advocacy & impact

Advice for an Anthropologist Breaking into Business

by SHELLY HABECKER, Swiss Re "How do I make ethnography relevant to my company?" This was the question that I took to Tracey Lovejoy (co-founder of EPIC, former Senior Manager at Microsoft, and founder of Lovejoy Consulting); Christian Madsbjerg (founder of ReD Associates and best-selling author of two books on applying social sciences to business); and Alexandra Mack (Alchymyx; formerly Senior Fellow at Pitney Bowes & EPIC Board Secretary). All three are leading lights in the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Community who have invested their careers in a belief that observing and listening to human beings matters for better business. A little over a year ago, after two decades of working on African migration issues in governmental and academic environments, I started a job at a large insurance company. I was attracted by the potential to use my training as an anthropologist to create better financial safety nets for people through the insurance industry. My managers were not looking for an anthropologist per se, but they let...

Keynote Address: Pedestrian Perspectives

MELISSA CEFKIN Nissan Research An anthropologist with a long career at the intersection of social research and business and technology, Melissa Cefkin began working on autonomous vehicles in 2015, fulfilling a life-long love of transportation matters. (Her preferred activity in a new place? Public bus rides.) She works at Nissan Research, where she is a Principal Scientist and Senior Manager. Her work has focused on people’s lives and experiences with automated technology of all kinds, especially those related to mobility, collaboration, work, and lives in organizations. A long-time observer and participant in the growth of anthropological research in and with business, Melissa is the author of numerous publications including the edited volume Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter. She has served as president and conference co-chair for EPIC and recently on the US National Academies of Science committee on Information Technology, Automation and the Workforce. A frequent public and academic speaker, the work she...

The Rise of the User and the Fall of People: Ethnographic Cooptation and a New Language of Globalization

SHAHEEN AMIREBRAHIMI University of California Davis This paper examines how ethnographic praxis as a means for driving social change via industry, went from a peripheral, experimental field, to a normalized part of innovation and product development – only to be coopted from within by a new language of power. Since the 1980s anthropologists have used their work to “make the world a better place,” by leveraging their tools of thick description and rich contextual knowledge to drive diversity and change within corporations and through their productions. As ethnography-as-method became separated from the field of Anthropology, it was opened to new collaborations with adjacent fields (from design, to HCI, to psychology, media studies, and so on). This “opening up” had a twofold effect, on the one hand it enabled greater “impact” (or influence) within institutions, but simultaneously subjected the field to cooptation. Recently, the practice of ethnography came to embrace the terminology of User Experience (UX) – though...

The Undergraduate Anthropologist

RUBY DALLAS Macquarie University Download PDF PechaKucha—This presentation explores corporate Anthropology from the perspective of an undergraduate with eight years of business administration experience. Focusing on business transformation and the potential for Anthropologists to add value and assist with growth and strategy. Keywords: Corporations, Transformations, Anthropology, Ethnography Ruby Dallas – I am an undergraduate student completing my Bachelor of Arts Majoring in Anthropology at Macquarie University, Sydney Australia. I am very interested in using ethnography within corporations as a tool to ensure business success across People, Product and Numbers. 2016 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, p. 536, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org...

Our Collective Project of Change

EPIC2016 at the University of Minnesota was wonderful for all sorts of reasons—in particular, the hard work of our fabulous organizing team and the fact that our community is more diverse than ever. EPIC People are practitioners in technology, consumer product, work process and healthcare, working in industry as well as consulting. With backgrounds ranging from…

Of Cool Light and Balance Sheets: The Social Scientist as the CFO’s Best Friend

by ALEX JINICH, Gemic A person’s wellbeing is in great measure a product of a pleasant environment, and as a society we are placing progressively more value in creating such environments in the form of comfortable offices, welcoming homes, and inspiring shops. It is remarkable, for example, the degree to which the luxurious Dubai airport, where I am now, has been carefully designed to make you feel at ease as you leisurely cruise through it as though through a warmly illuminated exhibit hall. To a large degree, however, the precise features that make such an environment valuable are nuanced intangibles. In other words, environments are always experienced as unified wholes, and the value they create for us is greater than the sum of its parts. In the airport, the warm and gentle lighting is as much a part of the overall experience as are the carefully curated glossy brands and the well-dressed ladies and gentlemen that sell them. The harmony and general atmosphere creates value above and beyond the sum of the values of the individual...

