by ELIZABETH BROIDY and KEN ERICKSON
An EPIC 2014 Workshop: Studying In and Studying Out: Linking Organizational and Consumer Ethnography
The big idea here is this. Most anthropologists are working either in the organizational space or in the consumer space and no one is looking at the interface between these two cultural domains.
Sharing what we have learned after years of practice in organizations and for consumer product and services companies, Erickson and Briody engaged workshop participants in sharing tips for bringing an understanding of organizations into so-called consumer research, and vice-versa.
We told some stories, some tales of the field that pointed to difficulties within organizations that inhibited their ability to respond to consumer needs or to bridge the internal silos that limit the effectiveness of organizations in doing their work.
The fun part was finding how much the participants shared. We found a range of tips and tricks for learning about the organization--internal clients if you work “inside”...
by KATHY BAXTER, Google
EPIC2014 Workshop by Anna Avrekh, Kathy Baxter, & Bob Evans
At the EPIC 2013 Keynote, Tricia Wang observed that, if you are not working with “Big Data,” the implication is that your data are “small.” Although the number of data points or participants may not be in the millions or ever thousands, the data we gather is actually far richer. As our community knows, web analytics or logs can tell us WHAT people are doing but never WHY. We may attempt to infer it based on what we see but unless we ask our users why they are doing something that we have recorded (with or without their knowledge), we can never know for sure.
Later in the conference, I hosted a Salon on “Big Data” with discussants Jens Riegelsberger (Google) and Todd Cherkasky (SapientNitro). The interest in the salon far exceeded the space available. One key theme that emerged was a desire to learn how to incorporate “Big Data” into their work. Few of the participants had the means to pull logs and do deep statistical analysis...
by TIMOTHY DE WAAL MALEFYT, Fordham University and ROGERIO DE PAULA, IBM
The practice of ethnography can be described, among other ways, has having the emergent qualities of relationality, fluidity and creating a sense of place. These qualities also inform who we are at EPIC, our growing community and our location in NYC for 2014. Moreover, ethnographic practice necessitates these qualities to foster and develop ‘value and values,’ the theme of this year’s EPIC conference.
Relationally, ethnographers are ‘outside others’ who relate to and with other local subjects, learning from them and often informing third parties of acquired knowledge. This knowledge is constructed of pre-existing agendas, the ethnographer’s experience, and multiple other known and unknown agents. Our relationality to others brings enlightenment and adds value to the various projects we work on. Simmel noted one hundred years ago, that ‘value’ motivates and sustains exchanges between two or more distinct parties, of which all business professions...
by MARIA CURY, ReD Associates
Camila sat down on her faded pink sofa, unwrapped the bandage around her calf, and showed me a violet wound, some of the skin crusty and some of it wet. Her daughter Cecilia sat on the edge of a chair in the corner, filling gaps in the story – “remember we tried a gel that inflamed your skin,” “the pharmacy down the street never gives us enough gauze.”
At ReD Associates, we often work with big healthcare companies who seek more patient-centric approaches to product design, and our insights have implications on product, packaging, and patient-compliance. This project aimed to make wound care products relevant to more people by understanding how patients care for chronic wounds in emerging markets.
Camila, a sixty-four year-old Brazilian patient with a venous leg ulcer, was doing everything wrong. She risked infection by putting olive oil over her calf (“I know I’m not supposed to, but it’s the only thing that takes away my pain pain pain”); she used dry gauze with wisps that stuck...
by STEVEN WENGROVITZ, Facebook
As Facebook approached its tenth birthday earlier this year, we took the opportunity to assess our progress thus far—and to gear up for all the work we still have to do—when it comes to pursuing our company’s mission to make the world more open and connected.
Facebook is used in nearly every country in the world. Over 80% of the people who use Facebook daily live outside of the U.S., which is also where our growth is coming from, particularly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. While our Internet.Org efforts are focused on bringing Internet access to more people all over the world, as a company we’re also aggressively focused on improving the experience of the 1.3 billion people around the world who enjoy Facebook already.
Facebook does research to improve its services. Many parts of the world experience Facebook through smartphones but as we continue to grow globally, increasingly we are also seeing a rise in low-end devices with a spotty Internet connection—a far more typical scenario...
by JOHN PAYNE, Moment
Like many design consultancies, Moment uses a variety of research methods to help us develop a contextual understanding of our clients’ customers. We do this to discover and adapt new business opportunities to prospects’ wants, needs and desires. The value to the business is that their products and services better fit their audience, increasing adoption and use. Tangible results from this work range from incremental product enhancements to disruptive innovations that provide significant competitive advantage.
Design ethnography is how we approach “fuzzy front end” projects—those that require us to define the problem before formulating a solution. Through ethnography, our field team achieves a robust understanding of the situation, but then faces the challenge of transferring the richness of these learnings into the narrow frame of new product development methodology. This make-or-break moment of transfer is when design ethnography truly delivers—or doesn’t.
Speaking for the design...
by JAN BLOM & XUEMING LANG, Google Mountain View
In May 2014, 180 Google employees participated in a UX sprint week in the Bay Area focused on innovating gamechanging advertising and commerce solutions. Those participating in the sprint were designers, researchers, product managers and engineers. By the end of the three day sprint, the participating challenge teams had generated more than 1000 sketches and mocks, distributed across 23 teams, with the ideas ranging from ubicomp scenarios to novel service concepts.
From a corporate ethnography point of view, the event was a success. A conscious decision was made to use research across various stages of the design process in order to ensure an empirically grounded direction for each group. The user researchers were split evenly across the groups, and plenty of interesting methods were used across the challenges to make sure that users’ perspective was properly taken into account.
Our team’s challenge focused on design for the shopping experience. Therefore,...
by ALEXANDRA MACK, Pitney Bowes
I recently joined one of our teams in their team room during a visit from a top executive. The room would be recognizable to many readers—walls covered in post-its and flip chart sheets. The executive was immediately skeptical of the post-its. At the end of the session, he didn’t leave the room convinced of the value of the post-it, but he was open to believing that the outcomes of the project would impact the business. It was clear reminder that the methods we bring to the table, while important for our work, don’t matter to the business.
While my tenure has included plenty of fieldwork, and I pride myself on the array of methodological tools in my toolkit, the impact that I and my colleagues in the “ethnographic praxis” world have on Pitney Bowes goes beyond fieldwork and user centered methodologies. In fact, I am not sure if anyone besides me at Pitney Bowes talks about “ethnographic praxis.” Nonetheless, the work and mindset behind what we do have incredible power to change the...
by DONNA K. FLYNN, PhD; Vice President, WorkSpace Futures, 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...
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...
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...