Intelligences

The best global expertise on ethnography in business, including articles, case studies, webinars & conference video.

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Accelerating User Research: How We Structure Insights for Speed At Spotify

by SARA BELT, Spotify Instead of asking how we can further speed up research itself, the question becomes how we can better integrate research into the product development practice and speed up organizations’ ability to learn and iterate overall. For many years, insights was seen as peripheral to product development because of the perception that user research had low validity. I spent the first part of my career advocating for why teams should systematically listen to the people using their products, why anyone should trust qualitative insight to guide their decisions, and why research is a field of practice that requires specialized skills. Debates about validity have diminished as the research practice has gradually proven its ability to contribute value. Approaching product making from the perspective of data, evidence, and empathy is pretty much a given these days. In companies such as Spotify, the pendulum has swung the other way, where growth in demand for research has pushed us to scale the practice. New, more substantive...

Representation & Representative-ness

by DONNA LANCLOS, Anodyne Anthropology Donna is chairing the EPIC2019 panel "Representation & Representative-ness" on Monday, Nov 11, 11–12:00 in Providence, Rhode Island. EPIC2019 is around the corner and I’m excited to share the panel I have been invited to facilitate this year with a fantastic group of ethnographers: We will be tackling the ever-relevant theme of “representation”, a topic with a long legacy in ethnography and anthropology. Actually, I feel like the panel already started in the terrific discussions we had to develop our abstract, so I want to share some of that thinking here to inspire you to join the conversation in Providence! Our abstract begins: Ethnographers take pride in representing people’s voices with fidelity, empathy, and deep contextual understanding. But our work can end up reinforcing a distinction between people who “have experience” that we study for insights and people who “have expertise” to use, shape, and monetize that experience. In response...

New Forms of Literacy are Expanding Digital Expression

screenshot of YouTube cooking video "Housewife ka simple routine II Indian youtuber Ravina II"
by STUART HENSHALL, Convo Some time ago I watched an older Indian woman using Google Assistant to access recipes. She expressed how thrilled she was: her family would be eating new meals and they would appreciate her more. As I looked more closely, it was obvious the cooking instruction video (in Hindi) contained no text. (Makes sense, she doesn’t need it.) There are probably millions of recipes like this, many of them not professionally produced. In time, this woman herself may even become a creator of recipes and videos, despite not being able to write. She bypasses text for entertainment and learning, bringing her great joy and a new sense of independence. This is a significant change: previously, sharing recipes across time and space required writing, and less literate users avoided doing anything much more with their phones than calling. Now, voice and video technology is catalyzing new forms of engagement with a wider world. More recently, I was watching a group of TikTok creators talk about TikTok, a social media video...

How to Scale a Culture of Human Understanding

by ELEANOR BARTOSH and CHRIS HAMMOND, IBM IBM is big. We have around 350,000 employees including 20,000 design and user experience professionals, and only a fraction of them are experienced design researchers. Many of you reading this also work in or with large enterprise organizations and, as you know, at that scale it can be easy to get lost. At times, you might feel your research is undervalued and that you, as a researcher, are marginalized. We've been there, too, so we've identified some strategies that help to both address these issues and grow understanding at scale. Crucially, we believe that the whole cross-functional team, not just the researcher, bares equal responsibility for advancing an understanding of the people the organization serves—more colloquially users, customers, constituents, and communities. At this point, you may be thinking, "But wait...I'm not sure I trust my peers to not ask leading questions. I'm not sure they'll pick the right methods, identify the right participants, or analyze the data without...

Imposter Ethnographer: The Value of Feeling Like an Outsider

by ERIN B. TAYLOR, Canela Consulting & European Women Payments Network At EthnoBorrel, an ethnography meet-up that I co-run in the Netherlands, we talk about the issues ethnographers face in their applied practice. One term in particular keeps cropping up: impostor syndrome. The people who attend our meetups are highly educated, capable practitioners who apply their ethnographic skills as service designers, UXers, product owners, HR managers, researchers, technologists, and more. They have cracked the job market and are using their ethnographic skills in their daily practice. Yet many continue to struggle with feelings of being an impostor. Imposter syndrome is a multidimensional experience that can be rooted in sexism, racism, class, and many kinds of professional hierarchies and power dynamics. I want to focus on a different type of imposter experience specific to ethnographers. Often we work in places where we are the only ethnographer, or one of very few. More often, ‘ethnographer’ isn’t in our job titles,...