“Culture Matters More than We Think”: Eric Weiner / A Profile

EPIC Profiles Series by TAMARA HALE, Effective UI EPIC2016 Keynote Speaker Eric Weiner is a veteran foreign correspondent and New York Times best selling author. Join Eric at EPIC2016! In an interconnected, technology-driven world, does culture still matter? Can there really be “best practices” to be drawn from the vast range of human experiences? These are some of the questions driving Eric Weiner’s influential writing and thinking. I spoke with Eric about his career trajectory and the inspiration he has drawn from the discipline of anthropology. His award-winning journalism and critically acclaimed books, The Geography of Bliss, Man Seeks God and The Geography of Genius all use cross-cultural and historical comparison as a strategy to make key concepts intriguing for the general public. After writing his first two books, explains Eric, “I realized that I’ve really been engaging in amateur cultural anthropology.... I believe that culture matters more than we think.” Eric’s interest in culture, his deep appreciation...

Why the World Needs Anthropologists

by META GORUP (Ghent University) &DAN PODJED (University of Ljubljana) ‘The bad news is that anthropology is never going to solve the global crisis,’ professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen provoked, ‘but the good news is that without us, nobody is going to because our knowledge is a crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle.’ The EASA Applied Anthropology Network’s symposium ‘Why the world needs anthropologists’ in Ljubljana, Slovenia, was a journey that traversed critical issues from climate change to the refugee crisis, fear of robots, the role of anthropological and ethnographical approaches in a globalized world, social entrepreneurship, and the meaning of nation states, security, and sustainable mobility. Coverage of this vast terrain by keynote speakers Genevieve Bell, Joanna Breidenbach, and Thomas Hylland Eriksen, as well as Lučka Kajfež Bogataj and a moderated panel, had clear common denominators: interdisciplinarity is crucial; anthropologists should make their research more inclusive and their findings widely...

Making the Case for Cases, Part 1: EPIC Case Studies 101

by SIMON ROBERTS (Stripe Partners), GARY GEBHARDT (HEC Montréal) & MARK BERGEN (Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota), EPIC2016 Program Committee – Case Studies There’s a new format for EPIC2016: Case Studies. This post (and its companion Part 2) explains what we mean by cases, and what we are launching this format to achieve. Case studies in some form are not new to EPIC. Each year many presentations – be they full Papers or PechaKuchas – have taken the shape of loose case studies. But giving Case Studies a space of their own, with their own submission criteria, will lead to stronger case studies we believe. It will also encourage people to think more deeply about the relationship between ethnography and business impact, how EPIC can best fulfill its role in describing & documenting this impact, and how we can share it with audiences beyond the EPIC community. What We Mean by Case Studies Our vision for case studies is a method for teaching others about how ethnographic methods can be used to...

Making the Case for Cases, Part 2: Pathmaking

by SIMON ROBERTS (Stripe Partners), GARY GEBHARDT (HEC Montréal) & MARK BERGEN (Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota), EPIC2016 Program Committee – Case Studies (This post follows Making the Case for Cases, Part 1) Unlike the research stories shared in the past, making a dedicated space for Case Studies at EPIC signals it’s time for us to evolve cases as a genre. Summarizing last year’s conference, the EPIC Board writes: ...reflecting on the first 10 Years of EPIC, Jeannette Blomberg asked for fewer “just-so stories and more accounts of what is broken and what we can learn from it”—a reminder that while it is nice to celebrate our successes and tell interesting narrative case studies, we only push our practice and knowledge forward by dissecting that which fails and that which we do not understand. (The EPIC2015 Conversation) Indeed, even the best EPIC cases have sometimes come across as straightforward histories of inestimable success. We understand few people come to conferences motivated to...

