LORA V. KOYCHEVA
Technical University of Munich
Questions of scale permeate current approaches to empathy in applied human-centered work—and especially design thinking—but they have remained largely unquestioned. What is more, empathy has become an empty signifier, and empathizing is often a near-formulaic and pro-forma endeavor. To catalyze a reworking of the concept, in this paper I synthesize what has been said so far of empathy and its role in design and innovation, and I take stock of what these contributions point to. I ask: “How can we think of empathy as a scalar phenomenon and thus re-scale it in innovation?” I offer some illustrative, if unresolved, tensions with empathy I have had in my own ethnographic work with a robotics start-up, and I conclude the article with a series of provocations with the hope they will be taken up further.
Keywords: empathy, ethnography, design thinking, robotics
Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp 243–262, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...
LagomWorks Consulting & SOAS University of London
LagomWorks Consulting & SOAS University of London
Taking India's startup capital Bangalore as its field, the paper researches the absence of conventional scale as a potentially positive emic experience for the entrepreneur. The study leverages a mixed methods approach, employing semi-structured interviews with select entrepreneurs, employees, investors, advisors, and staff from startup-incubators, participant observation at both startups and startup-incubators, textual analyses of business literature, semiotics of popular culture as well as auto-ethnographic reflection by the authors themselves on account of having co-founded a company in Bangalore in 2018, therefore establishing their positionality as ‘an-other’ (Sarukkai 1997, 1408), by ‘thick participation’ (Samudra 2008, 667). The authors examine the current assemblages within the startup ecosystem, to demonstrate that even the dominant and conventional notions of scale have...
Mad Street Den
Ashwini Asokan is the CEO & Co-Founder of Mad Street Den, a computer vision and artificial intelligence company. The team’s mission is to build models of generalizable intelligence and create meaningful experiences with AI on scale, helping millions of people across the globe to become AI native. Working across US, India, LatAm, Europe, UAE and Japan, the team has been known to build some of the most cutting edge AI tech, while bringing about significant change in how companies think about the future with AI. The company’s first vertical, Vue.ai, helps the retail industry reimagine work and the future of their industry through AI solutions purpose built for them.
Ashwini returned to India from Silicon Valley after more than a decade, to bootstrap her startup which she founded with her husband, Anand Chandrasekaran, a neuroscientist. Ashwini has been exploring how artificial intelligence can be brought out of the science and tech labs of the world, applied meaningfully and made accessible...
Introducing an emerging context for human-centered design work, this paper extends previous EPIC literature on startup innovation upstream into university science commercialization. It provides new perspectives on how the human-centered design community can engage with scientific models of agency to inform broader engagement with the innovation and design challenges inherent in ‘intelligent’ technologies, and offers the challenge of engaging with and developing empathy for the dispositions of scientist innovators as a new vantage point from which to reflect on our core strength as facilitators of cross-disciplinary collaboration for innovation and design....
Founder, CEO, Acesio Inc.
Head of Behavioral and Organizational Research, Acesio Inc.
The focus of this paper is to investigate deep learning algorithm development in an early stage start-up in which edges of knowledge formation and organizational formation were unsettled and contested. We use a debate by anthropologists Clifford Geertz and Claude Levi-Strauss to examine these contested computational forms of knowledge through a contemporary lens. We set out to explore these epistemological edges as they shift over time and as they have real practical implications in how expertise and people are valued as useful or non-useful, integrated or rejected by the practice of deep learning algorithm R&D. We discuss the nuances of epistemic silences and acknowledgments of domain knowledge and universalizing machine learning knowledge in an organization that was rapidly attempting to develop algorithms for diagnostic insights. We conclude with reflections on how an AI-Inflected Ethnography perspective...
From a position of external consultant on user insights for a German innovation lab, I reflect on a shift in the way corporate innovation is done – from a user centric innovation process towards what could be called startup centric innovation. I have found the outcomes of this turn to be ambivalent – both for the innovation lab and myself. For the lab partnering with existing startups promised greater speed and access to fresh ideas, but has turned out to be rather difficult. For me, the shift has challenged my role and perspective as ethnographic consultant in more than one way. I have worried that a much needed user perspective may drift out of focus when getting prematurely outsourced to startups. But this new process has also been eye-opening; it has forced me to rethink my still linear view of the innovation process towards a more messy and simultaneous one where thinking about users needs to be integrated from day one with thinking about solutions,...
