Joerg Schmitz 0:08
Welcome to the inclusive leader podcast. The practice of inclusive leadership enables us to tackle the complex challenges of our times. This is the space for conversations about inclusive leadership. I am your host, York Schmitz and I welcome you to this episode. I'm really excited to share this conversation with Ken price with you. Ken is a longtime colleague and friend. And he has found a way to make anthropology very useful to leaders and organizations in order to address persistent challenges in their culture. And that's not a small feat, as, as you will know, and particularly relevant when it comes to making real progress in DNI and embedding some of the practices of D and E and I deeply into organizational cultures. But not only is Anthropology of value to help us address some of these cultural challenges, he has also discovered how building anthropological skills can actually help us embody and perhaps even teach the spirit of inclusive leadership to use his words, it's about living in the discomfort zone, and tapping the value that that holds not only for our own individual growth, but also for the growth in our organizations. So here's my conversation with Ken. So Ken, I have been looking forward to this conversation for a long time to make your part of this podcast. And I'll ask you, although, you know, it's a little strange, because we've been working together for such a long time. But I'll just ask you anyway, what I want to ask everybody. So what do you do?
Ken Price 1:59
Well, thanks for inviting me to your podcast series, York, first of all, and although we have worked together for a long time, I felt like your questions, as always, are provocative and make me think about what have we been doing? And what am I doing for the last nearly two decades. So like yourself, I'm a cultural anthropologist, and have been so for about 30 years. And so I became an anthropologist, because I was interested to learn more about what I could do, which is important with regard specifically to India that I'm, and I wanted to be able to be able to live in India doing something hopefully productive and supportive in the local environment. So in other words, I chose to become an anthropologist, because I wanted to do something specifically in India, because of my previous experience there. And I wanted to continue that difficult to do in the early 90s, coming from a Western background. So anyway, I became an applied anthropologist, which was not at all common in the early 90s. And the focus of applying anthropology to this day is what I feel I do. And I appreciate that I have been able to follow that desire that dream to this moment where we are really working in organizations of all kinds, and working with individuals who frequently have large decisions on their plate, to help them to potentially or really see new opportunities that they might have missed. And I think that's some of the value that anthropology brings is his additional perspectives that are not easily accessible from normal day to day living.
Joerg Schmitz 3:52
So before we continue on that note, it's probably well worth for many listeners to define anthropology a little bit. Because I oftentimes find that that's that people have all kinds of notions of what anthropology is actually about.
Ken Price 4:09
Yes, I agree. Well, and I think similarly, we need to start with culture. Because if we're talking about a cultural anthropologist, the both of those words are both known and unknown, undiscovered, to some extent, I think for many people, so I, I look first at culture, I mean, culture is much more than what I ever imagined it was before I became an anthropologist, and I'm still trying to understand what is culture, honestly, at this point, but what is certainly included is really the result of what people do when they come together, then it doesn't take more than two people to come together before you begin to form a culture. I mean, there's certainly the organ can culture, which we're living here, right now. But then there's a culture of the level of nations Certainly, and then what we commonly think of as culture, but it resides within teams and organizations. And it's what we, you know, we have described as the shared values, beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, share is really important, because otherwise there's psychological. But I guess the, in an organizational setting, what we say is it's those values, beliefs, behaviors, attitudes shared, that tend to be most expected by the group reinforced by the group, and rewarded ultimately by the grip. And I think that puts forward for us distinctions in culture between what is commonly stated as our culture, the descriptions of culture that we may put forward, and then the potential gap between what we say is our culture, and what in fact, is our culture, because it's what we do. It's what we really value, it is what we expect, reinforce and reward. So culture is very dynamic, clearly it is, is very much a living space, I wouldn't call it a it's not a body, it's not a, but it's a living space. And we all kind of live within it. And we affected at the same time. So anthropology is a social science, that is oriented to understand, and in particularly the case of applying that understanding and applied anthropology, understanding and then looking for opportunities to align the culture that we have, or desire to have to larger outcomes. You know, in other words, our strategy or what we really want to be your core to do, ultimately, so I think anthropology has a, you know, what makes it unique as a social science is the methodology more than anything, in my opinion, because I think, sociologist, organizational psychologists, you can look at similar questions and arrive at the analysis or an understanding that is very productive. The unique methodology, which others actually have applied in other disciplines now increasingly is participant observation. And participant observation, which is, is really the hallmark of anthropology going back 100 years or so Sanders on the notion that you become an outsider on the inside, and you live as part of that community part of that group, then from doing so you retain a certain level of distance, but the distance is blurred, because you're living there, and you have to take on a lot of the practices and expectations of that community, the distance is in the ability to observe, while you're participating, effectively to be able to capture things and experience from that insider perspective as far as possible. The capturing of that, and the codifying or the organization of that data, resulting in some kind of communication, some kind of a report frequently, is what's meant to be useful, right to move forward, the understanding of that community, in the world that we work in, where it's, it's frequently, they're applying anthropology and institutions, organizations, of all kinds, including corporations, governmental, non governmental, the value of that understanding that you are seeking and seek to derive is for the community itself. And that is also different than other types of anthropology that are more academic, where you may be producing an understanding for an academic community frequently.
