organizational development

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...

Sustaining Stories: The Versatile Life of Sustained, In-house, Ethnographic Practice in a Global Software Company

NATALIE D. HANSON and JOHANN W. SARMIENTO-KLAPPER Ethnographers, in a sense, play the role of story creators, storytellers, and, often, preservers of such stories. The narratives produced and the fieldwork from which they emerge make visible trajectories of practice—for both subjects and researchers— which can be traced both retrospectively and projectively. For “in-house” ethnographers engaged in the sustained work of making sense of and contributing to organizations, a unique challenge emerges: discovering and managing the retrospective and prospective meaning of their storytelling and its visibility. Here we reflect on the challenges and opportunities of sustaining ethnographic inquiry in a large global software company. Reflecting on close to ten years of participant observation, we outline some of our practices related to positioning, re-framing, and expanding the visibility of our work and our organizational roles; a dynamic that continues to shape our practice and its relevance within this corporate environment....

The Corporate Gaze – Transparency and Other Corporate Visions

CHRISTINA GARSTEN In an expanding global economy, the notion of ‘transparency’ has gained increasing currency as an organizational goal. In a wide variety of situations, increased transparency is held up as a preferred point of direction for organizations, public as well as private. The notion of transparency implies visibility, possibilities for seeing through, for seeing, and being been. It carries hopes for more just procedures and open decision making processes. It suggests higher degrees of clarity, rationality and accountability. Transparency, then, is an entry-point to the understanding of contemporary society and culture and the visions and challenges that are attached to it. The placing of transparency on the corporate agenda is evinced in the creation of corporate codes of conduct and standards for corporate social accountability. Through workshops, training sessions and consultancy services, corporate actors are learning how to ‘open their books’ to public scrutiny and judgement. We see it in ways of measuring and...

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....

Policy Change Inside the Enterprise: The Role of Anthropology

ALEXANDRA MACK and JOSH KAPLAN This paper addresses corporate policymaking and its varied meanings through organizational hierarchies and across departments. We argue for an approach to policymaking and implementation in large companies such that the impact on work remains visible to decision makers, and such that employees engage with, and promote the changes being made. In evaluating the effects of a policy change inside our company, we found that not only did the justifications for the original policy not hold up, policy implementation negatively impacted certain job roles and departments and employee engagement was undermined. A key implication of our findings is that implementation plans should assess the impact on affected parties, and we suggest that anthropologists are well-suited to conduct this assessment. If deployed to evaluate the effects and effectiveness of policy changes on people, work practices and perceptions, anthropologists can influence the direction of policy as it is being formulated and tested, and recommend adjustments...