innovation

Beyond the Toolbox: What Ethnographic Thinking Can Offer in a Shifting Marketplace

"abstract wallpaper" by Paul Cross
by JAY HASBROUCK, Hasbrouck Research Group (This article is also available in Chinese) Lufthansa flight 490, Seattle to Frankfurt Dinner just served, everyone was settling in, each in various stages of preparing their coping mechanisms for the painfully long flight. Laptops, eye masks, charge cords, earphones, earplugs, slippers, hand cream…they were very busy. The woman next to me popped a sleeping pill and was situating her blankets. I began my own ritual of scanning the entertainment channels to plan my movie lineup. As I was flipping through documentaries, I unexpectedly ran across an educational featurette titled “Design Thinking in 30 Minutes.” Yes, 30 minutes! The more I thought about this featurette as an offering aimed at a mass audience, the more it seemed like an indicator of sorts to me. At face value, it’s a sign that interest in design thinking has become so widespread that a 30-minute short on the subject warranted inclusion in a carefully curated inflight entertainment lineup. But did it also suggest...

The Model of Change: A Way to Understand the How and Why of Change

JOHANNE MOSE ENTWISTLE and MIA KRUSE RASMUSSEN Developing sustainable solutions within the energy sector requires a holistic, interdisciplinary approach. Interdisciplinary partnerships need common frameworks that enable dialogue and knowledge exchange between different perspectives. In this paper we present ‘The Model of Change’ as a framework for designing and evaluating different efforts in innovation projects. By insisting that effects of solutions have to be understood as a complex interplay of context, preconditions, perception, and interaction, The Model of Change becomes a tool to help us bring nuance to the simplistic cause-effect view that often dominates energy research. This type of contextual knowledge is essential to reproduce successes, improve failures and develop sustainable solutions that work....

Iterating an Innovation Model: Challenges and Opportunities in Adapting Accelerator Practices in Evolving Ecosystems

JULIA KATHERINE HAINES Startup accelerators have expanded worldwide in recent years, fostering the development of technology startups and spreading Lean practices and Silicon Valley values to all corners of the globe. These accelerators clearly create value—for the teams whose development they foster, the products they create, and the larger ecosystems they build. But there are also a number of challenges arising from the model and how it is implemented in different contexts globally. Through fieldwork at accelerators in Singapore and Buenos Aires, I investigate the global expansion of this innovation model. In this paper, I discuss the most salient challenges and discuss potential opportunities emerging from these challenges, and how other methods and practices such as design thinking, intensive user research and flexible, bottom up-approaches can add value to the accelerator process. I also highlight mutually beneficial ways the EPIC community can become more involved in startups ecosystems....

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...

Opting Out Of Stasis: Using Integrated Techniques to Create Sustainable Change and Renewal in Healthcare Organizations

LINDSEY MESSERVY and BETH WERNER In recent times, hospitals and healthcare organizations have become more accepting of using human-centered approaches, including ethnography, to lend insight on how to prevent risk, increase efficiency, improve staff experience, and advance delivery of care. But often times, these approaches lack the tools and techniques needed to carry these insights to implementation. This paper identifies and reflects on the hurdles that make change and innovation difficult and how the integration of practices, such as quantitative, co-creative, and change management, with ethnographic methods can help facilitate responsive and sustainable transformation in healthcare organizations....

Reinvention and Revisioning in an Appalachian Industry Cluster

CHRISTINE Z. MILLER and STOKES JONES ABSTRACT The theme Evolution/Revolution invites us to consider how historiographical frames are imposed on human events, and to reflect on the capacity of ethnography to both subvert and ratify dominant interpretations. We draw on ethnographic research conducted at a former mill town in the Appalachian foothills which was widely credited with surviving because it ‘reinvented itself’ after the textile era. The result was a homegrown ‘industry cluster’ where a manufacturing system for a certain product category “is organized around the region and its professional and technical networks rather than around the individual firm” (Saxenian, 1994; Porter, 1998). We found ‘innovation’ itself has an ideology that biases potential recipients leading them to expect epochal breaks with the past to be the only successful strategy and suggest how departing from ‘the tyranny of the epochal’ (du Gay, 2003) with its demands for bold programs of ‘Renewal’ or ‘Modernization’ can lead to...

The Not-So-Blind Watchmaker: Evolution by Design in Corporate Culture

KATE BARRETT This paper provides a framework for “evolving” business, organizations and brands based on the mechanisms of evolution commonly discussed within academic anthropology. It begins with an analysis of the differences between the concept of “evolution” as evoked in corporate and academic settings. Then, placing the burden for resolving this discrepancy in the hands of practicing anthropologists, it offers a model for assessing business challenges and opportunities for growth based on the four primary mechanisms of evolutionary change: natural selection, mutation, flow, and drift. Positing industries as “species,” the paper presents four case studies of financial services companies that used each of these mechanisms to achieve competitiveness and “evolve” the industry. It concludes with more general recommendations as to when and how each mechanism can address specific business and/or organizational challenges....

