JOSH KAPLAN

Contributed Articles

When ‘The Emperor Has No Clothes’: Performance, Complicity and Constraints on Communication in Corporate Attempts at Innovation

JOSH KAPLAN When ethnographic or market research is employed to help de-risk potential products and services, the focus is typically on understanding markets, cultures and contexts external to the organization that would launch them. This paper shifts the focus to the sorts of organizational practices, beliefs, and dynamics inside large corporations, which can create the conditions in which new products are brought to market despite evidence of their risk of failure....

Place and Small Businesses: Reflections on Ethnographic Research in and on Place

This paper examines the often taken-for-granted role of ‘place’ and geography (cities, neighborhoods) in business ethnography, using research on small business as a case-in-point. Most studies of small businesses tend to focus directly on businesses themselves, eliding from consideration the social and physical environment in which they are situated. Yet especially for businesses that operate…

“Ethnography of Ethnographers” and Qualitative Meta-Analysis for Business

JOSH KAPLAN and ALEXANDRA MACK The use of meta-analytic studies has grown steadily in recent decades as a means of establishing greater confidence and robustness of social science findings, but such approaches remain rare in the business world. This paper offers two inter-linked qualitative meta-analytic approaches for business: one that both draws on pre-existing data to gain insight into new strategic questions and reaches across multiple studies to achieve greater generalizability and robustness, and a second that studies researchers and research practice as a means of reflecting on and improving methodology in particular organizations or research groups. Drawing on an in-house study the authors conducted for a Fortune 500 corporation, this paper articulates these two approaches and points to potential dangers and opportunities in applying them in other settings. In a moment in which researchers are increasingly called upon to do more with less, our approach provides flexibility and adaptability to environments inhospitable to marshalling...

Policy Change Inside the Enterprise: The Role of Anthropology

ALEXANDRA MACK and JOSH KAPLAN This paper addresses corporate policymaking and its varied meanings through organizational hierarchies and across departments. We argue for an approach to policymaking and implementation in large companies such that the impact on work remains visible to decision makers, and such that employees engage with, and promote the changes being made. In evaluating the effects of a policy change inside our company, we found that not only did the justifications for the original policy not hold up, policy implementation negatively impacted certain job roles and departments and employee engagement was undermined. A key implication of our findings is that implementation plans should assess the impact on affected parties, and we suggest that anthropologists are well-suited to conduct this assessment. If deployed to evaluate the effects and effectiveness of policy changes on people, work practices and perceptions, anthropologists can influence the direction of policy as it is being formulated and tested, and recommend adjustments...