by TOM HOY, Stripe Partners
Sensemaking: The Power of Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm
2017, 240 pp, Hachette Books
Christian Madsbjerg has done a huge amount to elevate the profile and impact of ethnography in corporate settings. As co-founder of ReD Associates, Madsbjerg makes a consistent and compelling case for ethnographers to set their sights beyond user experience and design to impact decisions at the pinnacle of global organisations.
His new book Sensemaking advances his mission further, advocating humanities-based thinking to a much wider business audience. The central analysis feels more even resonant today than when the book was released last year: the power of big data has created a false idol, lulling us into the belief that the algorithm has the capacity to replace critical thinking.
What unfolds is a story which is compelling and bold in critique, but strangely conservative and ambiguous in the solutions it prescribes.
Silicon Valley and the Renaissance Man [sic]
EMIL STIGSGAARD FUGLSANG
ReD Associates Download PDF
This tutorial will provide you with a foundational understanding of how businesses operate from financial, organizational, and strategic standpoints. However, rather than providing you with only a list of terminologies or a toolbox of frameworks, the goal of this course is to help participants gain an intuition around how to think like a business – especially when coming from a social science background and practice.
The course is designed for social scientists, designers, academics, corporate innovation teams, and other non-MBA professionals looking to enter the corporate world or make a bigger impact in their organizations. Throughout the course, participants will learn how to feed this knowledge back into their own work and ethnographic approaches, particularly around framing a project and turning insights into credible and impactful recommendations. Using Whole Foods as a case study, this course will cover:...
A Piece of Pie ROBERT ANDREW BELL
A Piece of Pie
This paper examines the sales force in a retail setting, considering how Business Anthropology can enlighten managerial practices as a means to defining organisational strategy. Specifically, we look at sales force engagement, motivation and reward – considering how to build bridges in the management-employee relationship and shed light on the sales force culture. We will look at anthropology’s position in relation to key business activities using the service-dominant logic to understand how individual sensemaking and perception of power can influence internal and external relationships in the value creation and realisation process, examining engrained paradigms and using Corporate Ethnography to offer new insights and perceptions on organisational culture, power and hierarchies....
by GARY GEBHARDT, HEC Montréal; co-chair of EPIC2017
One of the most common questions I get at EPIC is, “You do ethnography in business schools?" So ken anderson invited me to write a response to this recurring question. I’ll break the response into three topic areas: (1) the use of ethnography and its status vis-à-vis research on management; (2) where, why, and how we teach ethnography in the classroom; and (3) some of the challenges and opportunities of ethnography in management research and business school education.
Ethnography and Research on Management
First let’s consider some history. Oxford University was founded in 1096. Harvard University—the first university in North America—was founded in 1636. Yet Harvard Business School was the first to offer an MBA and it was founded in 1908. Business schools as training grounds for general and strategic management are a relatively recent phenomenon.
Then, beginning in the late 1950s, there was a major movement to make business schools more academic and rigorous...
EPIC Profiles Series
By ERIC ARNOULD, Southern Danish University
Culturally inspired and often ethnographically informed research has constituted a consistent thread of output from faculty in business school marketing departments for over thirty years (Arnould and Thompson 2005, 2007; Sherry 1991, 2014; Thompson, Arnould and Giesler 2013). This long wave of research has produced an impressive froth of ideas concerned with consumption (identity, community, ideology, ritual, etc) and many other marketplace phenomena such as branding, servicescapes, and market formation processes. This long wave accounts for a disproportionate share of top cited papers in the major marketing and consumer research journals, and has been spearheaded by a handful of terminally qualified anthropologists, sociologists and fellow travelers (Holt and Cameron 2012; McCracken 1988; Sherry 1995, 1998, 2014; Sherry and Fischer 2009; Costa and Bamossy 1995). While not lacking a critical edge, this work sometimes has included private or public sector consulting...
MARY YOKO BRANNEN, FIONA MOORE and TERRY MUGHAN
This paper focuses on a study of Tesco Plc conducted in 2011, in which we trained a multicultural team of nine Asian managers to become in-house ethnographers of Tesco UK for a 3-month period studying 52 stores in the UK with dual objectives of helping Tesco (1) to understand and evaluate the core practices that comprised the essence of Tesco’s home country advantage, and (2) to identify sources of learning from Tesco’s foreign subsidiaries to aid in reinvigorating its core in light of increasing competition in its home market. We believe that the strategic and training dimensions of this project constitute a new contribution to the field of organisational ethnography, particularly with regard to the use of a multinational ethnographic team of non-native speakers of English....
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...
The ability to lead organizational and cultural change has never been a more critical factor for success in business than today. With renewed urgency many executives ask what do with their company culture(s): “Why can’t we build organizations that are more innovative, inspiring, and more agile – and why do our change initiatives typically fail?” Based on project engagements where questions like these have been a focal point, this paper aims to shed light on the conditions and role of business anthropology to take active part in enhancing organizational change programs. Through concrete examples, it discusses central challenges on how we as ethnographers can strengthen our approach when navigating in change programs – not only in terms of how we decompose and diagnose culture (telling companies what they should not do) – but more importantly on how to play an active role in leading the way and tackling complexity through positive enablers of change.
Featured Image by Robert Katzki...