innovation

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....

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...