Notes on corporate ethnography

01Jun06

I have been reading a lot on corporate enthnography and what it means for new product devleopment and so on. And I have zealously saved and guarded the links, meaning to write about them somewhere. And this morning, this quote I came across on Abinandan’s blog prompted me to immediate action – Ethnography [has] escaped from academia, where it had been held hostage [attributed to Michigan State University’s dean of social science, says Abi]

Here is an interesting post by Denise Carter (who is now on the excellent antropologi blog as a guest blogger) on how Intel – who was among the first companies to bring ethnography out of the closet, so to say, uses ethnography. [As an aside, Intels’ Dr. Genevieve Bell and Tony Salvador’s work in the ethnography-meets-business space is insightful and worth following, not merely for the research methods, but also the way resaerch findings keep getting translated into product ideas]:

In a long ago article from December 2001 Bus Ride to the Future An Intel employee, Doctor Bell (one of a group of psychologists, anthropologists and social scientists working for Intel on a new form of industry research called ethnography) explained how: “Our job is to find new uses for technology by spending time with people in their daily lives,” she said. “Being on a bus is a part of people’s daily life; it’s part of what it means to be urban in London.” – personally, I think the charm of ethnography is not just about developing new technology or inventing new uses for existing ones, but also discovering new (for the business) ways in which customers are already using your product or technology.

If you are interested in ethnography and how companies are using the method today (and how it should ideally be used too!), do read Grant McCracken’s excellent post Ethnography at the MSI meetings.

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