value

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)....

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Ethnography and Selective Visibility in the Technology Sector

LAURA GRANKA, PATRICK LARVIE and JENS RIEGELSBERGER As ethnographers practicing within an engineering driven industry, we often struggle with visibility and its effects. Exposing the methodological and technical underpinnings of ethnographic practice can bring us closer to the teams we work with, but it can also draw attention to the ways that engineering and anthropology clash. In this brief paper we describe the rationale for deliberate and highly selective visibility in our engineering-driven workplace. We will draw on our experience as anthropologists “embedded” in teams of engineers to discuss our own claims to authority and examine how legitimacy is conferred upon ideas and actions in a technology-driven environment....

Drawing from Negative Space: New Ways of Seeing Across the Client-Consultant Divide

MICHELE FRANCES CHANG and MATTHEW LIPSON Focusing on the client-consultant relationship, well honed, but perhaps overly so, this paper aims to shed light on the conditions that at once streamline and challenge our collaborations. To do so, we borrow a page from the visual arts; namely an experimental method of representation called negative space drawing. In both its aim (to create a picture from a new perspective) and challenge (to shake off the preconceived notions that limit us) drawing from negative space reflects a similar dynamic to our own. By way of a case study commissioned by one author and conducted by the other, we sketch a framework of negative space which examines our respective biases and agendas and our endeavors to resolve them....

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....

Practice, Products and the Future of Ethnographic Work

MARIA BEZAITIS Ethnographic work in industry has spent two decades contributing to making products that matter in a range of industry contexts. This activity has accounted for important successes within industry. From the standpoint of ethnographic practice, however, the discursive infrastructure that has been developed to do our work within product development is now a limiting factor. For practice to evolve, we must look critically at the ways in which our current successes are indicators of a kind of stasis and that change is a matter of radically redefining the kinds of business problems ethnographic work should address and the values and behaviors associated with how we do our work....

Close Encounter: Finding a New Rhythm for Client-Consultant Collaboration

HEINRICH SCHWARZ, MADS HOLME and GITTE ENGELUND In the current economic uncertainty ethnographic consultants are asked to intensify their client focus and to demonstrate and improve the relevancy and impact of their work. This paper reports on a case of close collaboration between client and consultant during an ethnographic consulting project. It discusses three crucial challenges: the challenge of aligning expectations and clarifying roles, the challenge of cultural differences and confusion over ethnographic methods, and the challenge of finding the right rhythm between close interaction and useful separation. Written from both the consultant and the client perspective we describe how similar situations were experienced differently by both parties, analyse what underlies some of these tensions, and suggest some lessons for ethnographers and clients alike for future close encounters. The paper suggests that the central challenge lies in finding the right balance between client-emic and client-etic positions and in inviting clients...

Taking the Driver’s Seat: Sustaining Critical Enquiry While Becoming a Legitimate Corporate Decision-Maker

ROGERIO DE PAULA, SUZANNE L. THOMAS and XUEMING LANG Staying relevant (to the business) is at the heart of career-advancement and (increasingly) job-security, particularly, in a business unit. It embodies a number of different meanings to the different players in corporate—from supporting product definition to creating strategic plans to making the appropriate business decisions. Rather surprisingly, though, we find EPIC talking about it with a certain discomfort, particularly when it comes to affect our identities as social researchers. On the other hand, we, in the industry, have little choice but to “play the game” and find ways whereby we can best utilize our knowledge, experiences, skills, our unique perspective to endow us an edge—creating interesting possibilities to stay relevant. This paper investigates our own trajectories in the past few years in a product group at Intel where we suddenly found ourselves increasingly more involved with decision-making, taking actions that would ultimately affect the course of the...

Guides Not Gurus

CATHERINE HOWARD and PETER MORTENSEN The past quarter century has seen the deployment of ethnographic methods in business grow from a curiosity to a prerequisite for success. But in the process, the outcomes of ethnographic research—customer empathy, strategic directions, lasting market insights that shape design—have not been adopted at the same rate. The hand-off from ethnographers to designers and business decision-makers is the biggest challenge to success. The time has come for ethnographers to again reframe their role within business. Rather than acting as interpreters between the lives of ordinary people and the companies who serve them, ethnographers have the opportunity to instead help the entire business organization to gather a clear sense of its customers’ lives. Ethnographers need to switch from being gurus of customer experience to being guides who take everyone in the company into the outside world....