EPIC People

Choice-Making with Head and Heart: Finding the Ethnographic Center of Strategy

by DONNA K. FLYNN, PhD, Steelcase Being an anthropologist has been a core part of my personal identity since graduate school – not because of all the years of schooling or the grueling dissertation, but because a holistic, systemic, and people-centered perspective on the world became woven into the fabric of who I am. The power of ethnography is not in its methods, but in the way it shapes our perspective on the world. We frame complex problems in holistic ways, seek out connections between micro-behaviors and macro-dynamics, and are inspired by the rich color of people’s stories. An ethnographic perspective helps us find meaning in everything we look at. Applying that perspective in our work is about translating that meaning into action. These skills are all fundamental to the choice-making enterprise of business strategy. Recently I have had the great fortune to facilitate and inspire strategy development alongside leaders of multi-million dollar businesses, and truly experiment with applying our ethnographic tools to this...

Engineers “On The Ground”: Mass Observation at Moto

by STOKES JONES, PREE KOLARI, Motorola CXD   Of course, EPIC has always been a ‘community of praxis’ (as much as practice) helping attendees put what they learn into action. For us at Motorola Mobility, 2013 was no exception. The company had reduced its phone portfolio to a handful of products; and knew the only way to grow market share was expanding sales outside the US. But we had not done ‘front end’ research outside American shores since 2009. Likewise, most of our newly hired designers, product managers, and software engineers had never created phones for any geography but North America. So how could we “sensitize” whole teams to the differing desires & needs of people in Brazil or India? And how could we flush out those devilish details which we didn’t yet know we did not know...the ones that make the difference between a product being “just right” vs. “totally wrong” in a new environment? We decided lone report-writing researchers could not bring product teams in tune with our “next...

Why would EPIC choose Thomas Frank as a keynote, who wrote so negatively about the relationship between advertising and ethnography ?

Reply by Timothy de Waal Malefyt, EPIC2014 Co-Organizer, Fordham University Schools of Business Thomas Frank is a leading social critic who writes and analyzes trends in American politics, advertising, popular culture, and economics. His 2013 article on “Ted Talks are lying to you” prompted us to contact him. He writes insightfully on the whole ‘Creative…

A Dozen Things Every Client Should Know about Ethnography

by LAITH ULABY, UX Researcher, AnswerLab In the past decade we have witnessed the proliferation of mobile platforms, social media, and cloud computing. At AnswerLab, the user experience research firm where I work as a researcher, we have seen demand for ethnographic research steadily grow as technology becomes more and more a part of people’s lives. From the bus stop to the boardroom, technology is changing how we interact with other people, build our identities, and create communities. Over the past few months, we conducted several exciting ethnographic projects, including some of the most ambitious ones to date in both scope and scale. Coordinating large numbers of participants across multiple markets can be both daunting and exhilarating. In the course of these projects we were reminded how critical stakeholder education is to making the project a success. I'd like to share 12 client education best practices we have developed in our decade of experience. Explaining the value of ethnography Clearly define and document...

I am a MSC student studying ethnography at a Design college. What advice would you give new graduates entering the work force in regards to portfolio building, networking, and finding internships/work? Also what are the traits you value most from both employees and colleagues?

The advice I would give would rest more soundly on the softer skills, which hopefully your graduate experience might have primed your for. Yes, you should network by going to conferences like EPIC, but your technical skills are only going to valuable to you as a researcher if you are also a) a selfless team…

How can I learn more about ethnography research methods that relate to insurance practices?

Ethnographically, there are things in and around insurance. A classic is Robin Leidner’s book Fast Food, Fast Talk. It is an ethnography of insurance salespeople, comparing insurance salesmen with women doing work behind fast food counters. This book is about insurance as *work*. For something more about risk, the insurance industry, and a more science…

How can I find EPIC community members in my city?

Right now, I have no idea. We are hoping to expand out the functionality of www.epicpeople.org to include the ability for EPIC People to learn more about others on the site, including of course location, for those who want to share that information. Other people might know other ways of doing that – please chime…

Why has Epic lost it’s original focus on relevance to Industry? Over the years it has gravitated back to academia.

It would be helpful to hear more about why you think EPIC has lots its focus on relevance to industry? The majority of the papers at the conference remained focused on industry questions or are authored by industry practitioners. We have workshops that routinely seek to address questions that emerge from industry problems and are…

Welcome EPIC People!

It’s time for EPIC to expand its charter and role. Since our first annual conference in 2005, EPIC has brought practitioners together on annual basis to share insights about people, to discuss challenges associated with practicing ethnography, and simply to meet up with colleagues from around the world. While the annual conference will remain central…