Tutorial: Six Principles for Working Differently

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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 ethnographer and business consultant with a variety of clients ranging from General Mills to General Motors, SCJ to J&J, and Fidelity Investments to the U.S. Department of Security. She is also adjunct faculty at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the McCormick School of Engineering.

Shelley Sather is an independent New York-based applied ethnographer and human-centered innovation strategist. She began her research career in commodities software design, just as the analog (open-outcry) markets in Chicago were being replaced with digital solutions from outside the US. There, she developed a deep understanding of design amidst major market disruption and cultural unknowns. These niche beginnings led her to various posts across small, market-making entrepreneurial ventures and well regarded consultancies in Chicago (gravitytank) and New York (VSA Partners). She has traveled the world to develop deeply human, real-world perspectives through qualitative, context-driven methods and design experiments – all in the name of smart, meaningful growth. Shelley has guest lectured on ethnographic research and innovation at Northwestern University’s Segal Design Institute and served on design review panels at IIT’s Institute of Design. Her favorite question right now is ‘What do you think future of [blank] should be?

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