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Wanted: Chief Cultural Officer

Must think like Chris Rock. Gurus need not apply.

This story appears in the June 2010 issue of Start Up.

Anthropologists 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 occasions 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, McGill, 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 .

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