HEINRICH SCHWARZ

Contributed Articles

The Challenged Role of Ethnographic Consulting in Startup Centric Innovation

HEINRICH SCHWARZ Schwarz Innovation PechaKucha Presentation From a position of external consultant on user insights for a German innovation lab, I reflect on a shift in the way corporate innovation is done – from a user centric innovation process towards what could be called startup centric innovation. I have found the outcomes of this turn to be ambivalent – both for the innovation lab and myself. For the lab partnering with existing startups promised greater speed and access to fresh ideas, but has turned out to be rather difficult. For me, the shift has challenged my role and perspective as ethnographic consultant in more than one way. I have worried that a much needed user perspective may drift out of focus when getting prematurely outsourced to startups. But this new process has also been eye-opening; it has forced me to rethink my still linear view of the innovation process towards a more messy and simultaneous one where thinking about users needs to be integrated from day one with thinking about solutions,...

Ethnography as Executive Exposure – Spectacle or Higher Education?

HEINRICH SCHWARZ This paper reports and reflects on a perhaps new development: A rise of projects where the ethnographic experience of clients moves to the center. With these projects, often for higher level executives, the exposure by clients to real people becomes the main selling point. The paper discusses two recent projects–a workshop for a media company and a study trip for management of a pharmaceutical company–to reflect on the challenges and opportunities of this species of corporate ethnography where experience production outweighs knowledge production. Is the result a spectacle or higher education? A return to capitalizing on the exotic, or a much needed learning experience for high-level decision makers? The paper suggests that the emphasis on ethnographic experience offers an opportunity to engage our clients more deeply but also entails the danger of losing control over the results of ethnographic research without adequate analysis....

Close Encounter: Finding a New Rhythm for Client-Consultant Collaboration

HEINRICH SCHWARZ, MADS HOLME and GITTE ENGELUND In the current economic uncertainty ethnographic consultants are asked to intensify their client focus and to demonstrate and improve the relevancy and impact of their work. This paper reports on a case of close collaboration between client and consultant during an ethnographic consulting project. It discusses three crucial challenges: the challenge of aligning expectations and clarifying roles, the challenge of cultural differences and confusion over ethnographic methods, and the challenge of finding the right rhythm between close interaction and useful separation. Written from both the consultant and the client perspective we describe how similar situations were experienced differently by both parties, analyse what underlies some of these tensions, and suggest some lessons for ethnographers and clients alike for future close encounters. The paper suggests that the central challenge lies in finding the right balance between client-emic and client-etic positions and in inviting clients...