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...

Heroic Complexity in Strategic Innovation

TONY SALVADOR I posit that strategic innovation – the act of carrying an idea through to execution – is an act of destruction as much, or perhaps more so, then it is an act of creation. Specifically, innovation is a violent act against an extant complex adaptive system, a system whose purpose is not only to survive, but also to improve its relative position vis-à-vis others in its milieu. Moreover, innovation that happens within institutions such as corporations is an act of violence against a system animated by extant social structures who also seek to survive and improve their relative positions. The result is a system whose emergent properties actively resist innovation, a point well covered in literature. Strategic innovations, already a low probability event, can occur with greater likelihood, therefore, if one leaves the system and returns in a structured manner, a structure I propose is remarkably similar to the Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”. Implications for the structure of strategic innovation, innovations...

Design Anthropologists’ Role in SMEs: Unveiling Aptitude and Attitude

MARK ASBOE Research collaboration and methods development within user-centered design and the emerging discipline of user-driven innovation have traditionally taken place in research institutions and large forward-looking enterprises. Due to this fact, concepts, methodologies, approaches have primarily gained foothold in companies with resources, competencies and organizational support to make sense of this seemingly fruitful but somehow elitist approach. The roles that the design anthropologist plays in user-driven innovation will depend on size and competencies of the specific organization. The economic realities of small-to-medium sized companies (SMEs) suggest a more holistic research perspective from the single design anthropologist that potentially constitutes the entire (and affordable) user experience department of the SME. This paper suggests a plausible approach for utilizing the skills of a design anthropologist in a small manufacturing company based on experience from two collaborative projects. Rather than informing about...

Navigating Value and Vulnerability with Multiple Stakeholders: Systems Thinking, Design Action and the Ways of Ethnography

MELISSA CLIVER, CATHERINE HOWARD and RUDY YULY A growing cadre of organizations, corporations, NGOs and philanthropic foundations seek to address difficult global problems like poverty using social innovation and technology. Such problems are multivalent, deep-rooted, ever changing and culturally specific. Amid this complicated terrain, ethnographic tools and methods are uniquely suited and key to successfully addressing these large-scale dilemmas. In our project, we use dynamic combinations of research, strategy and creative thinking to develop scalable financial service prototypes designed to promote financial inclusion for the world’s poorest individuals. Fostering holistic solutions in this arena requires new ways of conceiving, designing and delivering innovation. In this paper we describe our process and vision for navigating these complex environments with hybrid strategies and an embrace of systems thinking1. We conclude with six imperatives for success in global social innovation projects....

Models in Motion: Ethnography Moves from Complicatedness to Complex Systems

KEN ANDERSON, TONY SALVADOR and BRANDON BARNETT Since the 90’s, one of ethnography’s values has been about the reduction in the risk of developing new products and services by providing contextual information about people’s lives. This model is breaking down. Ethnography can continue to provide value in the new environment by enabling the corporation to be agile. We need to: (1) identify flux in social-technological fabric; (2) engage in the characterization of the business ecosystems to understand order; and (3) be a catalyst with rapid deep dives. Together we call it a FOC approach (flux, order, catalyst)....

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Ethnography and Selective Visibility in the Technology Sector

LAURA GRANKA, PATRICK LARVIE and JENS RIEGELSBERGER As ethnographers practicing within an engineering driven industry, we often struggle with visibility and its effects. Exposing the methodological and technical underpinnings of ethnographic practice can bring us closer to the teams we work with, but it can also draw attention to the ways that engineering and anthropology clash. In this brief paper we describe the rationale for deliberate and highly selective visibility in our engineering-driven workplace. We will draw on our experience as anthropologists “embedded” in teams of engineers to discuss our own claims to authority and examine how legitimacy is conferred upon ideas and actions in a technology-driven environment....

Showing the Value of Ethnography in Business

JOAN VINYETS REJÓN This paper explores the value that ethnography brings to business. It uses the idea of examining the impact and value contribution of the ethnographic praxis within the innovation process and corporate culture. To specify the business impact, it highlights a framework for understanding the value that ethnography brings to a business context. Based on the ethnographic value contribution analysis of different projects and meetings conducted with our clients and with various participating stakeholders, we propose a broader framework and performance indicators for identifying and showing the ethnographic impact regarding business value. Finally, we offer reflections on the value of ethnography contribution as a growing and evolving path....

Practice, Products and the Future of Ethnographic Work

MARIA BEZAITIS Ethnographic work in industry has spent two decades contributing to making products that matter in a range of industry contexts. This activity has accounted for important successes within industry. From the standpoint of ethnographic practice, however, the discursive infrastructure that has been developed to do our work within product development is now a limiting factor. For practice to evolve, we must look critically at the ways in which our current successes are indicators of a kind of stasis and that change is a matter of radically redefining the kinds of business problems ethnographic work should address and the values and behaviors associated with how we do our work....