But in this case, where we work in applied anthropology, the application is to take the understanding to that group or to potentially others as well, but really to the group, most commonly, so that they can make decisions based off a better understanding. So what I
Joerg Schmitz 9:19
what I I think this is thanks for not just walking walking this, this this back a little bit. Just looking understanding that anthropology is a social science, actually, a science that looks at that studies actually what culture right what people do when they get together in the simplest form, and it's probably a surprise to many, especially leaders in organizations. That culture has a study right is an object of study in a sense, because I've I've felt in when when we've worked together also that many leaders operate with a relative li shallow view our understanding of this cultural, the cultural factor that is part of the organizations agree,
Ken Price 10:11
shallow undeveloped, to the understanding of that experience of not having a deeper understanding of culture itself, I think is, is as important for all of us because most people without any training do not understand how to examine and study culture. I mean, but I think one of the confusing things about culture is that we talk about it so much, and we talk about it in so many different ways. And we can talk about as the cultural artifacts in other words are frequently what people refer to when they refer to culture, broadly, cultural artifacts, including things such as the arts, music, any kind of result of what we do, again, when we come together, the artifacts are a critical part of culture and understanding color, but what we're really looking at is the interaction of people in the culture, and the result of those interactions. And we're looking for patterns, I think that's a really critical element of the definition. It's not just the one off experience that we're looking to find as much. I mean, those are important, but really, the most important thing is identifying, you know, the the patterns of behavior that really inform the direction of the culture over time, as it will evolve. So the patterns can give you both a notion of where we been, how we got to where we are, where we are, and it may be able to portend to some extent where we're going to go. And if we don't agree with it, that's where the decision making comes in, particularly for leaders, but really, for all cultures make decisions. Do we like where we bend? We like where we are? Do we like where we're going? Based on that? This may be a really
Joerg Schmitz 11:49
good just jumping off point to to to the next question, namely, how what kind of problems do people bring to you in your practice, and as a practicing anthropologist, or an applied anthropologist, where you, you say, this is how I can help people seeing new opportunities or uncover those new opportunities you talked about? That's an
Ken Price 12:12
important question. I think one of the things that is, my first thought, honestly, is one of the things I love about doing this work is it is highly variable. I mean, it changes all the time, we have new challenges continually. Having said that, talking about patterns as we were a moment ago, I think that, you know, again, if we just take a broad brush stroke approach to that response, I would say that the, in the first instance, the challenge that people will bring is to say, Okay, we know what we know, can you help us to know what we don't know? In other words, where are our blind spots? And that is an assessment, that's an analysis based on doing anthropology becoming insiders to their world as much as possible, coming out with a diagnosis based on that data and the analysis of the data of who they are, so that we can come back to them and say, Well, you, you may know this 90 85% of what we're going to tell you, you will know there will be another 10 or 15% that perhaps is not so known to you, that may be revealing something in a space that has not been examined previously by yourselves. So let me come to a more concrete example of that I can think of cases where we have been asked to come in because there is something happening, that is not in line with what is the stated value of the organization. And that can come in many different forms. But essentially, if you begin to identify that there are patterns of behavior that do not align with what we believe we should be, that could fall within diversity, equity inclusion, worlds that could fall within the world of performance. And the sense that we may see performance gaps related to engagement, for example. And if we see, okay, there's a challenge here, we could we could either have more inclusion, which would also increase our performance, we could have a greater sense of ownership in an organization right now, there's not very much accountability, if seals and and organizations may identify that bring that as a challenge to us to say, why aren't people feeling or acting accountable? Why are people not feeling or acting included? We're engaged and we need to help them then to come up with data driven responses to that really critical question. Ultimately, you're these things. You know, the reason that we do this as a business us in our consulting is because it impacts performance performance impacts results, and results in a corporate environment or financial ultimately, results in organizations such as governments and non governmental it's to do with the quality of service that they are able to deliver for a certain community. It's really about increasing the results, whatever the goal of the organization.
