Case Study—This case study discusses the role ethnography played in fostering collaboration across two organizations during a research project. It explores how the opportunity for collaboration emerged, why it was seized upon, and what it meant for the project. The case study looks at the project challenges and mishaps and clarifies why in spite of this it is believed to be successful. It analyses the impact on people's perceptions of the project outcome and what this meant for our client.
Keywords: organizational culture, agency collaboration, design research, government...
SDU Design, University of Southern Denmark
WAFA SAID MOSLEH
SDU Design, University of Southern Denmark
Building on participatory innovation, and taking a personal and analytical autoethnographic approach we set out to investigate how innovative initiatives emerge in the interaction of multiple stakeholders across different organizations. As researchers, we are interested in understanding the lived experience of the lead author, as an inquiry into how new initiatives across organizations are shaped in the interaction between different stakeholders across field sites and organizational levels. The project evolved as a cross-institutional initiative; bridging health-care and engineering education, and while the lead author was initially involved as design consultant, his engagement later resulted in the initiation of cross-disciplinary collaboration between two different local institutions. This paper is thus an attempt to investigate how emerging organizational initiatives and multi-stakeholder innovation become...
Hasbrouck Research Group
Contributor: LISA DICARLO, Brown University
In this interactive tutorial, participants explored ways in which ethnographers can have an expanded role in addressing social issues and other wicked problems. In particular, it explored how ethnographic thinking can frame problems and catalyze change.
Participants were first provided with a grounding in ways to approach systemic challenges and social entrepreneurship, including discussion of some successful roles ethnographers have played as part of inter-disciplinary teams. Then, instructors introduced three case studies (and frameworks of systems within them) that participants later used as material for exploring how broader applications of ethnographic thinking might work in real world settings. Those included: labor practices in the seafood industry, encouraging energy conservation, and managing the refugee crises.
In the second part of the tutorial, participants divided into groups...
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:...
This paper discusses a collaborative research model, referred to as ‘The Art of Empathy’. This is a model developed to integrate ethnographic practices in small budget economies. The paper aims to contribute to the variety of working approaches to ethnography in business, exploring the work to be done in straddling the delicate balance between growing and enabling ethnographic thinking without contributing to it’s de-enrichment and commoditization. Key words: client collaboration, capability building, and design research....
In this paper I propose that applied ethnographers should think critically and innovatively about the practice of producing fieldnotes in ethnographic research. Critical thought on ethnographic fieldnotes has been relatively underdeveloped, both in applied and academic anthropology. Moreover, as applied ethnographers our projects have particular opportunities and constraints that are unique from academic anthropology. I make a case for elevating fieldnotes as a topic of more critical discussion in applied ethnography, and for moving fieldnotes from a private practice to a social practice. I use a collaborative online tool as a case example for possible innovation. Collaborative practices present certain vulnerabilities and challenges to creating fieldnotes, but I argue that the benefits of innovating fieldnotes help to build bridges both between researchers, and between researchers and stakeholders in a project. Innovative fieldnote practices can: deepen the thinking in our research; increase our impact; help...
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...
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...
Stripe Partners TOM HOY
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...
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...
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...
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....
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....
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'....
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...