Culture is an amorphous quality often used as a facile explanation for why things are the way they are in corporations—a collective scapegoat for why some initiatives succeed and others fail. Yet, like fish to water, people generally take culture for granted, underestimating the important role it plays in a firm’s vitality. As an organization’s self-sustaining patterns of behaving, feeling, thinking, and believing, culture exerts a powerful influence that can be a blessing or a curse to growth, innovation, and strategic renewal. In today’s fast-paced, quick-to-market business environment, where success increasingly requires the rapid application of new knowledge to address complex, constantly-evolving customer demands, having an agile mindset is key. In her keynote address, Mary Yoko Brannen will propose “ethnographic thinking” as a new way of diagnosing culture that can open up new avenues for innovation and ongoing strategic renewal.
Mary Yoko Brannen is the Jarislowsky East Asia (Japan) chair at the Centre for Asia Pacific Initiatives, professor of international business and research director at the University of Victoria Gustavson School of Business, and holds a visiting professorship of strategy and management at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. She is also deputy editor of the Journal of International Business Studies—the highest ranked journal in the field of IB. She received her M.B.A. with emphasis in international business and Ph.D. in organizational behavior with a minor in cultural anthropology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a B.A. in comparative literature from the University of California at Berkeley. She has taught at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, the Haas Business School at the University of California at Berkeley, Smith College, and Stanford University in the United States; Keio Business School in Tokyo, Japan, and Fudan University in Shanghai, China. Professor Brannen’s expertise in multinational affairs is evident in her research, consulting, teaching, and personal background. Born and raised in Japan, having studied in France and Spain, and having worked as a cross-cultural consultant for over 25 years to various Fortune 100 companies, she brings a multi-faceted, deep knowledge of today’s complex cultural business environment. As a researcher, she is internationally recognized as an expert in ethnomethodology and qualitative studies of complex cultural organizational phenomena. Her consulting expertise and research focuses on ethnographic approaches to understanding the effects of changing cultural contexts on technology and knowledge transfer, leveraging cultural identity in the global work organization, and multinational mergers and acquisitions.
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