Joerg Schmitz 15:28
And usually what I've noticed is that people, sometimes they approach you, when other sources, other conventional sources haven't really brought about that result. Right. I mean, yeah, I think, I mean, it takes a little bit of, it's not the conventional call to make, you know, let me call the anthropologist on staff for us. All right. But anyway, I mean, I've noticed it's, it's oftentimes when other when, when other tools or other solutions have been, they've tried things and ended that didn't really create the impact they wanted. And so this is kind of a different way, a different tool, a different approach.
Ken Price 16:09
I think that's absolutely right, in my experience, and it makes me wonder, what are some examples of those approaches that have necessarily worked? You say? Well, I
Joerg Schmitz 16:19
mean, I've seen it, you know, for example, I mean, it's just as simple as sometimes the conventional engagement survey, right? That, that somehow we're, especially in the DNI space, right? There are initiatives and programs and whatnot, yet, the impact is not either measured, you know, there is no impact, or is it having an impact? And somehow we can answer that question. Or we may be missing something in the way we do DNI that somehow is not does not resonate. And, but we can't explain it. So all this training, and all these campaigns or whatnot, are really not missing the point somehow. But how do we know what point but what is that point? Where are we missing it? And where can we correct? I think that's what I've seen, for example, in the DNI space, but not just they are also in leadership development, for example,
Ken Price 17:14
right, or team engagement? For sure. I think I think that's right. I yeah, I guess it brings me back to this notion that fans apology offers the possibility to go under the hood. Right? If we think of that analogy, that allows us to see why as much as what, and I think frequently the other areas that you talked about that maybe don't necessarily get you the result that you're seeking, or focus more on the what capturing what is it? What does it need to be? A lot of what we're going to look at is why? Why is it running? Well, why is it not running? And what therefore is running? Well, what is not running? Well, we can, we can provide more depth by really going deeper onto the inside. You know, I think what we need to remember here is we're talking about human experience, essentially, we're talking about human beings, we're talking about the experience of people at the level of emotion, of communication, of self perception. Other perception, it's, it's a highly humanistic experience, in other words, to try to get under the hood. And it is not easily accessible, what what it really comes down to, in order for us to be any good at what we're trying to do as anthropologists, is we need to gain the trust of the people, the humans with whom we're working. And in this case, we're trying to study in a sense, you know, and then the data, what I've learned in Greece, and that the data is not just that people say something, and therefore we have data, which is what they said, that's, that's true, but that's really not the best quality data and the quality of the data in the case of that apologist is directly related to the depth of the truth that people are willing to share with you. So that is, I think what really sets us apart. And in that participant observation methodology is to establish a relationship of trust, that you need to protect at all costs, that even at the cost of potentially representation or reporting. In other words, in some cases, you cannot represent or report what you've learned, because you have to protect it first and the confidentiality of what has been shared that can be very personal. Having said that, if you talk about patterns and themes, that is where it becomes very powerful to sort of reported back to say, You know what, it's not just one person. It's not just two people. But this is a very profound experience shared by a number of people that has value
Joerg Schmitz 19:59
And, for me, this is also the connection, I mean, a powerful connection to this work around inclusive leadership. Because ultimately, you can't We can't be inclusive as leaders if we don't develop trust. And you can't just ask somebody, do you trust me or not door to your child? You know, I mean, it takes some deeper engagement. And sometimes if I, as a leader need to figure out how I am being trusted, I'm not the one who can who can do this research who can find that out, right. So I need somebody who understands how culture works, really works, and get under the hood. And I think that's, that's what you're doing. And also the the trust element, right, being able to gauge trust. And we've seen this together in many organizations where trust is the basic issue, but you know, there is just no survey, no quick tool that can actually really tell you the level of trust or distrust that actually exists in a culture. No, it's
