innovation

Meaningful Innovation: Ethnographic Potential in the Startup and Venture Capital Spheres

JULIA KATHERINE HAINES University of California, Irvine The aim of this paper is to explore the potential for ethnographic approaches in technology startups and the venture capital firms that support and control them. The current practices and model of innovation aim for “disruptive innovation,” but most efforts fall short, prioritizing mass diffusion and not focusing on where true disruptive innovation lies—creating a change in meaning. I argue that an ethnographic approach can lead to innovation of meanings, bridging the gap between radical innovation and diffusion, and creating disruptive innovation. I discuss some ways ethnography can help product innovation in the startup sphere. But, more importantly, I discuss how ethnography holds great potential for reshaping the VC field, by driving meaning into the VC I then highlight alternative viewpoints that move beyond the “realist” perspective. Keywords: Innovation, Technology, New Product Development, Finance...

The Rise of the User and the Fall of People: Ethnographic Cooptation and a New Language of Globalization

SHAHEEN AMIREBRAHIMI University of California Davis This paper examines how ethnographic praxis as a means for driving social change via industry, went from a peripheral, experimental field, to a normalized part of innovation and product development – only to be coopted from within by a new language of power. Since the 1980s anthropologists have used their work to “make the world a better place,” by leveraging their tools of thick description and rich contextual knowledge to drive diversity and change within corporations and through their productions. As ethnography-as-method became separated from the field of Anthropology, it was opened to new collaborations with adjacent fields (from design, to HCI, to psychology, media studies, and so on). This “opening up” had a twofold effect, on the one hand it enabled greater “impact” (or influence) within institutions, but simultaneously subjected the field to cooptation. Recently, the practice of ethnography came to embrace the terminology of User Experience (UX) – though...

How Autoethnography Enables Sensemaking across Organizations

FREDERIK GOTTLIEB 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...

Tutorial: Structuring Analysis for Innovation

Tutorial Instructors: MARCELO FAGUNDES INSITUM MURILO GOMES INSITUMDownload PDF TUTORIAL DESCRIPTION It’s no news that human-centered innovation has become a common internalized practice of many organizations around the world. In the last decade, companies have begun developing their own innovation departments in addition to building teams to tackle new, complex business challenges—often employing the Double Diamond design process in these endeavors.1 The Double Diamond design process was mapped by the UK Design Council in 2007 through an in-depth study of the design processes used in eleven global brands. Divided into four distinct phases, it maps the divergent and convergent stages of the design process to illustrate the different modes of design thinking.2 The Discover phase serves to gather inspiration to develop new solutions through ethnography and several research methods. Throughout INSITUM’s many years of helping hundreds of companies develop their human-centered innovation culture, we have come to the realization...

Tutorial: Decoding Organizational Change

Tutorial Instructors: KATE SIECK RAND STEVEN GARCIA Team One Businesses are infamous for their rich lexicon of words to describe change: growth, revitalization, reinvention, innovation, revolution, evolution, and every manner of “do something different.” But what does all of this mean? How do these different terms work? What do they imply about the process of change? And under what conditions might they succeed? That was the question driving this tutorial. Starting with some introductory concepts from cognitive and linguistic anthropology, we took a pass at the conceptual models underlying some of the more popular terms in this vocabulary. We presented three – Growth, Disruption, and Innovation – while the tutorial participants completed four additional ideas: Pivot, Lean, North Star, and Unify....

Why Venture Capital Needs Ethnographers: Making Meaningful Innovation in the Startup Sphere

The DEMO Conference
by JULIA KATHERINE HAINES, Google Innovation in the startup world is broken. Startups say their aim is “disruption”—a riff on Christensen’s definition, but much less precise. “Disruption” has been appropriated by startups to mean doing something that has widespread, radical impact. They are about “changing the world.” They’re obsessed with the concept…but are failing on their own terms. Unless you believe “changing the world” means doing “the things your mom no longer goes for you” (Arieff 2016). There are services that deliver beer to your door. Services that deliver X to your mailbox every Y months (razors, underwear, dinner kits). Apps to locate a rentable...anything. Not exactly revolutionary stuff. Are we running out of good ideas for innovation? No, not really. There are plenty of startups with good ideas, but they face a huge number of barriers, and we seldom hear about them. The ones we do end up hearing about—well, those are the ones that got funding from venture capital firms (VCs)....