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...
by JULIA KATHERINE HAINES, Google
Innovation in the startup world is broken. Startups say their aim is “disruption”—a riff on Christensen’s definition, but much less precise. “Disruption” has been appropriated by startups to mean doing something that has widespread, radical impact. They are about “changing the world.” They’re obsessed with the concept…but are failing on their own terms.
Unless you believe “changing the world” means doing “the things your mom no longer goes for you” (Arieff 2016). There are services that deliver beer to your door. Services that deliver X to your mailbox every Y months (razors, underwear, dinner kits). Apps to locate a rentable...anything. Not exactly revolutionary stuff.
Are we running out of good ideas for innovation? No, not really. There are plenty of startups with good ideas, but they face a huge number of barriers, and we seldom hear about them. The ones we do end up hearing about—well, those are the ones that got funding from venture capital firms (VCs)....
Re:public Inc. FUMIKO ICHIKAWA
Re:public Inc. YUKI UCHIDA
Human-Centered Innovation has come to be known as the central discipline in the entrepreneurial arena. Through three-years of directorship at Innovation Studio Fukuoka, a “citizen-led” innovation incubation platform in Japan, multiple approaches have been investigated and thus learned a successful to-be-entrepreneur him/herself has to co-own a concern with potential customers that evokes him/her a mission to pursue, that is beyond simply understanding customers with empathy. We witnessed ethnographic approach well facilitates the to-be-entrepreneur to meet an unaware yet intrinsic personal concern and nourish to co-own it with the customers. We also discuss what and how ethnographic praxis in industry can contribute to the entrepreneurial arena and propose a new role that we experienced ethnographers to take....
EPIC Profiles Series
by HEATHER S. ROTH-LOBO, University of North Texas
John W. Sherry, Director the Experience Innovation Lab at Intel Corporation, is a Keynote Speaker at EPIC2016—join us!
“Anthropology is really undersold.”
Dr. John Sherry’s words carry weight—he is Director of the Experience Innovation Lab at Intel Corporation. In addition to discovering ways to power innovation in this major multinational technology company, he works in Portland leading Oregon Smart Labs, an external business accelerator.
I recently talked with John about innovation, big data, and lean startup. He has made it part of his life´s work to interpret the way markets move and ideas shift around, and his intimate understanding of these dynamics has been driven by his passion for solving social problems with a creative imagination. The mixture of these elements paved John’s successful career as an established anthropologist in a company known for and reinventing computing around the world.
Anthropology is not only undersold,...
by JULIA KATHERINE HAINES
There are many ways to view Lean. Lean is a business science. It is a product development method. And in many ways, it is a communication medium. In my research with startups, I’ve also heard Lean referred to as a religion.
If Lean is a “religion” in the new startup era, I’d like to propose another way to view Lean in practice. In this piece, I will show how Lean as a practice within startups fits the mold of a ritual—and how impactful such rituals can be. But I also want to suggest how Lean as a ritualized, or routine, practice can be problematic.
But first, a little background on Lean.
I have been studying startups that are participating in accelerator programs globally. Through my experience and close examination of startups and innovation, I found an underlying thread that connects them—it is, invariably, Lean. Lean Startup helped spur a startup mania around the globe. It was the first model to really describe startup creation as a science.
The concept of Lean traces its roots...
JULIA KATHERINE HAINES
Startup accelerators have expanded worldwide in recent years, fostering the development of technology startups and spreading Lean practices and Silicon Valley values to all corners of the globe. These accelerators clearly create value—for the teams whose development they foster, the products they create, and the larger ecosystems they build. But there are also a number of challenges arising from the model and how it is implemented in different contexts globally. Through fieldwork at accelerators in Singapore and Buenos Aires, I investigate the global expansion of this innovation model. In this paper, I discuss the most salient challenges and discuss potential opportunities emerging from these challenges, and how other methods and practices such as design thinking, intensive user research and flexible, bottom up-approaches can add value to the accelerator process. I also highlight mutually beneficial ways the EPIC community can become more involved in startups ecosystems....