He has worked for many organizations, including Timberland, New York Historical Society, IKEA, Google, Ford Foundation, Kanye West, Netflix, Sony, Coca-Cola, Sam Adams, Boston Book Festival, Delta, Oprah, Reddit, PBS, State Farm, NBC, Diageo, IBM, Nike, and the Obama White House.
He was the founder and Director of the Institute of Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum, where he did the first museum exhibit on youth cultures.
He has taught at the University of Cambridge, MIT, and the Harvard Business School.
He is a long-time student of culture and commerce, publishing two books on the topic: Culture and Consumption I, and Culture and Consumption II. He argues that all corporations need to take culture more serious, publishing a book called Chief Culture Officer (Basic Books). This was named one of the best innovation books by BusinessWeek in 2009.
He has also looked at how Americans invent and reinvent themselves. He explored this theme in two more books: Big Hair and Transformations: identity construction in a contemporary culture.
He is a student of a changing American culture. Plenitude published in 1997 looked at the new explosive growth of contemporary culture. In Flock and Flow, he shows how contemporary culture and commerce change. Culturematic, published by the Harvard Business Review Press in 2012, shows how we can create culture now.
His most recent book, Return of the Artisan, delves into the evolution of the artisanal movement from the fringes of the 1970s to the spike of domesticity—home-cooking, gardening, and DIY crafting—caused by COVID-19 and what it means for the future of work and American culture.
He is the inventor of The Griff, an early warning system for social and cultural change (see ). He is credited with spotting the rise of Donald Trump, the fall of Second Life, and the disruption of CPG by Alice Waters and the artisanal movement.