leadership

Ethnographic Expertise as Visionary Catalyst of Collaboration

JONATHAN LEROY BIDERMAN Recent developments in the scholarship of ethnography, combined with growing recognition of the value of collaboration in business, present industrial ethnography with the opportunity to exercise greater agency and leadership. This paper considers updates to theory and practice of ethnographic strategy, positionality, foresight, and design, observing that the combination of these developments is ideal preparation for such leadership and collaboration in a context of increasing complexity. Discussion of business orthodoxy and related critiques contextualizes the conversation. Atul Gawande's development of the surgical safety checklist provides a case study for showing how a deep ethnographic approach can apply the specific capabilities highlighted in this paper to foster collaboration and to understand and solve complex problems in a way that bridges “anthropological” and “design” ethnography. The paper ends with practical suggestions for advancing ethnographic leadership and agency. Additional key words:...

The Missing Tool in the Design Leadership Toolbox: Integrating Conflict Management into Collaborative Design

SUSANA LA LUZ-HAWKINS Lextant Businesses often face the challenge of reaching out to people in contexts that are wholly different from the world they operate in and they are regularly attempting to create experiences for consumers that exist within complicated dynamics of social, economic, political, and cultural flux. Arriving with training that encompasses everything from design research, iterative prototyping, tolerance of ambiguity, process-driven approaches, and an appreciation for wicked problems, Designers are uniquely positioned to be in roles of leadership within these businesses who are trying to create experiences for consumers. Design Leaders ARE the bridges between businesses and the people they’re trying to serve. Unfortunately, while Design Leaders can speak in the voice of the customer, drive the innovation process, advocate for deferral of judgment, and diverge and converge with the best of them, one critical skill set is lacking from their Design toolbox: conflict management. Design Leaders need to develop conflict...

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...

Choice-Making with Head and Heart: Finding the Ethnographic Center of Strategy

by DONNA K. FLYNN, PhD; Vice President, WorkSpace Futures, Steelcase Being an anthropologist has been a core part of my personal identity since graduate school – not because of all the years of schooling or the grueling dissertation, but because a holistic, systemic, and people-centered perspective on the world became woven into the fabric of who I am. The power of ethnography is not in its methods, but in the way it shapes our perspective on the world. We frame complex problems in holistic ways, seek out connections between micro-behaviors and macro-dynamics, and are inspired by the rich color of people’s stories. An ethnographic perspective helps us find meaning in everything we look at. Applying that perspective in our work is about translating that meaning into action. These skills are all fundamental to the choice-making enterprise of business strategy. Recently I have had the great fortune to facilitate and inspire strategy development alongside leaders of multi-million dollar businesses, and truly experiment with...