and reinvent themselves. He had explored this theme in two more books: Big Hair and Transformations: identity construction in a contemporary culture.

He is the student of American culture. Plenitude published in 1997 looked at the new explosive growth of contemporary culture. In Flock and Flow, he shows how contemporary culture and commerce change.

Two years ago, he published a book called Chief Culture Officer with Basic Books that argues that culture now creates so much opportunity and danger for the organization that need senior managers who focus on it full time. He is hoping this will create a new occupational destination for graduates in the arts and humanities.

This spring Grant is publishing a book called Culturematic with the Harvard Business Review Press.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fabulous book! Years ago I sat in a graduate anthropology class, fascinated by culture but unable to truly understand how obtuse language and postmodernist theories could illuminate it, or allow us to use knowledge of culture to solve real problems. I ended up not pursuing anthropology academically and instead made a career in online community, where it's really important to understand people who use your site and get what will be popular or viral and what tiny details will matter a lot. I have sometimes worked for big corporations that were not quite living and breathing - it puzzled me how to penetrate the mind of the CFO and CEO and make them understand that we really had to get in the mind of the people using our product. Well, here's a great guide to applying anthropology to the business world - in fact, Grant McCracken shows us that every successful brand will need a Chief Cultural Officer at its helm.
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Format: Hardcover
It's a great idea, with a few good examples of having an ear on culture to truly bring positive change to society and profit to corporations, and a lot of examples of corporations appropriating and exploiting culture. A lot of the examples were just successful marketing campaigns -- things like Coca-Cola and the "Coke side of Life", and Nike's "Just do it", un-inspirational marketing campaigns. Some were good, too, like Dove's campaign.
My main problem with this book is it seems to take too defensive of a stance. If you are convinced a CCO is a good idea after the first couple chapters (or before you buy the book), the rest of the book is basically filler. I would have much preferred a far shorter book with far fewer examples and more about two-way relationships between corporations/business and culture.
My message here is not "don't buy it", but that some may not need the whole book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If, like me, you have ever got the feeling that there is something fake or missing in the corporate culture message of the company you work for, than this book is a must have. You will see how culture is the place you go for innovation and for granting your business a competitive advantage.

If, like me, you've seen some of your best work poisoned by "death by committee" than you'll enjoy reading this book. You'll learn how some CEOs have managed to liberate good ideas from bureaucracy.

If, like me, you think you have to do something in your company to grant there is a methodical approach in culture understanding and leveraging , than this book is going to be a great companion for your journey. You'll learn how your company can minimize risks by embracing culture as a vital piece of a business model design.

To Grant McCracken I can simply say: Thank You!

Stefano Somenzi
RtM Consulting
Managing Partner
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book that delivers principles and examples of the processes that are used to create and manage strong brands. If, as Dr. McCracken argues, the prevailing culture is the locus of the values that shape consumer attitudes, then this is the book that offers insights into how to mine the culture to get to those values. It presents a strong case why corporations should have a senior manager dedicated to mining the culture. An enjoyable read filled with great stories.
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Format: Hardcover
If you're in the business of breaking free from the status quo...Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation is a must read. Because we're all trying to have impact, it makes sense to invest in developing a better, more comprehensive understanding of how to read the culture and then craft offerings to meet real needs and interests.

I like McCraken's awareness that there really are two angles to mastering culture. It helps "discover advantage, opportunity and innovation while making us alert to "cataclysmic change." If I'm leading an organization committed to making a difference, I've got to develop that awareness. This is a book that will help you do both.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of Grant McCracken. I've not just enjoyed his books, but gotten some powerful ideas for my professional life from them over the years. I've read McCracken when he's being insightful. I know what that looks like.

Chief Culture Officer does not have the kind of material Grant McCracken writes when he's been insightful. Instead, it's filled with embarrassing ideas that appear to have been made off-the-cuff.

Actually, that's just the kind of flippant approach to business that McCracken suggests in this book that a Chief Culture Officer ought to be following. He suggests that watching reality TV shows like Real Housewives is a good form of ethnographic research. He advocates for the blind groupthink of brainstorming that Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen deftly exposed in their more recent book The Moment of Clarity.

In the closing pages of Chief Culture Officer, McCracken disparages academic anthropologists who have, as a culture, adopted the practice of writing more like irrelevant philosophers than observers of culture. His criticism is right on target, but in this book he has largely over-reacted to anthropology's academic rhetoric of nonsense by embracing the careless style of the worst business writers.

As an alternative to academic anthropological writing, McCracken suggests that people investigating the culture of consumption try to express ideas that are just barely good enough for the moment, but can be easily thrown away. He uses the metaphor of Thor Heyerdahl barely keeping Kon Tiki afloat, and then throwing it away as soon as he makes landfall.

That's not the kind of material that an enduring brand will be made from.
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