by DINA MEHTA & STUART HENSHALL, Convo
Ethnographic context helps people see alternate possibilities and situations where decisions may play out—and create better futures.
The future, of course, is inherently unpredictable. As the EPIC2021 theme Anticipation begins, “There are no future facts. Yet we humans constantly create potential futures.”
People create futures when they begin to see alternate possibilities and situations where their decisions—and those of others—may play out. This creates choices and potential options, while also identifying risks, implications of operating in a different world, and new areas for research and exploration. To do this, organizations need to be able to learn about the world “out there,” as well as understand and shift their own positioning within it.
How can ethnographers facilitate this quest to anticipate the future? Our work has focused on the organizational change needed for our clients to see and create new potentials. As ethnographers we bring stories into the organization,...
RICH RADKA, Chair
This panel explores the specific reasons organizations generate ideas about the future, the methods they choose, how they act on foresight, and consequences for both business and society. Panelists address the theme of scale in various dimensions, such as how to appropriately scale our imaginings, scaling to multiple time horizons, scaling breadth vs. depth of focus, and thinking of scale in terms of organizational value creation.
Rich Radka has 20+ years of providing deep human insights to corporate, scale-up and public sector clients in the arenas of innovation, customer experience, strategy and forecasting. He brings inspired design thinking, and a practical human-centred approach to co-create solutions that involve customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders.Wendy Chamberlin serves as the Global Program Director for the BOMA Project, a livelihood development...
San Jose State University
Institute for the Future
San Jose State University
This tutorial introduces Ethnofutures to ethnographers who want to integrate forecasting methods and tools into their current professional practices. The goal is to translate ethnographic material into imaginative, but grounded, scenarios of their future users, services, and products. Practitioners, such as designers and business strategists, must imagine futures based on existing signals of change. Those signals can come from the activities of individuals, the organizations in which they work, as well as the larger social events around them. The forces fomenting change can be highly localized, such as a specific municipal policy on gig workers or also be global in scope, pointing to the role of gig work as a facet of contemporary transnational capitalism. Moreover, the future itself is scalable: Organizations toggle between data-rich forecasts that extend less than a year, to more speculative...
Challenging measures of scale is possible through listening to stories of how people value a product, and envisioning ways to measure success beyond typical metrics like Monthly Active Use (MAU) or Daily Active Use (DAU).
Understanding what people value is somewhat complex for a product like Firefox because people might use Firefox every day without thinking much about it. In this case study, we detail how we used Futures Thinking and participatory design methods to elicit stories of how people value Firefox.
This case study demonstrates that a relatively small number of meaningful ethnographic insights can be powerful enough to influence business strategy. By creating the space for listening to stories and encouraging stakeholder involvement, we were able to make the case to save one of our mobile browsers, Firefox Focus, despite its lack of scale.
Keywords: Diary Study, Firefox, Futures Thinking, Interviews, Mozilla, Participatory Design, Remote Research,...