methods

Paco – Applying Computational Methods to Scale Qualitative Methods

BOB EVANS Google, Inc. For several years we have been building and using an open mobile research platform, called Paco, that enables the scaling of qualitative research through quantitative, computational techniques. The platform provides a mechanism to design and deliver remote research instruments to mobile devices in the field and it provides mechanisms to abstract and develop new research tools....

Building a Useful Research Tool: An Origin Story of AEIOU

by RICK E. ROBINSON, SapientNitro It is awfully nice not to have to invent a basic tool over and over again. For ethnographers, coding and categorization is work that has to happen whether you are studying housework or neurosurgery, with novices or experts, in an exotic location or in suburban Ohio (no offense to my friends and family in Ohio). A coding structure is one of the most basic and useful tools you ought to have. Devising one that works with your data can be a great deal of work—finding and maintaining the right level of abstraction, setting parameters that make meaningful, consistent distinctions, all while balancing specificity for the frame of the immediate data and the purpose of the inquiry (is it deep cleaning or spot? open surgery or laparoscopic?) against the ability to generalize categories across investigations, to test or refute interpretations in independent engagements. All the sort of work that supports the value of any repeatable methodology. Not something one minds doing in the course of an investigation...

Models of Enchantment and the Enchantment of Models

by SIMON ROBERTS, Partner, Stripe Partners This is a piece about certain types of objects. Those objects are models. I want to suggest that models are objects that are central to the various practices in which EPIC People are engaged for three reasons. Firstly, they help manage situations of uncertainty. Second, they are tools for communications. Third, they represent technologies of enchantment. Let’s take uncertainty first. Like it or not, life is full of uncertainty. “Given the inherent ambiguity of all reality and the nagging suspicion that we always exist on the edge of existential chaos, objects work to hold meanings more or less still, solid, and accessible to others as well as to one’s self” (Molotch 2003: 11).  The lives of individuals and businesses are plagued by knowledge about what may be and what might become. Both individuals and businesses are always on the look out for anchors in a world of vertigo inducing uncertainty and ambiguity. Models are just such anchors. Providing anchors in an uncertain world...

Scurvy and the Practice of Insights Research

by PETER LEVIN, Intel Corporation I. Intel recently ran an internal marketing conference, where a research firm shared with us a dozen or so technology trends, each with potential to “disrupt” our business. To narrow down discussion about these trends, we were asked to “vote” on which of these trends we thought were most important. And then we could focus our attention on those. While the conference ended up being interesting (maybe more for the networking than the content), I left wondering things like why voting would matter for determining the consequences of future shifts on our markets. And I left wondering about the kinds of insights work we need to produce in corporate environments and the deep challenges we face in producing those insights. In my previous life as an academic sociologist, insight really means a search for foundational causation and theory. For academics, foundational theory matters so much more than discovering the “next big thing.” Moreover, one can be a successful academic by doing all root-cause...

Friday in Tokyo: Co-creation – Ethnographer to Change Agents

by STUART HENSHALL & DINA MEHTA – Convo How can we move from observation to co-creation? Or, from observer to co-conspirator and change agent? This post shares part of a project design that took that journey. It was Friday in Tokyo. We had been there just six days and this was the second country in thirteen. It was Friday, almost 1:00pm and the Co-creation Workshop with 18 young mums, our clients (8 attending) translators (4) and ourselves (3) was about to begin. We were in a large room. A part had been screened off earlier for “baby care”. The majority of the room was filled with three large stations (large round tables and rolling whiteboards and a large U for 18 people with whiteboard and instructions up the front. Planning: We’d planned the Co-creation Workshop to follow a series of days immersed in-home. We ran a prototype workshop that morning with the local moderation team and translators. After four hours they remained skeptical and not 100% confident about the instructions. We apparently were about to break...

Accounting for Value Salon at EPIC2014

by SIMON ROBERTS, Stripe Partners and RITA DENNY, Practica Group What's our worth? What are the rhetorics of value? This question is never far from the minds of individual practitioners and this diverse community. Value takes many forms and is denominated in many currencies. The worth of these currencies changes in time and space as business environments change, and in response to changes our own practices in and with organizations. So how do and should we talk about ourselves now into the future? In putting together this Salon, Rita and I were conscious that we were taking on tensions that sit at the heart of the EPIC world. These are tensions and questions that have arisen at every EPIC over the last 10 years. And likely for the next ten years too. Thirty diverse and brave folks attended the Salon at Fordham. They helped us think about accounting for our value. [With Chatham House rules in effect, people spoke freely!] 1. “Accounting” is retrospective justification! Attendees contested our muse from the outset:...

