case study

Mattresses & Moneyboxes: Cultural Affordances for Microfinance in Jordan

ZACH HYMAN EPAM Continuum Case Study—This case study will present how a multicultural and multidisciplinary team from EPAM Continuum, the global innovation design firm, gathered, analyzed, and presented back different forms of “evidence” to satisfy the complex set of client and customer needs for a Jordanian microfinance bank with 30 branches and 65,000 clients. The team navigated cultural and linguistic barriers as they sought to provide stakeholders and their customers the evidence they needed to confidently design a new “mobile payment service” for their microloan customers. Over the course of the engagement, the firm's team strove not only to research, design, and prototype a new service to hand off to a local development team, but also to (1) use a combination of deliverables and in-field accompaniment to train microfinance bank staff in their process; (2) present evidence demonstrating the deep customer understanding that can result from pairing ethnographic research and human-centered design; and (3) create evidence...

Getting from Vision to Reality: How Ethnography and Prototyping Can Solve Late-Stage Design Challenges

BRADY SIH Kaiser Permanente HILLARY CAREY Winnow Research MICHAEL C. LIN Kaiser Permanente Cast Study—In 2014, Kaiser Permanente began implementing a next-generation medical office model that reimagines the outpatient care experience, combining new architecture, workflow, and technology to create a more convenient experience for patients and a connected, efficient experience for staff and care teams. As the first next-gen facilities were being built, challenges emerged as teams across a variety of disciplines attempted to translate the model's vision into reality. Teams were making design and operational decisions in parallel, without the ability to see how their decisions impacted the overall user experience. To resolve these challenges, our innovation team at Kaiser Permanente used a hybrid make-and-observe method of prototyping and ethnography. Employing a co-creation mindset (Bødker and Grønbaek 1991), we engaged staff and patients to help us bring the future state of these next-gen clinics to life in a minimally viable way....

Just Add Water: Lessons Learned from Mixing Data Science and Design Research Methods to Improve Customer Service

OVETTA SAMPSON IDEO Chicago and DePaul University Case Study—This case study provides an inside look at what occurs when methods from the data science and ethnographic fields are mixed to solve perennial customer service problems within the call center and cruise industries. The paper details this particular blend of ethnographic practitioners with a data scientist resulted in changes to design approaches, debunking myths about qualitative and quantitative research methods being at odds and altering team member perspectives about the value of both. The project also led to the creation of innovative blended design research and data science methods to discover and leverage the right customer data to the benefit of both the customer and the call center agents who serve them. This paper offers insight into the untold value design teams can unlock when data scientists and ethnographers work together to solve a problem. The result was a design solution that gives a top-performing company an edge to grow even better by leveraging the millions...

Designing for Interactions with Automated Vehicles: Ethnography at the Boundary of Quantitative-Data-Driven Disciplines

MARKUS ROTHMÜLLER School of Architecture, Design and Planning, Aalborg University Copenhagen, Denmark and Shift Insights & Innovation Consulting PERNILLE HOLM RASMUSSEN School of Architecture, Design and Planning, Aalborg University Copenhagen, Denmark SIGNE ALEXANDRA VENDELBO-LARSEN School of Architecture, Design and Planning, Aalborg University Copenhagen, Denmark Case Study—This case study presents ethnographic work in the midst of two fields of technological innovation: automated vehicles (AV) and virtual reality (VR). It showcases the work of three MSc. Techno-Anthropology students and their collaboration with the EU H2020 project ‘interACT’, sharing the goal to develop external human-machine interfaces (e-HMI) for AVs to cooperate with human road users in urban traffic in the future. The authors reflect on their collaboration with human factor researchers, data scientists, engineers, experimental researchers, VR-developers and HMI-designers, and on experienced challenges between the paradigms of qualitative and quantitative...

The Root Cause is Capitalism… and Patriarchy

LINDSEY WALLACE, PHD Adobe Design Research & Strategy Team JENNA MELNYK Adobe Design Research & Strategy Team Case Study—The authors used anthropology and other design research methods to develop a new kind of study to capture the world of professional creatives and the people they work with. To uncover core collaboration challenges for professional creatives the authors asked asked them to walk through past projects, who they interacted with at different points, and discuss their affective experiences. Critical collaborative problems for participants in this study stemmed from two factors: ever-increasing corporate demands to do more with less, and concurrent attempts to automate feminized administrative coordination tasks. To communicate actionable findings, the authors balanced systems-level thinking with the identification of the kinds of problems Adobe could and would solve. While large scale social change was outside the scope of actionable recommendations for a product design team, the implications of social structures...

