Grant McCracken is an anthropologist, but not one of those stuffy academic anthropologist. Grant is probably one of the biggest connoisseurs of pop culture there is. I really don’t know how Grant manages to be as active on social media as he is, watch as much TV as he must and still have had time to turn out his 11th book, Culturematic: How Reality TV, John Cheever, a Pie Lab, Julia Child, Fantasy Football . . . Will Help You Create and Execute Breakthrough Ideas. I’m beginning to wonder if he’s beta testing some new wearable computing glasses that allow him to stream media 24/7 directly into his brain.
Culturematic is an interesting and fun book. It was a refreshing break from the normal social media and business books I’ve been reading and it’s not the kind of book you’d expect to read from someone with a PhD in Anthropology (but if you’re familiar with Grant then it shouldn’t come as a surprise). Culturematic is full of examples ranging from TV hits to Fantasy Football to the business world. If nothing else, I have to thank Grant for not using the same old tired examples all business books seem to be using right now.
So what’s this book about? Why did Grant write this book? I think the best answer to that comes in these two wonderful paragraphs in the introduction (emphasis is mine):
As an anthropologist who studies American culture and business, I recognize some of what I hear out there. I have an idea of what marketers are doing, how capital markets work, the theater of politics, the logic of fashion, the economics of television. I get most of these. And, of course, I like having my preconceptions confirmed. But it’s the things I don’t understand that are useful. These send a message. These say, “Your models are broken.”
In fact, the world is busting through my anthropological models as if they were made of balsa wood and tissue paper. The problem, of course, is change, the sheer propulsive force of change. What once took a century now takes a decade. What once took a decade can now happen in a year. The world sprints into the future. Models waddle. Always too little. Always too late.
I love that.
In this book Grant takes all of these anomalies he’s seeing in the World and tries to make sense of them. He presents a new model he calls the Culturematic, which evangelizes the use of “labs” with a heavy bent towards failure.
In the end Grant doesn’t give you all the answers. I don’t think the answers exist and I think that’s his point. If you’re waiting for someone to tell you what the next big thing is, then you’re probably too late to the game.
But what I think is more important, and why I think you should read this book, is the approach Grant took to making sense of what he was seeing. If you read this book look at how he identifies the key trends and how he then makes sense of them. If you can start thinking like this then you’re way ahead of the competition.