Beyond the Fabulous Wealth and Celebrity Acclaim: Success in Consultancy

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I’d like to take a slightly approach to this topic from those of my co-panelists. I’m not going to talk about success as ‘an ethnographer,’ which I’m not, at least by training anyway, or the success of ethnography as an undertaking, an enterprise, within the setting within which I have worked. Rather, I’d like to talk about what it means –to me, because this will be idiosyncratic I’m sure – to succeed as an ethnography practice. To talk about ‘a consultancy’ as a collective succeeding over time.As soon as one begins to talk about consultancy, the elephant of ‘the client’ enters the room, along with a couple of implications that match him in scale.

With a client comes the expectation that ethnographic work will be productive in the sense of actually producing some sort of artifact – a report, a recommendation, a PowerPoint deck or a workshop, but something. And there is a great deal that is entailed by that expectation that works both backwards and forwards through the work. But that expectation is not so different from the expectations of a practice within a corporation research group or even many academic situations. It is nice if those products end up as...

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