a book review by SIMON ROBERTS, Stripe Partners
Anthro-Vision: A New Way to See in Business and Life
2021, 304 pp, Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster
→ Watch Simon Roberts in conversation with Gillian Tett & Donna Flynn
Ulf Hannerz once proposed that “common sense is cultural ‘business as usual’; standard operating procedure, one’s perspective at rest” (127). Gillian Tett’s journalism unsettles perspectives at rest. If there’s one simple message for the general reader in her new book Anthro-Vision it is this: the promise and value of anthropology lies in making visible that which is close to hand but ignored. It offers a means to see the world differently.
There’s also a message for those whose work involves the application of anthropological thinking or ethnography: we should revisit our own assumptions about how we conceive of and communicate our value. The book is a resounding call to arms in a world beset by a ‘tunnel vision’.
What is the basis for Tett’s faith...
by ADRI REKSODIPOETRO (Nation) and ALEXANDRA MCCARTER (Spotify)
Through the art of exhibition, curators immerse people in new worlds and new points of view, whether by transporting visitors to 18th century India or through challenging art history’s colonial gaze. The goal of an exhibition is a shift in perspective, to move people to think differently about something than they did before.
Researchers do something similar: our first task is to learn something new, but the ultimate goal is to share what we learn in a way that shifts the perspectives of our colleagues, organizations or clients. In this article, we show how we applied curation techniques for a project we worked on together at Spotify. The project focused on understanding people in Indonesia who bought Spotify Premium, and the exhibition served as our main deliverable. The exhibition jump-started a new way of thinking about Spotify users because it enabled our colleagues to experience a different understanding of value and music streaming in the country.
Why an Exhibition,...
PechaKucha Presentation—The conference theme for EPIC2020 is all about scale. For many, scale will probably evoke images of sizing up, moving forward, getting better. But does scale carry the same meaning in all contexts? Could scaling back be the key to enacting scales successfully? And is it possible to enact scales when ethnography and the broader topic of anthropology are unheard among those around you? Reflecting on my own experience working in Thailand and China and my encounters with other design and business anthropologists working in Asia, I share an honest career narrative about enacting scales. My PechaKucha speaks truthfully about the struggles in applying ethnography, and inspires with learnings on how anthropologists can adapt the broader practice of anthropology and find ways to continue contributing to organisations across societies in Asia.
Tiffany Tivasuradej is a Consultant at Ogilvy in Hong Kong. She holds a degree in biological anthropology from Durham University (UK). She...
How do you place a value on a perspective? Well, that depends on what you're seeking to accomplish. During this Pecha Kucha I journey of our current paradigm of Value to explore the role of the ethnographer in mediating business interests and human + planetary wellness. Outside of the metropolitan areas where can't afford to use an app to have someone come do their laundry, there lies an entire universe of perspectives that often go ignored, undervalued. What are the worldly consequences of excluding these perspectives when conducting business ethnography?
Taylor Ferrari, is an applied anthropologist and systems thinker who has conducted UX Research for companies ranging from early stage startups, to Fortune 500. Deeply interested in the relationship between Structure and Agency, Taylor seeks to illuminate the ways in which organizations or entities impact humanity, and likewise how humanity feeds the existence of organizations. firstname.lastname@example.org
Case Study—This case explores a research and consulting engagement whose goal was to build an investment case for a new type of 21st century gym for the spirit, mind, and body. The client, a group of well-funded U.S. entrepreneurs, wanted to design and launch a venture that would be positioned to serve the emerging spiritual needs of the proximal future (2-15 years). While the founders were themselves involved in meditation, belief-dependent realism, and a loose collection of westernized oriental and mystic practices and beliefs, they had not yet defined the venture's specific offering. They suspected that (a) the dominant sociocultural climate of rationalism (e.g. rationalized life choices/paths derived from rationalized worldviews, disengaged relationship with the body and emotion, cynically-motivated wealth creation, etc.) and the lack of embodied and experience-based decision-making and living practices were at the core of a generalized social malaise, and that (b) decoding it and designing a venture...
Where do I find new sources of value in a heavily competed industry?
How can I build more compelling value propositions with transformative potential?
Integration of the human sciences into corporate business development practices enables discovery of new sources of value. Unlike traditional business practices, the human sciences situate emergence of meaningful value in a wider societal context by fostering deeper inquiry into history, human patterns and social systems that frame consumption.
In this tutorial, participants will gain proficiency in exploring and identifying new business opportunities and delivering meaningful value propositions through studying the social, cultural and habitual aspects of human life. This tutorial demonstrates the merits of centering various aspects of humanities and social science at the core of corporate innovation and renewal efforts.
The tutorial consists of a lecture and an interactive session in which participants will learn through case studies...
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 ALEX JINICH, Gemic
A person’s wellbeing is in great measure a product of a pleasant environment, and as a society we are placing progressively more value in creating such environments in the form of comfortable offices, welcoming homes, and inspiring shops. It is remarkable, for example, the degree to which the luxurious Dubai airport, where I am now, has been carefully designed to make you feel at ease as you leisurely cruise through it as though through a warmly illuminated exhibit hall. To a large degree, however, the precise features that make such an environment valuable are nuanced intangibles. In other words, environments are always experienced as unified wholes, and the value they create for us is greater than the sum of its parts.