Scale, Nuance, and New Expectations in Ethnographic Observation and Sensemaking

ALEXANDRA ZAFIROGLU Intel Corporation YEN-NING CHANG Intel Corporation Case Study—We consider new expectations for ethnographic observation and sensemaking in the next 20-25 years, as technology industry ethnographers' work unfolds in the increasing presence of the type of analytical capabilities specially trained (and self-training) machines can do ‘better’ and ‘cheaper’ than humans as they can take in, analyze and model digital data at much higher volumes and with an attention to nuance not achievable through human cognition alone. We do so by re-imagining three of our existing ethnographic research projects with the addition of very specific applications of machine learning, computer vision, and Internet of Things sensing and connectivity technologies. We draw speculative conclusions about: (1) how data in-and-of-the world that drives tech innovation will be collected and analyzed, (2) how ethnographers will approach analysis and findings, and (3) how the evidence produced by ethnographers will be evaluated and validated....

Gaming Evidence: Power, Storytelling and the “Colonial Moment” in a Chicago Systems Change Project

NATHAN HEINTZ Systems Change Consultant Case Study—In 2016 The Chicago Community Trust (“The Trust”), a local Chicago foundation, partnered with Roller Strategies (“Roller”), an international professional services firm, to deploy an innovative mixed-methods approach to community-driven social change on the South Side of Chicago. This partnership convened a diverse group of stakeholders representing a microcosm of the social system, and launched a project with the aim of developing resilient livelihoods for youth aged 18-26 in three specific South Side neighborhoods. Roller designed and facilitated a process through which the stakeholder group scoped, launched, piloted and prototyped community-driven initiatives. While innovative and successful by some metrics, the project had its challenges. The convening institutions and their staff were often perceived as “outsiders” and “experts” without intimate local knowledge of the social challenges they were attempting to address. This dynamic played out in complex power...

The Transformative Power of Singular Stories: Making the Case for Qualitative Evidence in Healthcare Contexts in Colombia

JULIANA CARDONA A Piece of Pie JULIANA SALDARRIAGA A Piece of Pie MARIA FERNANDA ESTUPIÑAN A Piece of Pie PAULA GAMBOA A Piece of Pie Case Study—In this case study we describe how we collaborated with a Colombian healthcare provider company and enabled its decision makers to understand the power of stories and other types of qualitative evidence in healthcare contexts. The stories became a tool for recognizing singularities in a complex, massive system, where individuals were constantly reduced to social security numbers. We describe the qualitative methods implemented, such as in-depth interviews, projective techniques, shadowings and observations, explain the difficulty in explaining the value of our qualitative evidence and mention some of the lessons learned throughout the project. We also discuss the project’s outcomes, such as understanding the difference between user perception and user experience, the impotance of healthcare providers to go beyond healthcare and using stories as input for measuring quality of the service....

Operationalizing Ethnographic Research to Grow Trust in Digital Financial Services

SOREN HEITMANN SINJA BURI FABIAN REITZUG International Finance Corporation Case Study—Trust motivates people’s uptake and use of digital financial services (DFS). Understanding the socio-cultural determinants of DFS trust are needed to scale financial access and drive financial inclusion. These are core components of international development strategies, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Universal Financial Access (UFA2020). The IFC-Mastercard Foundation Partnership for Financial Inclusion (the Partnership) conducted ethnographic research to understand factors that impact people’s attitudes and perceptions of DFS. Nine months of field work each in Cameroon, DRC, Senegal and Zambia were conducted, in collaboration with local research institutes’ Anthropology departments and the African Studies Center at the University of Leiden. The results of the ethnographic research produced a framework for understanding drivers and barriers to people growing trust in digital financial services. This paper analyzes the...

When Customer Insights Meet Business Constraints: Building a Go-to-Market Strategy for a Smart Home Offering in a Regulated Space

ELIZABETH A. KELLEY ILLUME Advising, LLC AMANDA E. DWELLEY ILLUME Advising, LLC Case Study—This case draws on work in the energy efficiency industry where many utilities rely on data-driven insights and decision-making to encourage consumers to adopt energy-saving products and behaviors. In this highly regulated industry, utility staff must show value through big data, and studies often rely exclusively on quantitative data analytics to create behavioral models to explain or predict behavior. However, purely data-driven research often fails to answer questions about why customers behave a certain way, and what product or program managers and marketers can do about it. In this case study, the team from ILLUME Advising LLC (ILLUME), a research consultancy in the clean energy industry, illustrates how their cross-functional team paired qualitative and quantitative research on residential home energy use. The case study draws on an exploratory market and segmentation study for an electric utility interested in engaging customers...