Ken Price 21:03
I mean, it's paradoxical, because if you come out and ask people in an uninteresting environment, do you trust me, then they're gonna say, yes, yeah, exactly. The power dynamic,
Joerg Schmitz 21:15
is that how do you get, how do you get behind that that's, that's what we're trying to address is how you can get behind those very challenging human experiences that directly impact the performance of the group. And I get excited about this disability ability through this institute, actually, to connect leaders and members to this capability to leverage anthropology for to get under the hood of culture and really develop their culture further in a sustainable way and not stay at the surface of culture, which, which is where as we talk, many, many leaders operate, or many organizations operate, they really do not sometimes mean culture, when they talk about culture. question, why do you do this work? What why? I mean, what what what is that, that you talked a little bit about India? And that's where things started for you. But But why?
Ken Price 22:12
Well, so I think I see good. My response to that question, by my introduction, as you said, about India, and why I became an anthropologist. And why I'm doing this work is because I want to do anthropology. Why do I want to be in politics? Why do I because I want to engage in communities different than what I know, of all kinds, all over the world as much as possible, in a productive, beneficial way as much as possible. I mean, and that's always complicated. It's very complicated. When you look at, you know, where I was looking initially around, challenges related to international or rural development, you know, performed by international agencies and so forth. That was something that fascinated me. Regarding India, I saw I started looking at the organization itself and saying, Okay, now if I join one of these organizations, what impact am I likely to have, and I can become trained on international development, theory and application, and then I can go into that field, which is really an industry, then in the early 90s, I was put off by what I learned when I looked into that, that I a lot of the effects of what they were doing was not in line with the stated values of the organization or of the needs of the community. They were frequently reinforcing power structures, in other words, that everybody seemed to agree we're not healthy, and dynamics and so forth. So in other words, I felt like, you know, I think I'd be a good idea before I jumped into that world to take a very critical or self critical view of the practice of development itself. Now I did that, and I lived in India as a result for over a decade. And then I got to live and work in those settings for many years, which was was just invaluable and stored narrowly and fortunate to have been able to do that. But I also realized later that the application of those concepts or approaches really are valuable in any organization with any set of goals. And so that's kind of where now, the work we do includes organizations like that I'm working on a project right now that is very much engaged in global international development at the local community, marginalized community level. So I get to still do that, which is really tremendous for me. But it's not the main of what we do, as one might imagine. It's with organizations, corporations, and large institutions or small organizations and institutions sometimes, but the the why is remain the same, which is that I really want to engage them very diverse worlds, and learn by being invited, you have to be invited in, you can't just insert yourself, you have to be invited, which is a whole process in itself by the way to gain an invitation. But I think when you, when you get that, and you and you are able to, in fact, be an anthropologist and environment, and you get to come back and help people to identify those blind spots, identify the confirmations of what they are doing that they want to continue, which is very important and not to be overlooked. It's not always about changing, sometimes it's about doubling down on what we have and what we do. But just all the insights that can be derived from the value of doing our work well, is very fulfilling, I think. And, you know, it makes you feel that you've been able to play a positive role in a lot of people's lives. And that has intrinsic value.
