advocacy & impact

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...

Beyond the Toolbox: What Ethnographic Thinking Can Offer in a Shifting Marketplace

"abstract wallpaper" by Paul Cross
by JAY HASBROUCK, Hasbrouck Research Group (This article is also available in Chinese) Lufthansa flight 490, Seattle to Frankfurt Dinner just served, everyone was settling in, each in various stages of preparing their coping mechanisms for the painfully long flight. Laptops, eye masks, charge cords, earphones, earplugs, slippers, hand cream…they were very busy. The woman next to me popped a sleeping pill and was situating her blankets. I began my own ritual of scanning the entertainment channels to plan my movie lineup. As I was flipping through documentaries, I unexpectedly ran across an educational featurette titled “Design Thinking in 30 Minutes.” Yes, 30 minutes! The more I thought about this featurette as an offering aimed at a mass audience, the more it seemed like an indicator of sorts to me. At face value, it’s a sign that interest in design thinking has become so widespread that a 30-minute short on the subject warranted inclusion in a carefully curated inflight entertainment lineup. But did it also suggest...

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...

Big Data or ‘Big Ethnographic Data’? Positioning Big Data within the Ethnographic Space

JOHN CURRAN This paper offers a cultural analysis of the different narratives that currently frame the concept of Big Data. With specific attention to how the ethnographic community has approached Big Data, I will make the point that the ethnographic community needs to rethink what its offer is within the business world. Instead of trying to position ethnography as a discipline that provides deep insights to human behaviour (which we often call ‘the why’), while Big Data offers broad accounts based on large data collection, I make the case that both approaches should be seen as being positioned within an ethnographic space. This is because both ethnography and Big Data are interested in human behaviour and the cultural field and both are interested in generating insights. We should therefore situate Big Data and ethnography as a relationship that exists in a new epistemological field, a field that is both interpretative and data driven. This field I call 'Big Ethnographic Data'....

The Conceit of Oracles

TRICIA WANG Good morning, I am really excited to be here for my first EPIC conference. There are just so many amazing people in the audience as I look at you guys, and so many of you guys I've been following on blogs and Twitter and especially Natalie Hanson’s anthrodesign listserv. I can’t wait to talk to you guys all afterwards. Just as a reminder, I don’t know if Simon already said it, but if you’re tweeting or instragramming—use the conference hashtag EPIC 2013. If throughout the talk you have any questions, or if anything resonates with you, this is my Twitter and Instagram handle.For over twelve centuries in Ancient Greece in consulting oracles, a person who could predict the future was a part of everyday Hellenistic life. People—poor, wealthy, slave and free—asked oracles for them to answer important life questions such as should I get married, or will I come back from war alive, or questions related to business matters. Should I invest in this voyage? There were questions related to political affairs like should...

Cracking the Marketplace of Ideas

PHILIP DELVES BROUGHTON Philip Delves Broughton is a journalist, management writer, and best-selling author of two books. Philip was a journalist with The Daily Telegraph for ten years, latterly as Paris Bureau Chief (2002-04) before he took an MBA at Harvard, which became the subject of his first book, the best-selling What They Teach You at Harvard Business School. Philip writes regularly for The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Spectator. From 2009-2010, he spent several months at Apple writing case studies for Apple University, its internal management program, and now works with The Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship and Education. His most recent book The Art of the Sale: Learning from the Masters about the Business of Life is an ‘insightful scholarly treatise on sales’ with a global perspective on this critical business function....

Badges, Branding and Business Growth: The ROI of an Ethnographic Praxis Professional Certification

PATRICIA ENSWORTH Renewal is not just about natural cycles of waxing and waning: sometimes it means a leap forward. The progress of ethnographic praxis in industry has been a gradual but steady evolution. Yet recent economic events and academic trends suggest that the moment has arrived for ethnographers to expand our influence by codifying our practices. This paper proposes the establishment of an Ethnographic Praxis Professional (EPP) certification based upon an Ethnographic Body of Knowledge (EBOK). A professional credential and an authoritative repository of shared concepts and methods would benefit clients, employers, professors, students – and most of all ourselves as practitioners....

