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

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Our Collective Project of Change

EPIC2016 stage2

EPIC2016 at the University of Minnesota was wonderful for all sorts of reasons—in particular, the hard work of our fabulous organizing team and the fact that our community is more diverse than ever. EPIC People are practitioners in technology, consumer product, work process and healthcare, working in industry as well as consulting. With backgrounds ranging from the social sciences and design to computer science, business and everything in between, you come to EPIC with tremendous interest to network and expand your awareness, skills and capabilities. Today there are more options than ever for ethnographic work across industries and yet change remains…

“In the Age of Data, Businesses Can’t Forget about Observation”


Last week at EPIC2016, award-winning business journalist Lee Schafer of the Star-Tribune joined EPIC Members and distinguished guest panelists in pre-conference sessions to tackle core strategic issues in our field: How do we convince corporate executives that ethnographic insight is valuable to business strategy? How do we do rigorous work in an environment that constantly demands “better-cheaper-now”? One challenge, Schafer observes, is that ethnographers do “the kind of in-depth research that doesn’t easily lead to a full database of numbers or series of elegant charts. The boss knows what ‘market research’ is, yet that doesn’t quite describe what they do, either.” Panelists and EPIC Members shared tactics—from storytelling and video, to facilitating immersive…

Riding with Heidegger: A New Perspective on the Premium Vehicle

ahnert square

by Benjamin Ahnert, ReD Associates The car has been the subject of social scientific research for decades. Scholars have described the empowerment people feel through the physical sensations of speed and acceleration. The ability of the premium vehicle to express status has been a staple of literature on signaling and social stratification. These days, even in emerging markets, premium vehicles are no longer scarce. In 2013 the German and British premium brands already operated 1,085 dealerships in China; by 2020 an estimated 300 million Chinese will be able to afford premium vehicles. Meanwhile, congestion is increasingly severe. Between 2005 and…

Scaling Empathy through IBM Design Research

ibm design research

by Chris Hammond and Jesyka Palmer, IBM Design Research As consultants we practiced the basics of design thinking and user centered design for years with a range of organizations. However, upon joining IBM and learning to apply the IBM Design Thinking mindset, we both realized this way of working differed from our past experiences. This difference is largely expressed by the addition of “the Keys” or IBM’s way to scale design within a large, geographically disparate organization. As researchers and strategists, the most resonate Key is Sponsor Users. A real challenge for enterprise and healthcare programs is access to users…

Going with the Gut: The Case for Combining Instinct and Data


by Simon Roberts, Stripe Partners “The lesson I took away from that was, while we like to speak with data around here, so many times in my career I’ve ended up making decisions with my gut, and I should have followed my gut,” Otellini said. “My gut told me to say yes.” So said the ex-CEO of Intel, ruing his decision to pass on the opportunity to put Intel processors in the first iPhone. It was a decision that would cost Intel the opportunity to power the wildly successful iOS range. His gut, it turns out, was right—but the data…