Joerg Schmitz 25:58
Yeah, I think it's so much at the essence of what mean, in the corporate environment, we would call it diversity, equity, or include inclusiveness or inclusion. I mean, it's actually without those out. Without that those words, it's actually the practice of that. And that's also what has drawn me to anthropology, I have to say, as one of the few disciplines, maybe the only discipline that actually puts that into, into practice, right? I mean, even though the diversity, inclusion, equity, those words weren't used, necessarily, that, you know, I'm really excited to bring this this capability and this this perspective into the Institute and really make that core a key pillar of doing this work around developing inclusive leaders and, and creating cultures of inclusive leadership, actually, but it's some some practical insight, a practical takeaway that you would, would emphasize at the end of our conversation, just but but let's something that somebody can, can put into practice easily based on your, your learning,
Ken Price 27:05
I think, with the exception of the last word easily. I have an insight. I'm not sure about the easy part of this. But I don't think very much is easy about this. To be frank, I do feel however, it is worth the effort. For sure. So one insight, which I would say another reason, by the way, thanks for your earlier question about why I do this. I mean, I have grown tremendously from these opportunities that I'm describing, in the situations I've been put into as somebody who's very challenging, some of it is very far outside of my comfort zone, outside of what I wouldn't necessarily even choose, you know, one thing I learned years ago, that I used to run programs for students at that time coming to India, and they I said, Well, why did you come to India? Because these are people from Western colleges and universities, US based mostly, and the most common responses? Well, I came for the challenge, I said, Well, you came to the right place, because you are going to get a challenge in India, here's the interesting point, I would just caution you that challenges do not come in the form that we might prefer, which is what makes them very challenging. They come in ways that we don't like frequently, and I haven't experienced that many times. And that forces us to grow individually. And as a community as a group. How do you stay in that space? And so it's not easy. And I'll try to come to maybe a preceptor of the notion of an element of this that could be applied and in practice, more, you know, excessively. But the real issue frequently that the inside the real issue is how can we live in discomfort zones? How can we live outside of our comfort zones, and do it effect. And to me, the answer to that has grown with time, and it really comes down to some very well known, well used well worn ideas or words. And then one of them is just simply humility, you cannot stay in a state of Growth and on the edge of your discomfort and comfort. Unless you are maintaining a high degree of humility. That is a continual challenge in itself. As we grow and as we have increasing areas of responsibility, it's easy to see some of that slip when we don't have maybe the same degree that we had when we were younger. And that's a that's a common experience for a student person in the student stage of their life to be rather humble. But it doesn't always stick or it doesn't stay and I would strongly encourage that. You know, we looked at that as we grow in our lives and our careers etc. And but combined with that in order and this is very much of My notion of how to apply inclusion as a leader is to stay in that space where we are continually humbled, and continually curious that the curiosity to learn more, and push further, understand more, tried to uncover those blind spots, you know, put some light on something that had been dark before, that, I think is absolutely essential to being able to practice leadership in an inclusive way. I think leadership as a practice requires certain core values of the individual, you know, it's not all cultural words, but there's really got to be some individual value for this humility, and curiosity. And then final thing I would add that all of that is really good, but as a leader in particular, but really for anyone, curiosity, humility will get you some self development opportunities, but they may not have impact on anybody else, you the only way that you will have that is willingness to act on the learning that comes from the humility, curiosity, and the continual renewal of those if you do not have a willingness to act, or you're shy, to act, slow to act, that will have effects beyond what we've learned. And so that that is some of the biggest challenge, I think is having leadership, courage to act on what we know, especially as we learn more,
Joerg Schmitz 31:31
and especially in in in the world, that is as it's shaping up currently. I think, I mean, just listening to the last you know, what you shared is so relevant in this emerging world with with all the various different challenges we are facing. So thank you can this will be really exciting Intel to take this work into the context of the Institute and, and develop that further. Thanks for sharing those things right now.
Ken Price 32:01
I'm very excited about it, and looking forward to more.
Joerg Schmitz 32:12
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