Advancing the Value of Ethnography

EPIC Course

Leveraging Organizational Culture for Impact

Learn how to decode and leverage organizational culture to work more effectively with teams, stakeholders and clients.

Capacity: 15

Schedule: Five sessions, 8—10 am Pacific, September 9—October 21, 2024 (details below).

Registration & Fees: A current EPIC Membership ($150) plus course fee:

  • Regular price US $950
    Choose if the fee will be paid or reimbursed by your organization
  • Self-pay price US $700
    Choose if the fee will not be paid or reimbursed by your organization
TO REGISTER:    Join EPIC    or    Log In


To deliver real value with our teams, stakeholders and clients, we need to go beyond tactics like establishing clear goals, accountability, and ROI. We need to understand the cultural dynamics that can catalyze or sabotage a project. In this course you’ll learn how to decode and leverage organizational culture to amplify the positive, long-lasting impacts of your work and drive strategic change.

You’ll start the course with a solid grounding in organizational culture that goes far deeper than the oversimplified models often advanced in business and management consulting. Using theories from anthropology, sociology and psychology, you will learn to approach team and client relationships as an ethnographic space, detect the subtle performances and games at play, pin-point conflict points and map their specific influence on your work. You’ll examine  the formal and informal human interactions that occur in work culture, such as  meetings and workshops.

Dr Curran will guide your small cohort through learn-share-practice sequences, offering close coaching that ensures you develop techniques and strategies that are directly applicable to your own work environment. You will:

  • Learn the primary models of team dynamics and relationships
  • Learn key theories to understand how culture frames behaviour in organisations
  • Define the key ways cultural performances impact projects and team dynamics
  • Practice using Cultural Empathy Mapping and Transactional Analysis (TA)
  • Use the SLAM model for decoding culture and understanding the tensions and barriers within your teams/organizations/client
  • Develop techniques for workshops and meetings that address your challenges and drive change

Who Will Benefit from This Course?

This course is appropriate whether you work for a small, medium, or large organisation or agency, or work independently; and for practitioners across insights, design, product, strategy, or other services.

The learn-share-practice model of instructions draws directly on your own work, so you should have some experience under your belt. The course is not intended for entry-level practitioners; it assumes participants are in a position to manage projects, teams, departments, stakeholders, or clients.

No specific disciplinary background or expertise is necessary. Participants across the social sciences, design, business/management, and other disciplines have all benefited immensely from this course.


Required coursework includes live, online sessions and independent work to be completed between sessions on your own time. Assignments are designed to be flexible and feasible for working professionals, but the course does require your active engagement and commitment to all components:

  • One 30 min one-to-one session with Dr John Curran to establish your goals and interests
  • Five 2-hour live sessions, with discussion/integration, exercises, and coaching
  • Four pre-recorded lectures, approx 30 min each
  • Independent work, approx 60–90 minutes to be completed prior to each session

Total commitment: approx 17 hours over 8 weeks


After a one-to-one kickoff meeting with the instructor, participants will complete independent assignments and participate in live, online sessions.

Session 1: Key Challenges & Dynamics

In this first session you’ll get an introduction to course themes and begin to define and map key challenges in your professional work, focusing primarily on organisational, team or client dynamics. We will scope the potential root causes of these challenges, which you’ll work with throughout the course as you learn and apply new concepts and techniques.

Session 2: The Foundations of Organisational Culture

This session will explore the pivotal role of culture in defining professional relationships. Along with an overview of what organisational culture is, we will drill down into some of its key elements, such as ritual, performance, symbolism and conflict. You will get the chance to map the ways these elements influence your work with teams, stakeholders, and clients in a project setting and how to navigate them.

Session 3: Using Transactional Analysis & Reflective Spaces

This session builds on the core elements of organizational culture to understand the different types of personas that we encounter in our working relationships. We will cover helpful models based on transactional analysis in order to decode the performances and behaviours at play. We will also explore reflective spaces and their importance for planning and project development.

Session 4: Using Liminality to Create Impact

This session will focus on using anthropological thinking around liminality to develop and design project meetings and workshops that gets everyone on board. These techniques put the themes, models, and theories we’ve learned so far into practice. You’ll learn strategies for pre-planning workshops and meetings to identify and address tensions and conflicts.

