by JULIA KATHERINE HAINES
There are many ways to view Lean. Lean is a business science. It is a product development method. And in many ways, it is a communication medium. In my research with startups, I’ve also heard Lean referred to as a religion.
If Lean is a “religion” in the new startup era, I’d like to propose another way to view Lean in practice. In this piece, I will show how Lean as a practice within startups fits the mold of a ritual—and how impactful such rituals can be. But I also want to suggest how Lean as a ritualized, or routine, practice can be problematic.
But first, a little background on Lean.
I have been studying startups that are participating in accelerator programs globally. Through my experience and close examination of startups and innovation, I found an underlying thread that connects them—it is, invariably, Lean. Lean Startup helped spur a startup mania around the globe. It was the first model to really describe startup creation as a science.
The concept of Lean traces its roots...
by DONNA LANCLOS
The 2014 American Anthropological Association meetings for me consisted of a long and occasionally ranty (on my part) conversation about Open Access publishing. My conversations at the 2013 meetings in Chicago around OA hinted at high levels of anxiety and also misinformation among academics in anthropology about what OA is, what is at stake, what it might look like, and the impact it might have on their professional success. I had hoped that in the course of a year those negative feelings would shift a bit, especially with the relatively high-visibility experiments in OA at Cultural Anthropology, and HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory (the latter is both a journal and entering into an experiment in monograph publishing with University of Chicago Press).
The conversations I witnessed in DC this year did little to assure me that anxiety levels have lowered. From the lament of faculty who do not see how OA publishing can be peer-reviewed or prestigious, to publishers who wish that academics would stop pretending...
by KATHY BAXTER, User Experience Researcher, Google
At the AAA conference I attended the roundtable discussion "Getting Anthropology Closer to Zero: Collaborating to Reduce Sexual Harassment in Anthropology." Not being an anthropologist myself, I didn't know that many anthropology programs require students to spend time in the field. Depending on the school/department, students may conduct fieldwork in another country, sometimes in a remote outpost, alone or with a small team (20 or less), supervised by one leader or advisor. I learned that sexual harassment of women and gay men is a shockingly pervasive, long-standing problem in these scenarios.
Last year a team of four researchers, including two anthropologists, conducted a survey and series of qualitative interviews to understand the breadth of the problem, what is happening, and why it is so pervasive. The survey data were analyzed and published first (Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault) and a paper discussing the qualitative interviews...
EPIC Profiles Series
by PHIL BICKERDIKE, Swinburne University
I caught up with Johannes Suikkanen after he returned to Helsinki from EPIC2014 in New York City to discuss his career, ethnographic praxis and the future of the EPIC community. Johannes co-founded Gemic, a human-centric strategy and innovation consultancy, about six years ago – and it has been a fascinating journey.
Johannes first encountered the intersection between the worlds of business and anthropology as a student. Coming from a family that was deeply interested in humanities, his rebellion against his parents was to go to business school. Originally focusing on economics and traditional management science, he faced a dilemma:
“I always felt that in the way economics and management sciences look at human beings, there was something fundamentally wrong in my opinion. The view was of a rational agent that maximizes his or her own benefit and it was always about an individual. At that time, economics that I became familiar with (or management science)...
EPIC Profiles Series
by KATHARINA ROCHJADI, Swinburne University of Technology
At 7 am sharp on a Monday morning, Skype broke the silence with an incoming call. On the line was an affable, well-spoken woman with a British accent. It was Elizabeth Churchill, a familiar name in the EPIC community and a founding member of its steering committee. It was a great pleasure to speak with such a prominent figure in ethnographic praxis. Elizabeth is Executive Vice President of ACM SIGCHI and Director of User Experience at Google. Until very recently (in fact, at the time of this interview) she was Director of Human-Computer Interaction at eBay Research, and prior to that founder of the Internet Experiences Group at Yahoo! Research.
Elizabeth routinely starts her morning by checking her emails. “I check to see what’s happening in the world, and also to connect with collaborators and colleagues in the research world as well as at my workplace. I like to check in and see if there is anything I need to catch up on as soon as I get up...
EPIC Profiles Series
by AMINA BENHIMA, Swinburne University
A PhD in French Literature and Cultural Studies from Duke University (1988-1994), Maria Bezaitis may appear to have a surprising career as a scientist inside Intel’s Interaction and Experience Lab. But as she says, her vast literary studies exploring modernist literary movements in the context of new technological developments, ultimately led her into such a field of work. Bezaitis felt she had learned about “the changing nature of everyday life” and it was this focus that forged her interesting career.
Of immigrant parents to the USA, Bezaitis mentions that her background possibly contributed to a core tension that created a sense of “always being on the outside or at the margins”. This fluent speaker in French and Greek as well as English drew her academic attention to language and “writing, writing and writing”. Bezaitis came to see language as crucially important to all endeavours. Language for her was the preferred methodology “to work out problems,...
by SIMON ROBERTS, Partner, Stripe Partners
This is a piece about certain types of objects. Those objects are models.
I want to suggest that models are objects that are central to the various practices in which EPIC People are engaged for three reasons. Firstly, they help manage situations of uncertainty. Second, they are tools for communications. Third, they represent technologies of enchantment.
