Susan Faulkner

Designing the End

TONY SALVADOR and DEAN M. WHITNEY We consider implications for the active, intentional design of the endings of products, services, institutions and other structures and processes pervading our societies. We suggest psychological reluctance to some kinds of endings even in the context of broader social benefit. We propose direction for and encourage attention of this community to certain kinds of work designed to end some things while creating other things. We introduce the notion of “creative idiosyncratic ritualization for renewal” and propose that the EPIC community is uniquely situated to ask “strange” questions in the most “familiar” of ways to increase our collective general welfare....

The EPIC 2012 Conversation

MELISSA CEFKIN, MARIA BEZAITIS, ALEXANDRA MACK, KEN ANDERSON and ED LIEBOW When we offer something to another person, community, or organization, we create the conditions for some sort of value to be created. This proposition about value creation remains at the heart of all ethnographic work in industry, and it has framed EPIC’s exploration of Renewal, the theme set for this year’s conference in Savannah. What does it mean to do something that is valued? How is that value organized and shaped in everyday life, in the workplace, in ethnographic practice itself, from methodologies to questions of ethics? As a broad and diverse community of practitioners, is there such a thing as “our” value? Should “we” expect ever to standardize it in those terms? These were just some of the provocative questions raised by the content shared at EPIC 2012. Indeed, both the opening and closing keynotes demonstrated this complicated dance of renewal and value creation in very personal and specific ways. Architect Emily Pilloton opened this year’s...

For a Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing: Rebellion Against the Quantitative-Qualitative Divide

NEAL H. PATEL While research practitioners remain deadlocked in old debates about the incompatibility and validity of qualitative versus quantitative research, streams of real-time data are overwhelming leading companies with individual-level insights at a scale and velocity impossible to achieve with traditional methods. Remaining relevant in the age of analytics no longer depends on the perfection of either methodology, but on the evolution of a creative, inter-disciplinary combination of both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Nevertheless, until we are done with the past, the past is never truly done with us. This paper establishes a new inter-disciplinary epistemology by tracing the historical development of the current qualitative versus quantitative divide. In so doing, I aim to discredit the assumptions underpinning the current debate, and illustrate how the shared epistemological origins of both statistics and ethnography inform the empirical formulations behind new “hybrid” quantitative-qualitative methods....

Ethnography as a Catalyst for Organizational Change: Creating a Multichannel Customer Experience

ROBIN BEERS, TOMMY STINSON and JAN YEAGER This paper describes how ethnography became a catalyst for organizational change in a leading financial institution by providing a collaborative context for functional groups to come together in co-creating a multichannel customer banking experience. While consumers increasingly expect a good cross-channel experience as a de facto element of their engagement, few companies successfully deliver this experience in a compelling way. Because functional groups are siloed, focusing on their own business goals and managing their own discrete parts of the customer experience, there is limited understanding of the experience as a whole and limited interest in bridging units to improve customer experience. Building a 360° view of the customer is an “excuse” for people to step outside their silos. The ethnographic process can become a collective learning platform where people gain a common understanding of the customer and how they’re accountable for delivering the customer experience. However the...

Reinvention and Revisioning in an Appalachian Industry Cluster

CHRISTINE Z. MILLER and STOKES JONES ABSTRACT The theme Evolution/Revolution invites us to consider how historiographical frames are imposed on human events, and to reflect on the capacity of ethnography to both subvert and ratify dominant interpretations. We draw on ethnographic research conducted at a former mill town in the Appalachian foothills which was widely credited with surviving because it ‘reinvented itself’ after the textile era. The result was a homegrown ‘industry cluster’ where a manufacturing system for a certain product category “is organized around the region and its professional and technical networks rather than around the individual firm” (Saxenian, 1994; Porter, 1998). We found ‘innovation’ itself has an ideology that biases potential recipients leading them to expect epochal breaks with the past to be the only successful strategy and suggest how departing from ‘the tyranny of the epochal’ (du Gay, 2003) with its demands for bold programs of ‘Renewal’ or ‘Modernization’ can lead to...

Trajectories of Change in Global Enterprise Transformation

JEANETTE BLOMBERG This paper reports on the efforts of a global IT services company to transform the way it delivers IT outsourcing services. The change initiative was designed to bring about a radical transformation in the how work gets done across the enterprise with the expected benefit of delivering greater service quality and reliability at a lower cost. In addition, the standardization of processes and tools would allow work to move more freely from one location to another thus creating flexibility to meet changing demands. Based on a study of the impact of this initiative on four global delivery centers we explore how change occurs within organizations both as an ongoing achievement and as the result of explicit corporate initiatives. Taking account of the particular historic, geographic, demographic, socioeconomic, and cultural characteristics of individual delivery centers we trace trajectories of change with the aim of providing both a broad synoptic view given these differences in delivery centers characteristics and a detailed...

A Case for Ethnography in the Study of Corporate Competencies

CHRISTIAN MADSBJERG, MIKKEL KRENCHEL, MORGAN RAMSEY-ELLIOT and GITTE HESSELHOLT In business thinking, ‘core competencies’ have long been seen as the critical factor that distinguishes great from good. Great companies have strong core competencies that they constantly leverage and develop. On the other hand, companies who do not understand their own strengths and weaknesses cannot execute at the highest proficiency. Their growth initiatives fail, not because they lack commercial potential, but because they fail to apply the same due diligence to their competencies they so naturally apply to their finances. Understanding competencies entails understanding culture, and few companies know how to approach this topic beyond the gut feel analyses of executives or the rare employee survey. In this paper, we use a large-scale study for the medico company Coloplast as a case for how to use ethnography to rigorously study competencies and leverage growth. We show how understanding the effects of culture and competence on market performance...

Limitations of Online Medical Care: Interpersonal Resistance and Cultural Hurdles in the Face of Technological Advances

PENSRI HO In 2009, a health care service organization in Hawaii launched a online medical consultation program intent to serve the needs of clients in rural Oahu and the neighboring islands, which faced increasing shortages of primary care clinicians. Patients could go online for medical advice from on-call Hawaii based clinicians. However, physicians and statewide medical agencies were critical of the program due to ethical concerns, medical licensure and insurance coverage, and deviation from socio-cultural practices specific to Hawaii. This empirical paper traces and examines the legal and medical ethics of telemedicine in the face of Hawaii's socio-cultural orthodoxy of interpersonal engagement and obligation called the ohana (Native Hawaiian for “family”), and the implications for telemedicine as a medical care resource for the state and nationally....

The Not-So-Blind Watchmaker: Evolution by Design in Corporate Culture

KATE BARRETT This paper provides a framework for “evolving” business, organizations and brands based on the mechanisms of evolution commonly discussed within academic anthropology. It begins with an analysis of the differences between the concept of “evolution” as evoked in corporate and academic settings. Then, placing the burden for resolving this discrepancy in the hands of practicing anthropologists, it offers a model for assessing business challenges and opportunities for growth based on the four primary mechanisms of evolutionary change: natural selection, mutation, flow, and drift. Positing industries as “species,” the paper presents four case studies of financial services companies that used each of these mechanisms to achieve competitiveness and “evolve” the industry. It concludes with more general recommendations as to when and how each mechanism can address specific business and/or organizational challenges....