The Dō and Jutsu of Strategic Ethnography: Balancing the Way and the Art of Understanding

LUCAS MCCANN, CORIN LUDWIG and MATT MULLINS In Japan, martial arts emerged from a long period of violence. Once warring ceased, philosophical practices formed on this foundation of efficacy. These martial arts are called by names ending in –jutsu (“technique”) and –dō (“way”), respectively. From ethnography’s rich tradition of understanding grew the practical art of understanding as a means to an end. But strip portions of the practice from the way, and problems sprout. For social research to remain relevant, practitioners must strive to embody the essential spirit of ethnography - understanding people. In the martial arts, Dō and Jutsu practiced by masters are identical. In the field of design research, we similarly balance understanding and application to deliver strategic outcomes. However, external factors push this practice to become more predictable and thereby threaten the balance. Using the analogy of Dō and Jutsu in the martial arts, we explore the challenges that strategic ethnography faces today....

The Martial Ethnographic Arts

SUZANNE L. THOMAS There is longevity to the ethnographic arts: a report referred back to over years, an image that captures a resiliently fresh insight. In crude words, ethnographic analysis has a longer shelf life than traditional market research. The latter requires tending to keep its categories replete with a fresh cast of characters. The former is distinguished by a methodological practice that keeps it fresh and truthful without the necessity of being, for the moment, a truth. There is a mastery of the ethnographic arts. For twenty years, I have practiced as an academic ethnographer, private sector consultant and now corporate practitioner. I now hire ethnographers. (I have become an armchair anthropologist.) To do so, I must discern what makes some ethnographic practitioners better than others. I compare along three practices: documentary finesse, journeying and discipline (the latter more yogic than Foucaultian). I hire for the longevity and truthfulness of their work....

Enabling Our Voices to Be Heard

RICH RADKA Identifying differences in how ethnography is practiced in academia and in business is the key to successfully developing ethnography further as a business discipline. In the following paper, I propose that the key difference between the practice of ethnography in academia versus business is the purpose of the ethnography, and that all other questions we struggle with in the transition from academia to industry clearly flow from this difference in purpose. Addressing this difference honestly is the key to being heard correctly, even to being heard at all. By describing how business disciplines are conceptually structured and by exemplifying analogous disciplines, I will provide thoughts on how we might shift the way we think and talk about business ethnography. I believe this shift will enable us to find common ground with other disciplines, be recognized for delivering clear value to the businesses we work for, and create opportunities for making positive contributions to society at large. Finally, I will conclude by summarizing...

Ethnography and Music: Disseminating Ethnographic Research inside Organizations

LUIS ARNAL and ROBERTO HOLGUIN In the applied context of ethnography its value depends not only on the quality of the research product alone but also on how it is received by the business audience. This paper presents some variables that describe and hope to overcome common barriers to the appropriate reception of ethnographic research in the business context. We are using music as a metaphor to the discussion of barriers and research use....

The ‘Inner Game’ of Ethnography

STOKES JONES Ethnography’s external outputs such as contextual photos, process models, and personas have overshadowed the actual ‘way’ of practicing ethnography (which has remained largely immune to normative standards). This paper will argue the time has come to re-embrace a sense of craft and that renewal can be catalyzed by putting individual performance at the center of ethnographic practice. Beginning from practitioners’ typical feelings of discontent with the lost potential inherent in most ethnographic encounters, this paper will look for the embodied foundations of a more disciplined way forward. Drawing on awareness techniques from the human potential movement, (that have themselves been adapted to concentration-intensive sports like tennis) this paper proposes a turn towards the ‘inner game’ of ethnography. As this leads practitioners to tighten norms on today’s unseen ethnographic practices, it can end the double-game between inner and outer standards and increase the discipline’s authority....