Session 5: Building Trust and Bringing It All Together

In this session you will learn techniques for challenging others in a safe and productive way in order to generate trust and build strong relationships. We will bring concepts, models, and techniques covered in the course together in a holistic approach to client work. You will also establish concrete strategies for implementing the learnings from this course into their specific work environments.


“John Curran’s course provided me with new tools and perspectives to unpack the inner workings of the tech working world around me. The course is well designed to give you a solid overview of the theory and then time to discuss, as well as complete exercises that help you examine your own work situation from a new perspective. I leveraged what I learned to successfully help my team change our operational cadences and interaction patterns. I would highly recommend this course!”
—Louise Beryl, Research Manager, Instagram

“I enjoyed this course very much! Each week John tackled different elements of the S.L.A.M. model. He walked through how to include cultural empathy maps, transactional analysis, and liminality within projects and client relations. Well-structured lectures, pre-session assignments, and group discussions provided a wonderful learning environment. I finished the course with many new skills to put into practice at my company and deeper connections with members of the EPIC community.”

—Amanda Andres, Product Manager, Bayer Crop Science

“Can’t say enough great things about this course. Super engaging instruction. Vibrant online community. Practical skills and tools gained. And also IT WAS FUN.”

—Courtney Dowdall, Director of Research & Evaluation, Area Resources for Community & Human Services

“The course was amazing as were my fellow learners. John Curran, thank you for this experience! It was pure intellectual joy to engage in deep, meaningful conversations and exchange stories about the culture in our organizations. I feel that the course gave us great practical tools to help us analyze organizational culture and implement change. I highly recommend this course!”

—Elli Ponomareva, User Experience Researcher, JetBrains

“This course provided clear frameworks to better understand not only how company cultures work, but also how to navigate them and make them function even better. It is fun, engaging, and gives participants clear tools they can use to improve a workplace—whether introducing new programs, improving internal communication, smoothing cross-functional collaborations, or more. Highly recommended!”

—Liz Lewis, Content Marketing Manager,


John Curran

John Curran specializes in making organizations highly productive and people-centric in order to achieve growth. He combines his expertise in anthropology, executive coaching, facilitation and service design to work with CEOs, senior leaders and their teams to develop dynamic and collaborative organizational cultures that connect their values with those of their customers. John holds a PhD in Social Anthropology and has formal training in executive coaching (EMCC EQA), facilitation, organizational consultancy, qualitative research, and group psychoanalysis. He is Honorary Professor of Practice in Anthropology at University College London, an associate at the world renowned Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, a Visiting Scholar at the Royal College of Art in design anthropology, a fellow at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), a TEDx speaker and expert guest on the Financial Times podcast.



Who can enroll in EPIC Courses?

Courses are open to EPIC Members, and membership is open to everyone! Become an EPIC Member to register.

What are your cancellation and transfer policies?

A full refund, less a $25 cancellation fee, can be requested up to three weeks before the first day of the course OR until the course is sold out, whichever comes first. You may transfer your registration to someone else at any time; the recipient must be an EPIC Member prior to transfer. To request a transfer contact:

Are there alternative payment options?

Please contact us at to:

  • enroll multiple people in a course
  • request a payment plan
  • arrange payment by wire or bank transfer
  • discuss a customized course or training for your team

What is an Open Badge?

The badge you’ll receive when you complete an EPIC Course is a verifiable record of the skills and expertise you’ve gained. Our badges are based on the Open Badges accreditation system: “Each Open Badge is associated with an image and information about the badge, its recipient, the issuer, and any supporting evidence. All this information may be packaged within a badge image file that can be displayed via online CVs and social networks.”

Can teams enroll together?

Yes, teams can enroll in courses together if there is space. There is no group discount. If you’re interested in a customized course or training for your team, contact us.
If we didn’t answer your question, please contact us.


Instructor: John Curran, PhD.

“Amazing course teaching you how to use core anthropological methods and theory for organizational change. You want to make change happen in small and big ways? Take. this. course!!”
– Katherine Metzo, Lead UX Researcher, Lowe’s