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Marsha Shenk 12 October 2009


Pioneer of Business Anthropology, Veteran consultant, teacher, facilitator & coach.

Marsha Shenk is a pioneer in Business Anthropology. Three decades ago, reflecting on commerce as an inescapable dimension of human life, she also began to view it as an unnecessary source of suffering. People are made to exchange, society is built on that. But the timeless patterns of those exchanges are invisible to most people – including veteran business leaders. Armed with that insight, she began her consulting practice.

Working with professionals and service providers as well as Fortune 10 executives, she forged a unique and far-reaching approach to the questions that every enterprise faces. Her Master Moves™ reveal how to structure valuable trading relationships, no matter what may be happening in the marketplace. Her models have powered profitable strategies, boosting productivity and loyalty and creating new markets, products and services. She’s known for using Game Theory to enable enterprises to win a game that only they can see, in which others must compete.

Marsha founded The BestWork® People in 1980, introducing a new way of catalyzing peoples’ best work. Over three decades, her work has guided leaders from many industries to deepen competitive gaps and sustain market leadership.

Sustaining inquiry into biology, anthropology, business, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, the martial arts, and somatics, she partners with colleagues from multiple disciplines. Her work has included 15 years of teaching leadership through courses, and 29 of consulting, coaching, and facilitating.

Marsha’s education began at Reed College, and includes doctoral study at UCLA and UC Berkeley.

What are you up to?

I’m committed to revealing how individuals and enterprises can be Fit to Thrive in Any Economy. Have recently forged a new synthesis of Neuroscience, Business Anthropology and the Martial Arts; I’m offering short courses on the key moves. Have also recently launched a website, Good Little Biz, providing 7 free worksheets as well as guidelines for avoiding costly mistakes common among solopreneurs and micro businesses.

What are you into?

The adventure of life appears in many ways for me. Welcoming a constantly arising world is always an interesting challenge. Finding ways to be fit emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually is a fascinating inquiry, not to mention how to be a loving friend, mother, wife, sister…I love good literature, and it’s great to find playmates who can sustain curiosity and learning.

What do you like most about Portland?

The mood. People are friendly, polite, and unpretentious. It’s a pleasure to live that way. And I very much enjoy the physical beauty: lush vegetation and good architecture. Portland is a fun food town, too.

How do you bring out the best in people: their best thinking, their best work, their passions and generosity, their desire to learn and step up to new challenges – even in a recession?

Fully invite them to participate in addressing the most important questions and challenges we can think of at Best Work People.

Keep them focused on the people they care most about, and what they want for them at Good Little Biz.

How can I sustain curiosity and keep learning, being the best I can be, while being gentle, generous, and patient with others?

I began this journey in an iron lung at age 10, during a polio epidemic, surrounded by ‘caregivers’ who I believed were incompetent. I was one of two children to walk out of that hospital that year; others died or remained in iron lungs, wheelchairs, or braces and crutches.

I continue to be humbled by the privileges of my life, and continue to look for how I can contribute to others what I have been fortunate to learn.


Best Work People
Good Little Biz

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