product development

Ethnographic Tools: From Insight to Intervention

WAFA SAID MOSLEH SDU Design, Department of Entrepreneurship and Relationship Management, University of Southern Denmark As a social researcher rooted in the traditions of participatory innovation, I set out to take a design anthropological approach to study the early unfocused phases of organisational innovation processes, and explore ways of both challenging and supporting these. With an interest in understanding how the tangibility of design coupled with the analytical nature of anthropology can provoke richer insights concerning organisational practices, my research team and I designed an artefact, called ‘the tangible brief’, aiming to elicit real stories about the challenges practitioners experience in dealing with innovation. The artefact resembles the content of a design brief and aims to bring together practitioners around the task of creating briefs prior to evaluating the potential of new ideas.The paper sets out to address the challenge of ethnographic researchers navigating a complex landscape of organisational...

Meaningful Innovation: Ethnographic Potential in the Startup and Venture Capital Spheres

JULIA KATHERINE HAINES University of California, Irvine The aim of this paper is to explore the potential for ethnographic approaches in technology startups and the venture capital firms that support and control them. The current practices and model of innovation aim for “disruptive innovation,” but most efforts fall short, prioritizing mass diffusion and not focusing on where true disruptive innovation lies—creating a change in meaning. I argue that an ethnographic approach can lead to innovation of meanings, bridging the gap between radical innovation and diffusion, and creating disruptive innovation. I discuss some ways ethnography can help product innovation in the startup sphere. But, more importantly, I discuss how ethnography holds great potential for reshaping the VC field, by driving meaning into the VC I then highlight alternative viewpoints that move beyond the “realist” perspective. Keywords: Innovation, Technology, New Product Development, Finance...

Tutorial: Speculative Design – Futures Prototyping for Research and Strategy

Tutorial Instructors: J. PAUL NEELEY Neeley Worldwide & Royal College of Art ELLIOT MONTGOMERY Extrapolation Factory & Parsons School of Design Download PDF SUMMARY In our world where emerging technologies are increasingly a source of significant disruption in people’s lives, methods from Speculative & Critical Design (SCD) practice are finding their way into the designer’s and researcher’s toolkit as powerful ways to create new kinds of meaning and perspective that create new organizational value. These practices design future products and services not in a predictive way, but as a way to prototype and understand the social, cultural, and ethical implications of emerging technologies. These practices generally decouple design from short-term company product and market needs and visions, and engage in new conversations about alternative futures as a way to better understand and navigate future complexity. SCD often works to design for the messy and complex people that we are rather than the perfect consumers...

From UI to UX: Building Ethnographic Praxis in a Usability Engineering Culture

KIRSTEN BANDYOPADHYAY SalesforceREBECCA BUCK Salesforce In this never before shared case study, we explain how our UX research team increased its scope of work from surface-level UI issues to a full portfolio of user-centered research. We use organizational ethnography and organizational change literature to develop a three phase model of research team growth. We then discuss the implications of our model for strengthening ethnographic praxis in cultures dominated by usability engineering. We conclude with a reflection on building internal bridges to facilitate change. Keywords: organizational change, UI, UX, research, ethnography, usability, lean....

Little Data, Big Data and Design at LinkedIn

JULIE MARIE NORVAISAS and JONATHAN “YONI” KARPFENLinkedIn LinkedIn's User Experience Design (UED) Research team is relatively small. The data we gather is even more drastically outnumbered. LinkedIn’s design and product development process is steeped in behavioral data, real-time metrics, and predictive models. Working alongside teams generating and focused on big numbers, our group of qualitative researchers helps decision makers understand how our products fit into members’ lives, envision future experiences, and take a peek behind the numbers. We'll share how our team discovers and uses “little data” to inform and inspire, in the context of a company driven by “big data.”...

From Field to Office: The Politics of Corporate Ethnography

SUZANNE L. THOMAS and XUEMING LANG Critical corporate ethnography does not stop at the field or our reports but extends into our day-to-day work in the office. Using the example of internal research conducted for next generation internet Café (iCafe) product development in the PRC, we will argue that corporate ethnographers must go beyond self-reflexive fieldwork to tackle the organizational and cultural politics of our domain expertise. In this latter context, we become conflated with “the field” and, indeed, our corporate value is equated with the veracity of our field representations. The situation becomes eminently more complex in MNCs where in-depth ethnographic research is analyzed and acted on in multi-national teams and where internal cultural differences and professional disagreements parade as divergent corporate interests....

Evolutionary Matryoshka: Mapping the Dimensions of the Evolutionary Forces Impacting Survival of Ethnographic Insights within a Large Financial Enterprise

ARI NAVE and ZACH LEV Evolutionary forces are applied as a framework for understanding the dynamics that determine which insights, generated from a corporately-funded ethnography, flourish in the organization and which fail to thrive. Using duel-inheritance theory model, the paper explores sui generis elements of the ideas themselves, contextual variables, the mechanics and mediums of transmission, as well as contextual selective pressures such as how organizational structures trigger prestige bias. Leveraging anecdotal data, the paper points to the value of evolutionary theory as a framework for understanding broad patterns of information dissemination....

