How does culture drive corporate performance? Insights from Michael Henderson企业文化如何影响企业表现力?

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From Enron to Barclays, corporate scandals shine the spotlight on corporate culture. Increasingly, companies are turning to corporate anthropologists to understand and fix cultural problems in their business.

One of the leading lights in this emerging field of corporate anthropology is Michael Henderson, who was the guest speaker at my TEC key group this week.

Michael shared in-depth with our group, and I won’t try to summarise everything he said. However, I will share some powerful sound bites that he left behind. Each one is worthy of further exploration.

About anthropology

Anthropology is the study of mankind – how people form together into social groups and cultures. It’s traditionally applied to societies, but is proving helpful in the corporate field.

  • An anthropologist must use “vu ja de” … the opposite of deja vu. In other words, seeing the same thing through new eyes.
  • Anthropology is the only scientific field where you can excel by being completely naive.
  • The secret to success as an anthropologist is to give up the right to be right.

About corporate culture

  • You can’t control culture, you can only inspire it.
  • The more you inspire people to be the culture, the less management you require.
  • Companies don’t have values, people do.
  • If you have to survey people, you don’t know them. Move from measurement to metaphor.
  • Tribes don’t have HR departments, but they do have RH (Resourcing Humans) departments.
  • Culture is always contextual.
  • Master storytelling.
  • Your culture is your major competitor. (Think of all the corporate scandals where internal greed led to the company’s downfall … with results a  competitor can only envy!)

Where current business thinking comes from

  • In the western world, business governance and culture mostly comes from the British East India Company (est. around 1600) where cargo could be insured but sailors could not. Back then, products were more important than people, and that’s still reflected in the DNA of business culture today. Something needs to change.
  • The word “manager” comes from the old French word for “putting a horse through it’s paces”
  • The word “company” comes from the Latin “to share bread”

I’ll be reporting in from our monthly TEC meetings. If you’re a CEO or manager, and you’re interested in joining TEC, contact them to find out more.

Muchilottu Bhagavathy TheyyamCreative Commons License freebird (bobinson|ബോബിന്‍സണ്) via Compfight



Michael Henderson是企业人类学研究的领军人物,也是我们这周TEC(中高级管理人员)聚会的主讲人。 





  • 人类学家必须拥有用不同角度看待相同问题的能力。
  • 人类学是科学领域中唯一一门让你可以完全保持天真的学科。
  • 人类学家成功的秘诀就是可以放弃坚持正确的权利。


  • 你无法控制文化,但可以激发文化的产生。
  • 你越是鼓励人们去创造文化,你越无需花费精力进行管理
  • 没有所谓的企业价值,归根结底还是企业内的人的价值。
  • 如果你需要做一个市场调查,不要只关注科学方法得出的结论,更重要的是关注人们真正想的是什么。
  • 部落里没有人力资源管理部门(HR),但却有提供人力的部门(RH)。
  • 文化是情境性的。
  • 掌握“讲故事”的才能。
  • 你的企业文化才是你最大的竞争对手(想想安然公司吧,公司内部的贪污作假让其竞争对手不费吹灰之力就见证了巨人的倒下)


  • 在西方世界中,企业管理和文化大多数起源于1600年间的英国东印度公司(British East India Company)。当时的普遍概念就是运送的货物第一位,水手的生命安全不予考虑。这也是当今资本主义社会的一大特点,产品永远比创造产品的人重要。当然,这样的错误想法理应改变。 
  • 英语中“管理(manage)”这个词起源于法语,本意是“驯服马走特定的道路”。
  • 英语中“公司(company)”这个词起源于拉丁文,本意是“分享面包”。


4 thoughts on “How does culture drive corporate performance? Insights from Michael Henderson企业文化如何影响企业表现力?

  • michael

    Hi Simon.

    Thanks for the plug.

    Love your work, you’ve distilled my efforts better than i could.


    Michael Henderson
    The Corporate Anthropologist

    • Simon

      Thanks Michael! I used your exact words! 😀

  • Paul Chippendale

    See here for comment:

    Cheers, Paul 🙂

    • Simon

      Thanks Paul, I think you mean this link – thanks for your thoughtful comments.


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