collaboration

Autonomous Vehicle Study Builds Bridges between Industry and Academia

BRIGITTE JORDAN Nissan Research Center, Silicon Valley CHRISTINA WASSON University of North Texas Researchers have long explored the desirability and benefits of industry-university collaborations and acknowledge they can be fraught with difficulties. We examine one such alliance, focused on driverless cars, a current hot topic in the public imagination and in technology design. Our collaboration began as an alliance between two anthropologists, one a professor at the University of North Texas, the other a consultant with the Nissan Research Center in Sunnyvale, California. We designed a research project for a design anthropology course that Christina Wasson taught in Fall 2014. Brigitte Jordan, at the time, was conducting an informal ethnography class for engineers and computer scientists at NRC. Our alliance had two objectives: to determine what a successful industry-university collaboration could look like when it involves ethnographic research in the high-tech sector, and to provide insights into usable ethnographic methods and...

The Missing Tool in the Design Leadership Toolbox: Integrating Conflict Management into Collaborative Design

SUSANA LA LUZ-HAWKINS Lextant Businesses often face the challenge of reaching out to people in contexts that are wholly different from the world they operate in and they are regularly attempting to create experiences for consumers that exist within complicated dynamics of social, economic, political, and cultural flux. Arriving with training that encompasses everything from design research, iterative prototyping, tolerance of ambiguity, process-driven approaches, and an appreciation for wicked problems, Designers are uniquely positioned to be in roles of leadership within these businesses who are trying to create experiences for consumers. Design Leaders ARE the bridges between businesses and the people they’re trying to serve. Unfortunately, while Design Leaders can speak in the voice of the customer, drive the innovation process, advocate for deferral of judgment, and diverge and converge with the best of them, one critical skill set is lacking from their Design toolbox: conflict management. Design Leaders need to develop conflict...

Knowing That and Knowing How: Towards Embodied Strategy

SIMON ROBERTS Stripe Partners TOM HOY Stripe Partners This paper explores two different forms of knowledge. We compare embodied understanding with propositional or abstract knowledge. Ethnographic research, with its commitment to understanding through immersion and engagement in social fields produces dexterous, intuitive and practical cultural knowledge, which is highly suited towards culturally attuned activity. We argue that ethnography can often be reduced to propositional knowledge as a result of the lack of team participation in research and how we communicate insight. Ideas of professional expertise sit behind the division of labour that characterises client-researcher relationships. Accompanying that division of labour is a need for the communication of ethnographic research to bridge the gap between client and external worlds – the world we as researchers explore and that our clients needs to act in. By engaging our clients in shared, immersive experiences we can create the conditions for them to develop ‘know how’ about...

Tangible Tools in Para-Ethnographic Fieldwork

PATRICIA LIMA SDU Design, University of Southern Denmark & LEGO Group WAFA SAID MOSLEH SDU Design, University of Southern Denmark This paper sets out to explore how tangible tools can invite industrial managers to have a say in how ethnographic fieldwork can be conducted to explore the use of products in real-life contexts. We draw upon video materials and field notes from a series of customer visits in four European countries. Our main aim is to address the following questions: How can tangible tools help facilitate dialogues in the field to bring awareness and to challenge taken-for-granted assumptions? In what ways can company managers be involved in conducting fieldwork? To what extent can we involve the participants so that they do not solely serve as informants? Our arguments focus on challenging industrial manufacturing companies’ assumptions and expectations about their customers’ use of their products, as well as bringing awareness to company managers about the advantages of ethnographic praxis instigating collaboration...

The Para-Ethnographic Trajectories Of Professional Ethnography

by MICHAEL G. POWELL, Shook Kelley Professional anthropologists frequently occupy unique roles, simultaneously inside and outside the organizations we work for or work with. Most of us are already adept at negotiating these roles, but don’t necessarily highlight this skill as something of great value, either to professional ethnography or to the broader intellectual life of anthropology. We should. Our role in the broader field of anthropology often remains marginal and our position—at once inside and outside, betwixt and between—is somewhat precarious and vulnerable (eg, Reddy 2012 touches on this, as do some of her guest bloggers). But it also affords opportunities. Professional anthropologists cross and complicate existing boundaries: collaborating with, debating, struggling with, writing about, negotiating, navigating and translating between different dynamic audiences. Embracing our hybridity is a powerful recognition that our difference is relevant and valuable. I offer here a story of my experience as a professional...

