Intelligences

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

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Personal Reflections on Scale from the Business World

photo of building with sky and jet stream in the background
by ADAM SINGER, Gemic Hi everyone, my name is Adam Singer. I’m a Strategist at Gemic and I’m new to the world of ethnography. Gemic is a strategy consulting firm founded by anthropologists that embeds anthropological and social science theory and methods into the core of its work. It uses these tools among others to identify growth opportunities and assess the future of culture, technology, and business for its clients. In contrast, I have little formal training or background experience in anthropology or ethnography. I come from a background in nonprofits and business (real estate development, commodity trading, traditional management consulting). Entering such an exciting field that is so different from my past experience has been quite the learning journey. In discussing the meaning of scale as the theme of this EPIC conference, I think it can be thought-provoking to compare and contrast how scale is considered and manifests between the world of business and the world of ethnography. Hopefully my perspective as someone...

Ethnography Taught Me to Fight Climate Change. But to Have Impact at Scale, Ethnography too Must Change   

photo of a piece of public art made of green computer components
by MELISSA GREGG, Intel In the spring of 2019 I met Klara, a fashion blogger based in Malmö with a growing reputation in sustainable design. Klara was a classic millennial of the type I had been studying for years: ambitious, anxious, confident and concerned about her future job security. In the course of a long interview about her laptop routines, she worried about depending so much on devices. She was one of several participants in different parts of the world who were cynical about tech companies’ constant push to sell new products. She had high standards for quality, but didn’t think there were enough products available that focused on sustainability. Rather than feel guilty about buying something that compromised her brand, Klara was considering making her next computer purchase second-hand. Several months later, the research complete and the presentations over, I am listening to another young woman from Sweden, Greta Thunberg. “This is all wrong,” she was saying on stage at the United Nations Climate Summit: “I shouldn’t...

“Stability”: Dissecting Banking’s Next Big Bet

by MARTIN GRONEMANN, CENGIZ CEMALOGLU & LARA CASCIOLA, ReD Associates Samantha – One of Us, and All of Us On a rainy spring afternoon, Samantha was absentmindedly reading the news as a procrastination tool between her two zoom calls, and finding the headlines even bleaker than usual. Unemployment numbers around the world had just hit historic highs, the mortality rate of COVID was unclear, her LinkedIn was flooded with people who had just been laid off, and economists were sounding the alarm bell. Some heralded COVID as the moment to rethink everything, others evangelized the myriad benefits of remote work. Per usual, in the background, the climate continued its collapse. Samantha had no dinner parties, no weekend getaways, no weddings. Feeling destabilized and confused, she found herself questioning everything – her job, her relationships, her furniture, and even her purpose in life. Samantha’s story was and still is familiar to many, and accessing embodied experiences like hers lay at the core of our decision at ReD...

Announcing New EPIC Board Members

This month, our first global, virtual conference will mark the 15th anniversary of EPIC. We are thriving with a growing membership and a range of new programs for connecting and learning together; we also face a spectrum of global crises that make our collective mission more important than ever. To meet these opportunities and challenges, we’re delighted to announce the expansion of the EPIC Board and welcome Nichole Carelock, Gary Gebhardt, and Carol Zatorre as new board members. Nichole, Gary, and Carol have made many wonderful contributions to our community in recent years and will bring a range of expertise—and…

Ethnographic Research in Remote Spaces: Overcoming Practical Obstacles and Embracing Change

photo of yellow blinds
by CHLOE EVANS, Spotify As an ethnographer and user researcher in industry a lot of my work depends on speaking to people face to face, understanding how they live their lives on their own terms and in their own spaces. Since the onset of Covid-19 both academic and industry researchers alike have been recalibrating how they conduct research in non-physical spaces by relying on remote tools and technology. Conducting research in a non-physical space has unexpected benefits as well as some challenges. The Importance of "Being There" The time corporate ethnographers have in the field is incredibly valuable; compared to academic ethnographers, we are able to spend far less time with people. Being in the same space is vital for us to understand how people use products and services for the companies we work for. For example, in a past role, I would have not understood the intricacies of how people experience pet store spaces in the US if I had not physically traveled there, spoken with dog owners, and followed them around the stores. Likewise,...