What is a Sustainable Innovation? Cultural and Contextual Discoveries in the Social Ecology of Cooking in an African Slum

WILLIAM SCHINDHELM GEORG Bridgeable PETER HAYWARD JONES OCAD University This paper investigates how a close understanding of human activity can inform the design of culturally and contextually sustainable innovations for subsistence markets. Building on existing literature related to poverty alleviation initiatives and an ethnographic field study, this project attempted to understand the cultural and contextual challenges to the substitution of unhealthy and unsustainable biomass as cooking fuels by cleaner and competitive cooking alternatives in Kitintale, an urban slum in Kampala, Uganda. We share new research findings and experience from a recent ethnographic study that reveals the incompatibility of modern innovation theory with the realities of the deeply knitted everyday practices in the social ecology of slum life. As the findings of this project suggest, broad claims that disruptive innovation can shift existing practices, change demand and displace market leaders through the creation of new value networks might not fully...

Applied Semiotics: Embracing Strategic Thinking and Fostering Innovation

by LUCIA LAURENT-NEVA, Visual Signo I am an anthropologist and a semiotician. “A semio-what?” I have a set of answers to that question, ranging from ‘I explore meanings in culture’ to ‘I discover the subconscious cultural patterns we all use to find meaning around us, to understand how something makes sense to someone’. Sometimes the conversation turns to the lovely weather we’re having. But most people are interested and want to know more, because semiotics is one of the most powerful research methodologies to engage with strategic thinking and innovation. Why is semiotics, once an esoteric methodology, becoming an essential approach to innovation challenges? The insights that semiotics delivers spark radical thinking, push boundaries and provide shifting perspectives. The method is known for embracing strategic dilemmas by making sense of complex cultural data and delivering practical insights around cultural transformations. Semiotics fosters innovation by getting involved in the detection of emergent changes...

Innovation Teams, Mundane Innovation, and the Public Good

Andrew Schrock
by ANDREW RICHARD SCHROCK Article 2 in the series Data, Design and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives The windows were dirty when I arrived on the fifteenth floor of City Hall. I had been hired as the Los Angeles’ Innovation Team’s in-house social communication researcher. My official title was “Design and Data Research Fellow,” although my badge read “intern,” which after 6 years in a PhD program was an unusual change. After a few weeks I got tired of looking through the grime, and trudged upstairs to the shared kitchen to locate a bottle of spray and a few paper towels. The only way to reach each side of the windows was to lean out, because they opened outward. I’m afraid of heights, so dangling halfway out the windows fifteen floors was enough to give me butterflies. Still, the cleaning plan was up to me. My work considers how people use technologies to improve civic life. I’m especially interested in how individuals become involved in institutional change through and around data. You hear this argument a...

Bridging Ethnography and Path-finding Business Opportunities

KEN ANDERSON Intel CorporationPETER LEVIN Intel CorporationBRANDON BARNETT Intel CorporationMARIA BEZAITIS Intel Corporation While ethnography has been integrated into the design research, new product development and corporate strategy, it has been less well integrated into path-finding for new business opportunities. We’ve developed a model for path-finding research that has three core parts: creating a business opportunity hypothesis from social flux, testing and validating the hypothesis, and catalyzing opportunities for the corporation. We provide a case study of how we used the approach around The Data Economy. We highlight three important aspects of the approach: shift of research focus from context to ecosystem; robust action, rather than funnel development for concepts, and present a tool we created called the Business Opportunity Canvas to convey research findings into action. We then highlight the direct implications of this shift for ethnographic projects, from a focus on how knowledge is produced and description of...

