collaboration

On Models

HUGH DUBBERLYWow, 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 gave another...

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 –...

Drawing from Negative Space: New Ways of Seeing Across the Client-Consultant Divide

MICHELE FRANCES CHANG and MATTHEW LIPSON Focusing on the client-consultant relationship, well honed, but perhaps overly so, this paper aims to shed light on the conditions that at once streamline and challenge our collaborations. To do so, we borrow a page from the visual arts; namely an experimental method of representation called negative space drawing. In both its aim (to create a picture from a new perspective) and challenge (to shake off the preconceived notions that limit us) drawing from negative space reflects a similar dynamic to our own. By way of a case study commissioned by one author and conducted by the other, we sketch a framework of negative space which examines our respective biases and agendas and our endeavors to resolve them....

Verfremdung and Business Development: The Ethnographic Essay as Eye-opener

ANNE LINE DALSGAARD This paper discusses the use of essays as tools for communication and reflection in a collaborative research and development process between a philosopher, an anthropologist, and two private companies. Findings from the project “The Meaning of Work Life” will be presented along with a discussion about their relevance for the involved companies. To specify the general anthropological strategy of defamiliarization, the notion of verfremdung1 is used to detail out specific features of the analytical and representational perspective employed. The paper concludes that the meaning of research results cannot be controlled, as they will always be interpreted according to personal or professional agendas, which is why a style of representation that lays bare their status as interpretations is not only appropriate but may even – by way of estrangement - be revealing and innovative. This conclusion is not new to anthropology as such, but within the context of business ethnography (in which more and more anthropologists...

Design Rituals and Performative Ethnography

JOACHIM HALSE and BRENDON CLARK This paper proposes a course for ethnography in design that problematizes the implied authenticity of “people out there,” and rather favors a performative worldview where people, things and business opportunities are continuously and reciprocally in the making, and where anthropological analysis is only one competence among others relevant for understanding how this making unfolds. In contrast to perpetuating the “real people” discourse that often masks the analytic work of the anthropologist relegating the role of the ethnographer to that of data collector (Nafus and Anderson 2006), this paper advocates a performative ethnography that relocates the inescapable creative aspects of analysis from the anthropologist’s solitary working office into a collaborative project space. The authors have explored the use of video clips, descriptions and quotes detached from their “real” context, not to claim how it really is out there, but to subject them to a range of diverse competencies, each with...

The Translucence of Twitter

INGRID ERICKSON Erickson and Kellogg’s construction of social translucence suggests that collaboration tools can be designed more effectively by balancing elements of visibility and awareness among members of the user community to instill a norm of accountability. This paper questions whether the microblogging tool, Twitter, fits these criteria. Building on interview and artifactual data, I find that although Twitter use affords ample visibility of individuals’ networks, thoughts and movements, it is less effective at supporting awareness. Despite this, evidence suggests that accountability can be achieved via indirect awareness maneuvers and around critical incident to yield a form of peripheral translucence. The paper concludes with considerations of how ethnography might best address and evaluate questions of community, accountability, and translucence in future research....

Close Encounter: Finding a New Rhythm for Client-Consultant Collaboration

HEINRICH SCHWARZ, MADS HOLME and GITTE ENGELUND In the current economic uncertainty ethnographic consultants are asked to intensify their client focus and to demonstrate and improve the relevancy and impact of their work. This paper reports on a case of close collaboration between client and consultant during an ethnographic consulting project. It discusses three crucial challenges: the challenge of aligning expectations and clarifying roles, the challenge of cultural differences and confusion over ethnographic methods, and the challenge of finding the right rhythm between close interaction and useful separation. Written from both the consultant and the client perspective we describe how similar situations were experienced differently by both parties, analyse what underlies some of these tensions, and suggest some lessons for ethnographers and clients alike for future close encounters. The paper suggests that the central challenge lies in finding the right balance between client-emic and client-etic positions and in inviting clients...

Creating Business Impact

by ALEXANDRA MACK, Pitney Bowes I recently joined one of our teams in their team room during a visit from a top executive. The room would be recognizable to many readers—walls covered in post-its and flip chart sheets. The executive was immediately skeptical of the post-its. At the end of the session, he didn’t leave the room convinced of the value of the post-it, but he was open to believing that the outcomes of the project would impact the business. It was clear reminder that the methods we bring to the table, while important for our work, don’t matter to the business. While my tenure has included plenty of fieldwork, and I pride myself on the array of methodological tools in my toolkit, the impact that I and my colleagues in the “ethnographic praxis” world have on Pitney Bowes goes beyond fieldwork and user centered methodologies. In fact, I am not sure if anyone besides me at Pitney Bowes talks about “ethnographic praxis.” Nonetheless, the work and mindset behind what we do have incredible power to change the...