risk

Ethnography, Economics and the Limits of Evidence

by ERIN B. TAYLOR, Canela Consulting & Holland FinTech Evidence produced within quantitative disciplines like economics and finance carries an aura of gospel. The numbers, models, and forecasts we see in economic reports and market analyses in the news and reports seem certain, authoritative, and unarguable. Built on large data sets that are analyzed with widely accepted theories and tools, economic and financial evidence have become hugely influential in governance and business—so much so that more qualitative approaches have been sidelined. Even political economy, the original economics, has been pushed away in favor of what’s now called ‘evidence-based decision-making’. The presumption is that numerical data is the only solid information, and that the analytical tools used in economic and market analysis are reliable. Of course, as we know now, this faith in economic evidence can be dangerous. As markets crashed around the world during the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, confidence in all kinds of quantitative...

When ‘The Emperor Has No Clothes’: Performance, Complicity and Constraints on Communication in Corporate Attempts at Innovation

JOSH KAPLAN When ethnographic or market research is employed to help de-risk potential products and services, the focus is typically on understanding markets, cultures and contexts external to the organization that would launch them. This paper shifts the focus to the sorts of organizational practices, beliefs, and dynamics inside large corporations, which can create the conditions in which new products are brought to market despite evidence of their risk of failure....

Ethnographer on Wall Street: Karen Ho / A Profile

EPIC Profiles Series by RACHEL C. FLEMING, University of Colorado at Boulder EPIC2016 Keynote Speaker Karen Ho is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and author of the widely acclaimed book Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street based on three years of fieldwork among investment bankers and major financial institutions. Join Karen at EPIC2016! What do sentiments and ideologies have to do with Wall Street? Karen Ho would argue they are key for understanding and changing Wall Street’s institutional culture that generates and justifies a focus on the short-term. From working in a firm to interviewing workers and studying corporate publications, Karen’s insights into how particular mindsets come to dominate corporations or whole industries—in this case, the culture of liquidity—can help us transition from a culture of shortsightedness to one of creating long-term value. Karen did not originally aspire to become an anthropologist, but her upbringing shaped her anthropological...

People, the Weak Link in Cyber-security: Can Ethnography Bridge the Gap?

SUSAN SQUIRES University of North Texas MOLLY SHADE University of North Texas Information Technology (IT) professionals are racing to keep up with cyber-security threats in the workplace. But, as any cyber-security expert will tell you, security technology is only as good as the people who use it. And, people are a mystery to most cyber-security professionals making them the weak link for security interventions in organizations. To broadly impact current cyber-security awareness, interventions and education, it is crucial to understand how security is understood and applied by the users of technology. Thus, it is no surprise that more and more cyber-security studies are focusing on the individual employee to understand computer-user risk mediation. However, users and their actions do not exist in a vacuum, and their perceptions and subsequent behaviors regarding security risk are shaped by a vast array of beliefs, social relations and workplace practices. This paper reports on a fresh theoretical approach to cyber-security as a group...

Strategy without Ethnography

by ZACH HYMAN, Continuum Thomas Hobbes famously warned that the worst instincts of “mankind” need strict management, control, and regulation. But what about the harm that results when we try to manage spontaneous systems too closely? I have been thinking with Robert Chia and Robin Holt lately; their book Strategy without Design is on my desk, and I’m nearly finished with their detailed accounts of how inflexible and myopic our planning and strategy can be. We’ve developed rigid and inflexible fields and disciplines, which have lead to similarly inelastic outputs. History is rife with examples of failed attempts to plan, manage, and control. The news these days is rife with them too—the misplaced ambitions of those who hope to design on a massive scale for a complex group of users. Take, for example, high priests of modernity such as Le Corbusier, whose Plan Voisin imagined the transformation Paris into “a chequerboard latticework of well-spaced towers and open, orthogonal roads” (Chia & Holt 36). His success...

Pathfinder: An Adventure at the Intersection of Design and Business

ERICK MOHRTruth As the world becomes more complex the path from idea generation to execution becomes increasingly challenging. One of the main issues lies in the fact that in conventional strategic planning we tend to forecast what the future will be like, and build our business plans based on such predictions. However, in uncertain times it is very likely that our forecasts will be inaccurate, causing good propositions to get derailed very early on in the development process. How could we maximise our chances of success when developing new products and services? Pathfinder, a comics-style hero will take us through simple approaches that reduce the risk of failure, while enhancing the value that ideas can bring to businesses. By relying on design thinking and lean approaches, he will show how we can prototype and validate business models, ensuring we design propositions that are not only desirable, but also economically feasible....

Ethnographic Inspection Identifying Project Risks

AKIHIKO OBATA, SHIGERU YAMADA, HIROAKI HARADA, SADAYO HIRATA and SEISUKE ITO We propose a new approach for project inspection applying ethnography to identifying IT system project risks. Guideline-based inspection is generally conducted in the IT industry to reduce project risks. Guidelines are created based on analysis of failures in past projects. However, it is difficult to detect new risks that emerged according to changes of project environments. We hypothesized that an ethnographic method would have some value to detect such emerging risks by capturing insiders’ perspectives. We developed procedures and guidelines to conduct inspection by ethnographic approach for IT experts. To clarify the value of the method, we conducted project inspection by the ethnographic approach on two projects that have already received guideline-based inspection. Problems found by the ethnographic inspection were not quite new for the members observed and interviewed. However, the ethnographic inspection successfully captured tacit problems that were...

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)....