GSuite is changing the nature of Knowledge Work across 5 million businesses through AI-powered assistance. To ensure that this evolution reflects the aspirations and priorities of workers, Google and Stripe Partners conducted a multi-national ethnography of Knowledge Workers covering a range of industries. We identified that workers distinguish between ‘Core’ and ‘Peripheral’ work: the work they are paid to do and identify with, and the work that does not contribute to their success or happiness. Workers want assistance to enhance Core work and remove Peripheral work, nuanced across a spectrum of support. This framework and taxonomy has been adopted by teams at Google to inform strategic decisions on how AI is integrated by GSuite. New features are being implemented within Gmail, Slides, Docs and Sheets that bring these principles to life in the user experience....
‘AirSpace’, according to Kyle Chayka, is the increasingly homogenized experience of the western(ized) business traveller, driven by major tech platforms (including Google, Airbnb and Uber.) As international travellers, ethnographers must account for the impact of AirSpace on their research practice. After delineating the concept of AirSpace the paper posits three dangers ethnographers must negotiate: (1) The cost of control: AirSpace offers researchers control, but can narrow the scope of research (2) The risk of superficiality: AirSpace provides shortcuts to cultural understanding, but can limit deeper comprehension (3) The assumption of equivalence: AirSpace provides shared reference points, but can create the illusion of equivelance with research subjects. By exploring these three dangers the paper invites readers to reflect on their own research practice and consider how to utilize the benefits of these platforms while mitigating the issues outlined....
by TOM HOY, Stripe Partners
Sensemaking: The Power of Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm
2017, 240 pp, Hachette Books
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]
by TOM HOY, Stripe Partners
Jan Chipchase has done something few of us would dare: write down his trade secrets and give them away in a book. In The Field Study Handbook he shares hard-earned lessons from running ethnographic research projects across the world.
At face value the Handbook delivers on its promise. It lays out, often in painstaking detail, the nuances of how to stage a successful project. Everything from costing a proposal and folder-naming strategies, through to how to seat a team during a fieldwork interview and make an impact with your deliverables. But importantly, it also communicates a human, sometimes esoteric perspective about why we choose to do this kind of work in the first place. And it is this that elevates the book from a useful how-to guide to something more vital and existential.
Sharp insights can be found on most pages, particularly in relation to the author’s true passion – running projects ‘off the grid’ in developing countries. The text is at its best when Chipchase relates how...
Cast Study—This case explores a business strategy development project run by Stripe Partners for a London-based online healthcare company, Dr Ed. The first part lays out the details of the process: an intense four-day ethnographic research programme called the ‘Studio’ involving the Dr Ed senior management team. The second half reflects on the outcomes of the process one year on through a series of management interviews, and evaluates the contribution the Studio made in relation to the new business strategy. The evidence from the case suggests that the concept of strategy can be reappraised. From strategy as a static set of choices made at a specific point in time to strategy as an unfolding network of people, shared experiences and artefacts that is constantly being remade. The primary benefit of the Studio approach is its capacity to initiate, align and catalyse a ‘strategy network’. Studios are effective because they combine ethnographic encounters with collective problem...
Stripe Partners TOM HOY
This paper explores two different forms of knowledge. We compare embodied understanding with propositional or abstract knowledge. Ethnographic research, with its commitment to understanding through immersion and engagement in social fields produces dexterous, intuitive and practical cultural knowledge, which is highly suited towards culturally attuned activity. We argue that ethnography can often be reduced to propositional knowledge as a result of the lack of team participation in research and how we communicate insight. Ideas of professional expertise sit behind the division of labour that characterises client-researcher relationships. Accompanying that division of labour is a need for the communication of ethnographic research to bridge the gap between client and external worlds – the world we as researchers explore and that our clients needs to act in. By engaging our clients in shared, immersive experiences we can create the conditions for them to develop ‘know how’ about...
by JOHANNES SUIKKANEN, Gemic & TOM HOY, Stripe Partners
A wonderful, diverse group actively participated in the Ethnography & Strategy Salon at EPIC2015 in São Paulo, and we’d like to share some of that experience with you. The Brazil group took the discussion into unexpected territories (just as we hoped) and now we call on you, the extended EPIC community, to take it further.
Although diverse, we are all confronting many of the same tensions regarding how we use ethnography to drive strategy. In this sense, listening to parallel stories was useful for learning, but also reassuring (on a personal level) to hear how such challenges are widely shared. There is great value in addressing them together. By offering a summary of main themes and provoking questions from this salon, we invite you to extend our thinking.
Many of Us Are Becoming Empathetic ‘Experience Stagers’
We started the salon with Tom’s story about a project in which he took the client to the field to experience firsthand what “real people” experience....