Ethnographic Expertise as Visionary Catalyst of Collaboration

JONATHAN LEROY BIDERMAN Recent developments in the scholarship of ethnography, combined with growing recognition of the value of collaboration in business, present industrial ethnography with the opportunity to exercise greater agency and leadership. This paper considers updates to theory and practice of ethnographic strategy, positionality, foresight, and design, observing that the combination of these developments is ideal preparation for such leadership and collaboration in a context of increasing complexity. Discussion of business orthodoxy and related critiques contextualizes the conversation. Atul Gawande's development of the surgical safety checklist provides a case study for showing how a deep ethnographic approach can apply the specific capabilities highlighted in this paper to foster collaboration and to understand and solve complex problems in a way that bridges “anthropological” and “design” ethnography. The paper ends with practical suggestions for advancing ethnographic leadership and agency. Additional key words:...

From Inspiring Change to Directing Change: How Ethnographic Praxis Can Move Beyond Research

CAROLYN HOU ReD AssociatesMADS HOLME ReD Associates This paper reflects on the evolving nature of ethnographic praxis in industry and argues that we must move beyond research and towards strategy in order to elevate our praxis, and to deliver real impact and value for our clients. Although this conversation is not new for the EPIC community, there has been a lack of models and examples – even in its tenth year – for how to do so. Taking a project with a medical device company that manufacturers voice prostheses for laryngectomees as a case study, we show how a team of social scientists used “Sensemaking” to determine a new commercial direction for innovation and to design a five-year portfolio strategy for our client. In doing so, we illustrate how our praxis can do more than deliver research insights or design, but also act as the core foundation that defines business processes and strategy....

10 Strategies to Have Impact with International Research

by ALESSANDRA MILLAR, JEANNIE FOULSHAM & LAURA GARCIA-BARRIO, Google 70% of Google traffic today comes from outside of the US, and that number will only get bigger. The next billion users to come online are going to be from markets other than North America and Europe. Our role as researchers is to help product teams understand user needs in different markets, and more importantly, how to design great products to meet these needs and behaviors. We've learned a lot from the research we've done so far and thought we'd share some of the strategies that worked well for us in finding useful insights for our teams. We’re looking forward to hearing more about other researchers’ methods at EPIC2015 in São Paulo. 1. Create a buzz Our research tries to bring people together from across the company to solve problems—but people have to know about our research plans in order to join in. To spread the word, we work with product teams to identify areas of exploration and we put together research proposals. Packed with data from previous...

Ethnography as Design Provocation

JACOB BUUR and LARISA SITORUS In this paper, we present our experience in sharing ethnographic material with engineers that have a very different perception of technology and the role of its users. Rather than convey ‘findings’ in a rational argument, we have experimented with formats where the role of the ethnography is to provoke engineers to reframe their perception of new designs. Based on four design encounters (workshops) from two different design projects completed in industry, this paper looks at the ways in which the ethnographic material provokes design. We use video transcripts and conversation analysis to learn more about this mechanism of provocation....

Research to Reality: A Business Perspective

DAJA PHILLIPS Ricoh Innovations discovers unmet customer needs and designs and deploys hardware, software and service solutions to those needs through an interdisciplinary design process predicated on active customer participation. Some of our findings lead to new value propositions on which Ricoh planners investigate entirely new businesses. We attribute our success to our ability to translate our findings into actionable, risk-sensitive business cases tested and improved with active customer participation. We collaborate closely to weave our activities into critical product planning milestones, but retain ownership for the process of site selection, research, synthesis, business modeling and transfer to ensure success. As a result, Ricoh launched a new product line based on our research, in less than a year and our methodology is now used by other Ricoh research groups to serve Ricoh’s European and Japanese markets. The first half of this paper outlines the organization and methodology used to identify customer needs, and prove...