Let’s take uncertainty first. Like it or not, life is full of uncertainty.
“Given the inherent ambiguity of all reality and the nagging suspicion that we always exist on the edge of existential chaos, objects work to hold meanings more or less still, solid, and accessible to others as well as to one’s self” (Molotch 2003: 11).
The lives of individuals and businesses are plagued by knowledge about what may be and what might become. Both individuals and businesses are always on the look out for anchors in a world of vertigo inducing uncertainty and ambiguity. Models are just such anchors. Providing anchors in an uncertain world...
by PETER LEVIN, Intel Corporation
Intel recently ran an internal marketing conference, where a research firm shared with us a dozen or so technology trends, each with potential to “disrupt” our business. To narrow down discussion about these trends, we were asked to “vote” on which of these trends we thought were most important. And then we could focus our attention on those. While the conference ended up being interesting (maybe more for the networking than the content), I left wondering things like why voting would matter for determining the consequences of future shifts on our markets. And I left wondering about the kinds of insights work we need to produce in corporate environments and the deep challenges we face in producing those insights.
In my previous life as an academic sociologist, insight really means a search for foundational causation and theory. For academics, foundational theory matters so much more than discovering the “next big thing.” Moreover, one can be a successful academic by doing all root-cause...
MARIA BEZAITIS, ALEXANDRA MACK and KEN ANDERSON From September 7 through 10, EPIC convened in New York City at Fordham University’s Manhattan campus. This year’s conference was hosted by Fordham’s Center For Positive Marketing, a fact that encouraged a conference emphasis on value and values. Our organizing team, led by Tim de Waal Malefyt and Rogério de Paula, brought four keynote talks into the main conference program this year, giving the EPIC community a chance to hear from culture critic Thomas Frank, industry practitioners Christian Madsbjerg (ReD Associates) and Kate Crawford (Microsoft Research), and Professor Dawn Lerman (Executive Director, Center for Positive Marketing and Senior Associate Dean of Research and Academic Innovation, Fordham University). Every year, the EPIC community introduces important new elements and innovations to the conference. Brigitte Jordan created the Authors’ Space, which highlighted new publications by EPIC people and gave the community a chance to interact with authors. Students from...
From cataclysmic recessions to unprecedented climate disasters, our cities seem awash with unintended consequences borne of complex times. While city administrations grapple with developing systemic supports, our infrastructure, communities and individual wellbeing are increasingly succumbing to the strain. This paper examines a practice gaining recent traction for improving our cities’ sustainable resilience: service design. As an inherently user-centered, reflexive and iterative practice, it develops service systems by drawing upon a range of disciplinary roles - from makers to strategists, and ethnographers to technologists. I examine three New York City-based case studies which each attempt to improve the services its residents use and need. While responding to the complex needs of the same city, these case studies illustrate the vastly different possibilities for improving broken civic services through institutional intervention: housing in civic service design, mobility in private sector service design,...
JOHANNE MOSE ENTWISTLE and MIA KRUSE RASMUSSEN
Developing sustainable solutions within the energy sector requires a holistic, interdisciplinary approach. Interdisciplinary partnerships need common frameworks that enable dialogue and knowledge exchange between different perspectives. In this paper we present ‘The Model of Change’ as a framework for designing and evaluating different efforts in innovation projects. By insisting that effects of solutions have to be understood as a complex interplay of context, preconditions, perception, and interaction, The Model of Change becomes a tool to help us bring nuance to the simplistic cause-effect view that often dominates energy research. This type of contextual knowledge is essential to reproduce successes, improve failures and develop sustainable solutions that work....
J.A. ENGLISH-LUECK and MIRIAM LUECK AVERY
In 2012, the Google Innovation Lab for Food Experiences convened a multi-year conversation between corporate food stakeholders, farmers, chefs, food experts, social scientists and business consultants to reimagine the impact of companies on their employees and the food system. Corporate care increasingly includes food. Food origins and preparations create impacts well beyond the corporate cafe, reaching into fields and families. In the project, Farms to Firms to Families, university-based anthropologists joined with the Institute for the Future to develop a Northern Californian case study on the implications of corporate care across the food system. Ethnographic observations and interviews of people in that system yielded a portrait of cultural values, schema for social change, and diverse practices. We then transformed ethnographic observations into alternative future scenarios, which could help participants in the Google Innovation Lab for Food Experiences, as well as a wider community of...
Magic is one of the oldest subjects of discussion and theorizing in anthropology. From time to time, anthropologists, as well as other scholars from other disciplines, have suggested that magic is not specific to “primitive” societies, but is alive and well in contemporary industrialised societies—witness advertising. Such discussions have been more general than specific. This paper applies Mauss’ theory of magic more precisely to particular examples of advertising—in particular, his distinction between magicians, magical rites, and magical representations. It also argues that advertising’s system of magic—encompassing related concepts of alchemy, animism, and enchantmen—is reflected in other business practices, which have developed their own parallel and interlocking systems of magic. Certain forms of capitalism, the—fashion, for example, or finance—may be analysed as a field of magical systems.