Accelerating Collaboration with Social Tools

ALEXANDRA MACK and DINA MEHTA As more and more corporate ethnographic work is crossing international borders, we are increasingly collaborating with teams that are spread across the globe. As a result, we need tools that enable us to work across boundaries. Since early 2004, the authors have been collaborating on a research project developed by an American company seeking to develop solutions specific to the Indian market. One of us, an Indian sociologist, led a team of ethnographers in India, while the other, an American anthropologist, managed research and analysis for concept development in the US. While all of the US-based team members spent time in the field in India during the project, integrating the teams into the same “brainspace” was a challenge. This paper describes how we used social tools to enable each set of team members to understand the work being done on the other side of the world....

Not Lost in Translation: Maximizing Impact in Marketing Ethnography through Bivocality

AMY MAISH and MAGDA WESOLKOWSKA The bivocal approach is a systematic research and strategy framework that leverages marketing professionals’ and social scientists’ unique perspectives in order to develop brand, consumer and cultural insights relevant to the business challenge. Thus allowing all voices to be heard equally and clearly: that of the social scientist and the marketing professional, that of culture, consumer and brand. It results in an explanation for the forces at play on the brand or business questions and acts as a cultural GPS for the brand. The explanatory nature and consistent connection between brand, consumer and culture allow for a highly grounded, and we would assert, more powerfully informed set of actions, including, when, how, and why brands/products are used or could be used by consumers....

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'....

Co-opetition as the New Path to Innovation? Negotiating Strategic Change through User-Centred Design Approaches

ALICE PEINADO, MAGDALENA JARVIN and CORINNE JOUANNY This essay analyses how consensus was reached in a co-opetitive setting by looking at two, consecutive but related projects spanning from 14 to 18 months in length. The projects took place in Paris, France, between 2009 and 2013, and involved key players from the banking and insurance industry. FiDJi, short for Finance, Design et Joie d’Innover, was meant to test a new innovation method based on a design thinking approach. FAIR, short for Finance, Assurance & Innovation Responsable, was conceived as a sequel to FiDJi but had the more ambitious goal to develop a new methodology that, while using a design thinking approach as a starting mode, would provide an independent set of guidelines with respect to sustainable, responsible innovation. Consequently, the dynamic of each project varied, as did the end goals. Both projects took design thinking as a starting point but while FiDJi produced a new innovation methodology based on a user-centred design approach, FAIR had the more ambitious...

On Models

HUGH DUBBERLY Wow, I couldn’t be more honored. I’m really, really glad to be here.I want to thank Rick for that very flattering introduction. I’d also like to thank Maria, Luis, and Rick for inviting me here.I want to talk about why I believe models are crucial in designing and in research.I want to begin with three embarrassing admissions. First: Design is stuck. And by that, I mean we don’t know how to make progress as designers. As an example of that I want talk about the AIGA National conference in Boston. The first conference was in 1985. AIGA is the American Institute of Graphic Arts. It’s the main professional organization for graphic designers. Wonderful conference. Milton Glazer came and spoke. Brilliant graphic designer; gave a wonderful talk; showed some really great work. Nicholas Negroponte was also invited, and he came and talked about the work of the Architecture Machine Group and the just forming Media Lab. Twenty years later, the AIGA national conference was in Boston again, and Milton Glazer came and...