You Can’t Be Serious?! – LEGO® Serious Play® – Serious Solution Crafting for Kids aged 3 to 103.

by DORTE TOLLNER and CORI MOORE EPIC2014 Workshop: You Can’t Be Serious?! – LEGO® Serious Play® - Serious Solution Crafting for Kids aged 3 to 103. Well the excitement of last week has taken its toll – or perhaps that’s just the jet lag. Now back in Berlin, I’m reminiscing our epic week, uploading pictures and re-reading scribbled notes – it’ll no doubt take me a lot longer to absorb it all. I’d like to thank all of those who made it to my LEGO® Serious Play® Workshop on Sunday. I had the pleasure of welcoming ethnographers, anthropologists, designers and researchers from India to Adelaide to exchange ideas in the form of those little colorful bricks we all loved so much as kids. For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP) is one of our favorite hands-on methodologies, designed to stimulate and empower participants to use haptic thinking for inspirational problem solving. Developed as an in-house strategy tool in the nineties, LSP builds upon an inclusive and participatory...

The Pop-up Ethnographer: Roles of the Researcher in Temporary Spaces

DEBORAH MAXWELL, MEL WOODS and SUZANNE PRIOR As our lived reality becomes ever more mobile and networked, society and business has adopted cultures and practices to embrace the creation of temporary interstitial ‘pop-up’ environments. These spaces, which can take the form of work environments (e.g. the UK Innovation Charity Nesta’s ‘Productive Coffee Breaks’), training (e.g. workshops), knowledge exchange (e.g. sandpits, culture hacks), and social environments (e.g. festivals), require us to examine the role of the temporal ethnographer. Our paper explores the changing and challenging roles that researchers must adopt and move between (from organizer, facilitator, participant, observer, and analyst) by examining four empirical case studies in a range of research contexts. Furthermore, we consider how short-term studies in such temporary, ‘pop-up’ environments can contribute to and be enriched by ethnographic practices....

Voices, not data points: building connections between clients and informants to create impact

by MARIA CURY, ReD Associates Camila sat down on her faded pink sofa, unwrapped the bandage around her calf, and showed me a violet wound, some of the skin crusty and some of it wet. Her daughter Cecilia sat on the edge of a chair in the corner, filling gaps in the story – “remember we tried a gel that inflamed your skin,” “the pharmacy down the street never gives us enough gauze.” At ReD Associates, we often work with big healthcare companies who seek more patient-centric approaches to product design, and our insights have implications on product, packaging, and patient-compliance. This project aimed to make wound care products relevant to more people by understanding how patients care for chronic wounds in emerging markets. Camila, a sixty-four year-old Brazilian patient with a venous leg ulcer, was doing everything wrong. She risked infection by putting olive oil over her calf (“I know I’m not supposed to, but it’s the only thing that takes away my pain pain pain”); she used dry gauze with wisps that stuck...

From Experience Models to Immersion Tools: Transferring Ethnographic Knowledge In An Agile World

by JOHN PAYNE, Moment Introduction Like many design consultancies, Moment uses a variety of research methods to help us develop a contextual understanding of our clients’ customers. We do this to discover and adapt new business opportunities to prospects’ wants, needs and desires. The value to the business is that their products and services better fit their audience, increasing adoption and use. Tangible results from this work range from incremental product enhancements to disruptive innovations that provide significant competitive advantage. Design ethnography is how we approach “fuzzy front end” projects—those that require us to define the problem before formulating a solution. Through ethnography, our field team achieves a robust understanding of the situation, but then faces the challenge of transferring the richness of these learnings into the narrow frame of new product development methodology. This make-or-break moment of transfer is when design ethnography truly delivers—or doesn’t. Speaking for the design...

Ethnography Injection at a Google UX Sprint

by JAN BLOM & XUEMING LANG,  Google Mountain View In May 2014, 180 Google employees participated in a UX sprint week in the Bay Area focused on innovating game­changing advertising and commerce solutions. Those participating in the sprint were designers, researchers, product managers and engineers. By the end of the three day sprint, the participating challenge teams had generated more than 1000 sketches and mocks, distributed across 23 teams, with the ideas ranging from ubicomp scenarios to novel service concepts. From a corporate ethnography point of view, the event was a success. A conscious decision was made to use research across various stages of the design process in order to ensure an empirically grounded direction for each group. The user researchers were split evenly across the groups, and plenty of interesting methods were used across the challenges to make sure that users’ perspective was properly taken into account. Our team’s challenge focused on design for the shopping experience. Therefore,...

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...

What are the range of ‘communicative acts’ that successfully traverse ethnography and business/insights/strategy? Is it .ppts and white papers all the way down?

Reply by Melissa Cefkin Manager, Discovery Practices, Accelerated Discovery Lab, IBM Research A great and perennial question that does not lend itself to one answer. The EPIC community is rich and varied in terms of the contexts of their work. In turn, what ‘works’ or is even feasible in these varied contexts varies. This applies…