Intelligences

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

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Best Laid Plans…An Ethnographic Approach to Foresight

by STEWART ALLEN, MindSpark With an ethnographic lens on foresight and planning, we can see how futures unfold through people's daily journeys of anticipation and improvisation. What is Foresight? Foresight is an umbrella term used to describe a wide variety of methodologies and approaches for considering and preparing for possible and probable futures in order to help inform present and future courses of action. Today, it is an important and widely deployed practice that has developed in a variety of fields, from public policy such as state and town planning, to technology and R&D, and more recently strategic and financial approaches in business fields to help ensure the long-term survival and success of companies. Many of the approaches that come under the umbrella of foresight blend into one another. The majority of approaches to foresight typically employ pre-defined categories in their analysis – identifying trends in the social, technological, economic, and political spheres and extrapolating these using various...

Ethnography for Sensemaking in Times of Trauma

Photo from book cover 0f "Dealing in Desire"
a book review by SHARON BAUTISTA, Mozilla Dealing in Desire: Asian Ascendancy, Western Decline, and the Hidden Currencies of Global Sex Work Kimberly Kay Hoang 2015, 248pp, University of California Press The Labor of Care: Filipina Migrants and Transnational Families in the Digital Age Valerie Francisco-Menchavez 2018, 256pp, University of Illinois Press The March 16 shootings in the Atlanta-area of Georgia in the southern United States, when a person shot dead eight people, including six Asian women, sent me into deep grief. I could barely register the text messages from concerned friends recognizing me as an Asian woman and offering support. Trying to muster the focus to work the next day, I felt the urge to mute the Slack streams of sincere acknowledgements and thoughtful compilations of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) resources shared by co-workers. Alongside my grief, I was frustrated by the meager news coverage of the people—and specifically the Asian women—who were murdered. There seemed almost...

How Ethnographic Exhibits Can Shift Business Paradigms

Photo of a neighborhood shop (warung) in Indonesia
by ADRI REKSODIPOETRO (Nation) and ALEXANDRA MCCARTER (Spotify) Through the art of exhibition, curators immerse people in new worlds and new points of view, whether by transporting visitors to 18th century India or through challenging art history’s colonial gaze. The goal of an exhibition is a shift in perspective, to move people to think differently about something than they did before. Researchers do something similar: our first task is to learn something new, but the ultimate goal is to share what we learn in a way that shifts the perspectives of our colleagues, organizations or clients. In this article, we show how we applied curation techniques for a project we worked on together at Spotify. The project focused on understanding people in Indonesia who bought Spotify Premium, and the exhibition served as our main deliverable. The exhibition jump-started a new way of thinking about Spotify users because it enabled our colleagues to experience a different understanding of value and music streaming in the country. Why an Exhibition,...

Move Fast, Break Shit, Burn Out: The Catalyst’s Guide to Working Well

a book review by TABITHA STEAGER, Workday Move Fast, Break Shit, Burn Out: The Catalyst’s Guide to Working Well Tracey Lovejoy and Shannon Lucas 2020, 305 pp, Lioncrest As I write this, we’re just a few months into 2021, and, well, the world hasn’t magically changed. When the clocks ticked over on December 31, it felt as if there was a collective, cautious sigh of relief while we continued to hold space for the grief and turmoil so many of us have experienced in the last year. Instead, we’re still in a sort of stasis globally, waiting for vaccine numbers to reach critical mass and learning how to combat new virus variants, so you’d be excused in feeling like this stasis is the new normal. Yet the days are getting longer and on my walks I see the snowdrops pushing their way up through the ground. It feels a little corny to write this, but spring is coming. It has been a long, upending year that’s left me on the edge of burnout (fully over the edge of burnout some days if I’m completely honest) and even more...

Evaluating Food Delivery in a Pandemic: Usability & Ethnographic Principles to Guide Consumers

By CHARU AHUJA, Consumer Reports For almost 85 years, Consumer Reports has been detecting and anticipating shifts in consumer need for products and services so that we can guide consumer choice with rigorous research and testing. When the COVID-19 pandemic started to peak in March 2020 in the U.S., our ability to access the 63 product testing labs at our site changed. These labs house specialized equipment, such as a pressurized water dunk tank that is used to simulate conditions that electronics like phones and watches must be able to withstand if their manufacturers claim they are waterproof. And CR’s anechoic chamber removes all reflective sound signals, allowing a clean read on noise levels emitted by products. Such specialized equipment allows CR’s product testing experts to conduct repeatable and accurate testing across a large number of competing models in any given product category. Like most other organizations, we had to quickly pivot. To the extent possible, our product testers set up makeshift labs in their homes,...