Becoming the Subject: A Comparison of Ethnographic and Autoethnographic Data for New Product Development

KEREN SOLOMON As companies become more interested in innovation, design, and the creation of experiences, they are increasingly utilizing ethnography as a way to understand their customers and potential customers. However, for most companies ethnography is still conducted in the classical sense, with researchers observing and talking to participants in order to draw out insights about the “other.” Few consider the use of autoethnography, that is, having people deeply and rigorously study themselves in order to produce a richer description of the problem space and of how new products might potentially solve those problems. This paper draws on two research projects conducted by the author, compares the data collection methods and research results obtained with both approaches, and suggests some ways in which using an autoethnographic approach could lead to more insightful research results. It also raises questions about how we as researchers can increase our understanding of and respect for what it really means to be a research subject....

Lead Type, Dead Type: New Patterns of Local News Production and Consumption

ELIZABETH CHURCHILL and JEFF UBOIS Newspapers are in trouble. Steep declines in circulation and advertising revenue have forced outright closures, reductions in force, cessation of print in favor of web only editions and frantic searches for additional sources of revenue and audience. In this paper, we report results from an interview study focused on everyday news consumption practices. Our study indicates there are many design opportunities for local news creation and distribution at interface/interaction, infrastructure and strategy levels....

Tracing the Arc of Ethnographic Impact: Success and (In)visibility of Our Work and Identities

DONNA K. FLYNN and TRACEY LOVEJOY This paper explores ways in which ethnographic impact in a large technology corporation is perceived, re-defined, and recognized – by both practitioners themselves and corporate stakeholders. The authors trace a history of ethnographic successes and stumbles, and ways they have confronted a strong usability paradigm that has shaped organizational assumptions of impact and value for product research. They then identify ways in which contextual analysis of their own practice in the corporation led to the successful creation of a strategic engagement model for ethnography, resulting in its growing influence. Through critical analysis of the conditions of influence in their own organization, the authors’ propose some broader frameworks for ethnographic impact and raise some questions for the EPIC community regarding business value, ethnographic identity, and organizational authority....

Models in Motion: Ethnography Moves from Complicatedness to Complex Systems

KEN ANDERSON, TONY SALVADOR and BRANDON BARNETT Since the 90’s, one of ethnography’s values has been about the reduction in the risk of developing new products and services by providing contextual information about people’s lives. This model is breaking down. Ethnography can continue to provide value in the new environment by enabling the corporation to be agile. We need to: (1) identify flux in social-technological fabric; (2) engage in the characterization of the business ecosystems to understand order; and (3) be a catalyst with rapid deep dives. Together we call it a FOC approach (flux, order, catalyst)....

“Out of the Labs”: The Role for Ethnography in Guiding Clinical Trials

YOSHA GARGEYA and MADS HOLME Ethnography and clinical research appear fundamentally disparate, even conflicting. Their very objectives are dichotomous – the latter moves molecules ‘from the lab to consumer market’ in controlled environments, while the former studies the uncontrolled environment of everyday life. However, with the new reality of pharmaceutical research and development, companies are urged to look into new ways of delivering impact and value to payers, prescribers, and users. This paper explores how ethnographic research can fill that role in early stages of pharmaceutical clinical trials, challenging current paradigms of method as well as parameters for success – and how bridging methodologies can open new avenues for ethnographic practice in business....

Strangers or Kin? Exploring Marketing’s Relationship to Design Ethnography and New Product Development

SARAH JS WILNER Marketers represent a particularly significant class of colleagues that corporate ethnographers must engage with, with a central role both in commissioning fieldwork and converting its findings into marketplace offerings. This paper explores the interaction between the two functions, asking, “What is the relationship between marketing and design ethnography and how does each function inform—or inhibit—the other?” A review of the various streams of academic literature related to marketing’s role in product development and innovation is presented, with particular emphasis on scholars’ growing attention to the cultural context(s) of consumption as well as the use of ethnography in consumer research. Consonant with the 2008 conference theme of (In)Visibility, the paper considers how the divergent perspectives of marketers and corporate ethnographers create mutual tension and can render each discipline “blind” to the value of the other’s work....

Contextualizing Customers

TRULS ERIK JOHNSEN and PER HELMERSEN This paper is based on fieldwork in Pakistan and Malawi and focuses on the importance of communicating contextualizing stories to HQ and business developer teams. By means of an explorative approach—even in highly structured commercial projects with formalized needs—we’ve uncovered findings and generated understandings that would be hard to pinpoint from a desktop-based pre-study or demand driven fieldwork. These findings in turn have proven to be important tools for said business developers in spite of the fact that they were not included in the initial fieldwork specification. Since our respondents are seen, heard and understood as far as possible within their own framework of values, priorities and aspirations, we, as researchers, are in a position to communicate a well-grounded and more refined picture of their daily lives rather than merely communicating the measurable hard facts back to corporate business developers....

Challenges and Opportunities for Ethnographic Market Research in Uncertain Times

JEAN ZELT While we believe in-depth, observational approaches are still the most powerful way of developing an understanding of users, we must adapt our approach to fit within current economic constraints. One way is to employ economical phases of research that support and strengthen data gathered from in-person, in-context engagements. Specifically, these are preliminary landscape and trends analysis, which provides focused paths of inquiry, and online engagement, which allows us to interact with people over a longer period of time and identify stronger participants for in-person research. The second is to demonstrate to clients how our approaches are broadly applicable and scalable—in terms of activities, participant numbers, and length of engagement—to meet today’s immediate goals. Instead of seeing merely compromise, we see opportunity. The adaptations brought on by our new reality are helping us to develop new ways to bring value to clients and challenging us to be creative in ways that will continue to be relevant even after...