In the airport, the warm and gentle lighting is as much a part of the overall experience as are the carefully curated glossy brands and the well-dressed ladies and gentlemen that sell them. The harmony and general atmosphere creates value above and beyond the sum of the values of the individual...
by MIKE AGAR, Ethknoworks LLC
[22 May 2017: We are deeply saddened to learn that Mike has passed away. If you don't know his work, we invite you to dive into Mike's website and learn about his tremendous research, writing, and impact. —ed.]
I finally seriously joined EPIC. By "seriously" I mean "sent them money." It was high time. I'm a creole with academic, applied, and practitioner ancestry. As a practitioner over the last several years, I've been wildly successful working on a specific local problem and a spectacular failure at approval for the results of that work from higher levels of the bureaucracy. Most of this work was in the area of social services. There is a correlation here between local success and distant failure that’s fairly typical of social services. It might be that a social services focus differentiates the work I do from the usual EPIC project. More on that in a moment.
First some background on the “I” in EPIC. It stands for "industry." My work in the world of commerce is limited, to put it generously....
JONATHAN LEROY BIDERMAN
Recent developments in the scholarship of ethnography, combined with growing recognition of the value of collaboration in business, present industrial ethnography with the opportunity to exercise greater agency and leadership. This paper considers updates to theory and practice of ethnographic strategy, positionality, foresight, and design, observing that the combination of these developments is ideal preparation for such leadership and collaboration in a context of increasing complexity. Discussion of business orthodoxy and related critiques contextualizes the conversation. Atul Gawande's development of the surgical safety checklist provides a case study for showing how a deep ethnographic approach can apply the specific capabilities highlighted in this paper to foster collaboration and to understand and solve complex problems in a way that bridges “anthropological” and “design” ethnography. The paper ends with practical suggestions for advancing ethnographic leadership and agency. Additional key words:...
MARTHA COTTON, gravitytank
As practitioners, EPIC people continually work to help our teams, organizations and clients understand the value of ethnographic approaches and “the ethnographer” as a team member. We help colleagues and clients to think and work differently, adapting the value we bring to the organization’s existing work flow and process. In this tutorial, Martha Cotton shares the curriculum gravitytank developed to teach their clients—including many Fortune 500 companies—to work differently and in a way that better supports innovation and design thinking. This tutorial gives you concrete strategies and behaviors you can use in your own work practice and for creating change in your organizations.
Martha Cotton is a partner at gravitytank, where she helps lead research discipline and external marketing. Her career began at eLab in 1990s, and has included leadership roles at Sapient, Hall & Partners, and HLB. She has worked across a wide variety of industries as an applied...
EPIC Profiles Series
by MIKE KIPPENHAN
[based on an interview with ken at the Intel Jones Farm Campus, Hillsboro, Oregon, August 25, 2014]
“Nobody liked them. No sense of humor.” These days ken anderson may not talk much about the French ethnographers he interacted with in Portugal’s Azores—or about his dissertation research at all—but when he does, his observations are acute. ken, now an ethnographer in Intel’s Cultural Transformations Lab and an EPIC board member, had an unusual approach to the work on that trip. “We were just laughing at everything because we didn’t understand what they were saying,” he said. “We thought laughing was a good thing to do.” Turns out, he was right.
Now ken is situated in a different host culture—Intel. He believes it took him over a year to fully appreciate how the company operated. He had worked for high tech companies previously, and naturally viewed his new employer through a similar lens. When it finally sank in that Intel was a manufacturing company in the high...
EPIC Profiles Series
by PHIL BICKERDIKE, Swinburne University
I caught up with Johannes Suikkanen after he returned to Helsinki from EPIC2014 in New York City to discuss his career, ethnographic praxis and the future of the EPIC community. Johannes co-founded Gemic, a human-centric strategy and innovation consultancy, about six years ago – and it has been a fascinating journey.
Johannes first encountered the intersection between the worlds of business and anthropology as a student. Coming from a family that was deeply interested in humanities, his rebellion against his parents was to go to business school. Originally focusing on economics and traditional management science, he faced a dilemma:
“I always felt that in the way economics and management sciences look at human beings, there was something fundamentally wrong in my opinion. The view was of a rational agent that maximizes his or her own benefit and it was always about an individual. At that time, economics that I became familiar with (or management science)...
MARLISA KOPENSKI CONDONDesign Concepts, Inc.
When the currency of business is “doing,” how do we embrace “being?” When tight deadlines and budget cuts drive us, how can we pursue something you can’t see or measure? How can we cultivate a culture of patience when we don’t get smoke breaks anymore?
How Being Rather Than Doing Can Create Value in the Business World offers the bold proposal that business forget about filling all available time and space with action and allowing, even encouraging, time for employees to BE. Like artists who embrace white space in their work, people who take time to ruminate, to pause, will make fewer brush strokes. And those they do make they do make are that much more articulate and powerful.
Learn how to be brave and find those small moments of white space in your business life....
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:...