Yes, Virginia, We “Do Ethnography” in Business Schools

Gary Gephardt
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...