Goodbye Empathy, Hello Ownership: How Ethnography Really Functions in the Making of Entrepreneurs

HIROSHI TAMURA Re:public Inc. FUMIKO ICHIKAWA Re:public Inc. YUKI UCHIDA Re:public Inc. Human-Centered Innovation has come to be known as the central discipline in the entrepreneurial arena. Through three-years of directorship at Innovation Studio Fukuoka, a “citizen-led” innovation incubation platform in Japan, multiple approaches have been investigated and thus learned a successful to-be-entrepreneur him/herself has to co-own a concern with potential customers that evokes him/her a mission to pursue, that is beyond simply understanding customers with empathy. We witnessed ethnographic approach well facilitates the to-be-entrepreneur to meet an unaware yet intrinsic personal concern and nourish to co-own it with the customers. We also discuss what and how ethnographic praxis in industry can contribute to the entrepreneurial arena and propose a new role that we experienced ethnographers to take....

The Trouble with Job Titles: Getting beyond Buzzwords in a Shifting Employment Landscape

charlie chaplain's modern times
by MARTHA COTTON, GARY GEBHARDT, TRACEY LOVEJOY, ABBAS JAFFER — and you! How have professional skills & requirements for ethnographers and other human-centered researchers changed over the last 10 years—and where are they headed? How can you evaluate the confusing terrain of position titles and descriptions, as well as assess the organizations offering them? Post your questions, insights & ideas! EPIC people gathered for an online discussion with Martha, Tracey, Gary & Abbas. Here are the introductions. Introductions Martha Cotton, Partner, gravitytank Back in the mid-90s when I was at eLab, researchers went through a brief period where our business cards said “Understander.” As a word, it fit to describe what I did for a living. But as a job title to communicate my role to others outside of my small ethnographer community, it was very hard to, well, understand. I have a memory of handing my business card to the store manager of a Boston area sporting goods store where I was to spend the day observing people...

What Anthropology Brings to Innovation: John Sherry / A Profile

John Sherry
EPIC Profiles Series by HEATHER S. ROTH-LOBO, University of North Texas John W. Sherry, Director the Experience Innovation Lab at Intel Corporation, is a Keynote Speaker at EPIC2016—join us! “Anthropology is really undersold.” Dr. John Sherry’s words carry weight—he is Director of the Experience Innovation Lab at Intel Corporation. In addition to discovering ways to power innovation in this major multinational technology company, he works in Portland leading Oregon Smart Labs, an external business accelerator. I recently talked with John about innovation, big data, and lean startup. He has made it part of his life´s work to interpret the way markets move and ideas shift around, and his intimate understanding of these dynamics has been driven by his passion for solving social problems with a creative imagination. The mixture of these elements paved John’s successful career as an established anthropologist in a company known for and reinventing computing around the world. Anthropology is not only undersold,...

Bridging the Gap between Ethnographic Practice and Business

by CHRIS MASSOT, Partner, Claro Partners At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I was enjoying a salad with a technology executive, in your typical CES “let’s grab a quick lunch in between two meetings that are only one hotel but somehow one hour apart from each other”. The executive was describing all the research that his company has conducted over the past year or two, when in between hurried bites he said flatly: “We are awash in data”. He then took a bite, gave a little shrug and a look that was either an ask for help or an indication that all this eating on the run was giving him indigestion. If there is one thing I hear out in the world of driving innovation and new product, service and experience development, it’s this: companies are good at generating research. They don’t need more data. It’s easy for companies to commission research and receive piles of reports and insights that end up on the “what now?” pile. What they need is to understand what the information means, and what...

Ethnography for Smart Service Systems in Product Design

by WILLIAM O. BEEMAN, Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota In today’s rapidly changing, highly competitive world, product design requires swift translation of human needs and desires into technical specifications for the development of devices and services that meet those needs (Salvador et al. 2013). This calls for a complex integration of qualitative and quantitative data. But despite some notable successes, product design failures are today both extensive and expensive (Anonymous 2015), consuming enormous amounts of time and human labor. Any improvement to the process of product design would be of great public benefit. Many “smart systems” approaches to the product design process address the problems inherent in this process with limited success. In fact, existing “smart systems” are not very smart. There is an extensive literature available to product designers and engineers addressing lapses in strategies for the successful integration of qualitative and quantitative factors in the design process. It...