Ethnography as a Catalyst for Organizational Change: Creating a Multichannel Customer Experience

ROBIN BEERS, TOMMY STINSON and JAN YEAGER This paper describes how ethnography became a catalyst for organizational change in a leading financial institution by providing a collaborative context for functional groups to come together in co-creating a multichannel customer banking experience. While consumers increasingly expect a good cross-channel experience as a de facto element of their engagement, few companies successfully deliver this experience in a compelling way. Because functional groups are siloed, focusing on their own business goals and managing their own discrete parts of the customer experience, there is limited understanding of the experience as a whole and limited interest in bridging units to improve customer experience. Building a 360° view of the customer is an “excuse” for people to step outside their silos. The ethnographic process can become a collective learning platform where people gain a common understanding of the customer and how they’re accountable for delivering the customer experience. However the...

What Happens When You Mix Bankers, Insurers, Consultants, Anthropologists and Designers: The Saga of Project FiDJI in France

ALICE PEINADO, MAGDALENA JARVIN and JULIETTE DAMOISEL This essay explores an initiative carried on by a group of three banks , two insurance companies and a consulting firm, European leader in the field of innovation, towards the development of a methodology aimed at innovating through a user-centered approach in design. The project, baptized “Projet FiDJI – Finance, Design et Joie d’Innover”, brought together sponsors of the banking and insurance sectors with ethnographers and designers within an academic lead context. The aim was to develop a methodological approach that would push banks and insurances to shift their focus from the more traditional, marketing lead quantitative studies towards a more qualitative appreciation of their clients. In so doing, it tried to re-position the main strategic approach of the institutions involved from that of product focused companies to user focused, service oriented ones. Project FiDJI was awarded the highly competitive label of “innovative and strategic project” by France’s “Pôle...

Hyper-Skilling: The Collaborative Ethnographer

WILLIAM REESE, WIBKE FLEISCHER and HIDESHI HAMAGUCHI Time, budget, and resource pressures will impact ethnographic work into the foreseeable future. As “de-skilling” threatens ethnography—disrupting an integrated, holistic approach and output—we must seek new work practices. We have advocated and implemented an explicitly integrative model of collaborative practice, which interconnects the knowledge domains within a cross-disciplinary team to generate effective, powerful insights. This model, which we will call hyper-skilling, focuses on assembling knowledge and communication with other key perspectives such as branding and marketing strategy, historical analysis, trends forecasting, and in many cases design and engineering. Each plays a key role in determining a company's course of action. We also argue that the multi-disciplinary team model is well-suited to corporate settings and the conditions in which ethnographers are increasingly asked to practice. Intended or not, academic environments tend to promote the isolation of...

Innovation in Collaboration: Using an Internet-Based Research Tool as a New Way to Share Ethnographic Knowledge

BETH DI LEONE and ELIZABETH EDWARDS Ethnography in business is only successful if it is a cooperative, communicative endeavor. Research teams must be able to share knowledge with one another and with the client. In the absence of effective communication, time is wasted, analytic quality can suffer, and the client may lose faith in the value of the project or the value of ethnography in business. This paper will address the subject of transmissivity by defining four key needs for knowledge sharing in collaborative ethnographic research: direct experience of the research context, even distribution of knowledge, coordinated development of analysis, and management of the client experience. After synthesizing the literature on knowledge sharing to define these four key needs, the paper will describe how an internet based research tool can enable global, continuous, and controlled information exchange, meeting these needs in a new way. This type of solution can facilitate communication and enrich contextual understanding, pointing in a new...

The Built Environment: Exploration toward a New Paradigm

DOROTHY DEASY, ERIK LUCKEN, WILLIAM DOWELL, GRETCHEN GSCHEIDLE and LAURA LEENHOUTS For most businesses, group work is the way in which ideas are given voice. In this study, ethnographic research was conducted to explore group work and the environments in which it occurs. The research provides context for architects and designers who are conceiving improvements or reinventing the ways the built environment (e.g., furnishings, décor and architecture) influences the outcome of group activities. The research took place in two phases; phase one sought to develop a set of observable hypotheses and phase two sought to validate the hypotheses through observation. In the first phase “embedded reporters” were recruited from Herman Miller and Gensler staff to serve as observers of their own group work and to report on idea flow, knowledge transfer, size of groups, reasons for working together, stage of process, etc. During the second phase of the study, an ethnographic researcher shadowed a “hub” person skilled in group work for 1 –...