Intelligences

The best collection of global expertise in ethnography in business, including papers, PechaKucha, keynotes, tutorials and video.

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Purity and Data

by YULIYA GRINBERG, Columbia University If you follow news about digital self-tracking, you may have heard about Chris Dancy. He appears regularly in the press and has become widely known as “The Most Connected Man on Earth.” Reporters generally characterize him as the epitome of a digital self-tracking devotee, a veritable cyborg in the flesh who has become all but isometric with his data. Chris’s collection, in fact, started out analog. Long before he found his way to Fitbit and Twitter scraping software, Chris lovingly assembled life-size scrapbooks filled with paraphernalia from years gone by. These collections often feature centrally in narratives of Chris, but they largely stand as silent backdrop, their clutter a foil for his digitally streamlined life. His digital data are associated with purity and order; his boards represent the mess he has cleared from his life. This contrasting representation of his digital and analog collections reflects a powerful cultural understanding of digital data as something that...

Building an Innovation Strategy from Cultural Insights

by JAY HASBROUCK, Founder, Filament Insight & Innovation “Innovate or die"—this dictum is driving companies to build their innovation capacity, and fast. Most are turning to now-familiar practices such as Design Thinking, Lean, or Agile. But as they grow, many organizations find that they don’t see expected increases in innovation after deploying these practices. Why? Although they’re originally meant to drive creative thinking and strategic risk taking, innovation methods can quickly become rote in large organizations, especially when teams are expected to deploy them without context, or simply to check off a box on their performance reviews. Worse yet, some companies struggle to manage a combination of different innovation practices between teams, leading to a breakdown in collaboration and disjointed project pacing. What these organizations lack is an overall innovation strategy that drives their efforts to build innovation capacity, engages their teams with a purposeful vision, and ensures their efforts can evolve...

3 Things We Want You to Know

Recently EPIC was accused of homophobia in the EPIC2017 peer review process. In the wake of this experience, and as we embark on the review process for our 2018 program, there are several things we would like our community to know: Members of the EPIC2017 program committee and the EPIC Board addressed this accusation immediately when it was first raised in 2017 and again last week when it was surfaced publicly by the same individual as he was invited to participate in this year’s review process. We have communicated with the individual who made the accusation. We did not find…

An Open Letter about EPIC and Homophobia

Dear EPIC Community, I’m Gary, co-chair of EPIC2017 here at HEC Montréal. I’m writing this open letter because there have recently been some social media posts by an individual accusing EPIC of homophobia. Specifically, someone who submitted a proposal for EPIC2017 felt that his submission had been rejected due to homophobia: “I sensed clear homophobia and cannot see any other reason for awarding me the very lowest score.” This accusation has been published in some outlets along with the “Silence = Death” imagery most widely associated with the social activism of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) starting in…

Book Review: The Paradox of Sensemaking

by TOM HOY, Stripe Partners Sensemaking: The Power of Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm Christian Madsbjerg 2017, 240 pp, Hachette Books Excerpt Christian Madsbjerg has done a huge amount to elevate the profile and impact of ethnography in corporate settings. As co-founder of ReD Associates, Madsbjerg makes a consistent and compelling case for ethnographers to set their sights beyond user experience and design to impact decisions at the pinnacle of global organisations. His new book Sensemaking advances his mission further, advocating humanities-based thinking to a much wider business audience. The central analysis feels more even resonant today than when the book was released last year: the power of big data has created a false idol, lulling us into the belief that the algorithm has the capacity to replace critical thinking. What unfolds is a story which is compelling and bold in critique, but strangely conservative and ambiguous in the solutions it prescribes. Silicon Valley and the Renaissance Man [sic] Sensemaking...