ReHumanizing Hospital Satisfaction Data: Text Analysis, the Lifeworld, and Contesting Stakeholders’ Beliefs in Evidence

JULIA WIGNALL Seattle Children's Hospital DWIGHT BARRY Seattle Children's Hospital Case Study—Declining clinician engagement, increasing rates of burnout, and stagnant patient and family experience scores have led hospital leadership at Seattle Children's Hospital to submit requests to a data scientist and an anthropologist to identify key themes of survey comments and provide recommendations to improve experience and satisfaction. This study explored ways of understanding satisfaction as well as analytic approaches to textual data, and found that various modes of evidence, while seemingly ideal to leaders, are hard pressed to meet their expectations. Examining satisfaction survey comments via text mining, content analysis, and ethnographic investigation uncovered several specific challenges to stakeholder requests for actionable insights. Despite its hype, text mining struggled to identify actionable themes, accurate sentiment, or group distinctions that are readily identified by both content analysis and end users, while more...

Humanizing Quant and Scaling Qual to Drive Decision-Making

LAUREN MORRIS Amazon Prime Video REBECCA GATI Amazon Prime Video Case Study—The Amazon Prime Video User Experience (UX) Research team endeavored to balance qualitative and quantitative insights and translate them into the currency that drives the business, specifically customer engagement, to improve decision-making. Researchers conducted foundational qualitative research to uncover what matters most to Prime Video customers, translated resulting insights into a set of durable, measurable customer outcomes, and developed a global, longitudinal online survey program that validated the importance and perception of these outcomes at scale. Researchers then systematically linked customers’ attitudinal survey results to their usage patterns and overall satisfaction with the service. The resulting data showed how investing in improving a customer outcome is likely to increase service engagement, thus closing the loop between insights and business metrics for the first time. Prime Video executive leadership has not only embraced...

Acting on Analytics: Accuracy, Precision, Interpretation, and Performativity

JEANETTE BLOMBERG IBM Research ALY MEGAHED IBM Research RAY STRONG IBM Research Case Study—We report on a two-year project focused on the design and development of data analytics to support the cloud services division of a global IT company. While the business press proclaims the potential for enterprise analytics to transform organizations and make them ‘smarter’ and more efficient, little has been written about the actual practices involved in turning data into ‘actionable’ insights. We describe our experiences doing data analytics within a large global enterprise and reflect on the practices of acquiring and cleansing data, developing analytic tools and choosing appropriate algorithms, aligning analytics with the demands of the work and constraints on organizational actors, and embedding new analytic tools within the enterprise. The project we report on was initiated by three researchers; a mathematician, an operations researcher, and an anthropologist well-versed in practice-based technology design, in collaboration...

The Perfect uberPOOL: A Case Study on Trade-Offs

JENNY LO Uber Technologies STEVE MORSEMAN Uber Technologies Case Study—One of Uber’s company missions is to make carpooling more affordable and reliable for riders, and effortless for drivers. In 2014 the company launched uberPOOL to make it easy for riders to share their trip with others heading in the same direction. Fundamental to the mechanics of uberPOOL is the intelligence that matches riders for a trip, which can introduce various uncertainties into the user experience. Core to the business objective is understanding how to deliver a ‘Perfect POOL’—an ideal situation where 3 people in the vehicle are able to get in and out at the same time and location allowing for a more predictable and affordable experience. This case study argues that, for a reduced fare and a more direct route, riders are willing to forego the convenience of getting picked up at their door in exchange for waiting and walking a set amount to meet their driver. This case study explores the integration of qualitative and quantitative research...

Humans Can Be Cranky and Data Is Naive: Using Subjective Evidence to Drive Automated Decisions at Airbnb

STEPHANIE CARTER Airbnb RICHARD DEAR Airbnb Case Study—How can we build fairness into automated systems, and what evidence is needed to do so? Recently, Airbnb grappled with this question to brainstorm ways to re-envision the way hosts review guests who stay with them. Reviews are key to how Airbnb builds trust between strangers. In 2018 we started to think about new ways to leverage host reviews for decision making at scale, such as identifying exceptional guests for a potential loyalty program or notifying guests that need to be warned about poor behavior. The challenge is that the evidence available to use for automated decisions, star ratings and reviews left by hosts, are inherently subjective and sensitive to the cross-cultural contexts in which they were created. This case study explores how the collaboration between research and data science revealed that the underlying constraint for Airbnb to leverage subjective evidence is a fundamental difference between ‘public’ and ‘private’ feedback. The outcome of this integrated,...