Corporate ethnography isnâ€™t just for innovation anymore. Itâ€™s central to gaining a full understanding of your customers and the business itself, writes Ken Anderson, anthropologist at Intel Research, in the Harvard Business Review. The ethnographic work at his company and other firms now informs functions such as strategy and long-range planning.
“By understanding how people live, researchers discover otherwise elusive trends that inform the companyâ€™s future strategies. With smartphones, for example, we can contrast the technology perspectives of teenagers, who have used cell phones since they were in elementary school, with those of older generations, who came to them only after becoming proficient with PCs. Our job as anthropologists is to understand the perspective of one tribe, consumers, and communicate it to another, the people at Intel. Our experiences in both worlds make this translation possible. Ethnography has proved so valuable at Intel that the company now employs two dozen anthropologists and other trained ethnographers, probably the biggest such corporate staff in the world.
High-tech companies have to date employed the lionâ€™s share of corporate ethnographers. But I believe that ethnography is so beneficial that it will spread widely, helping firms in every industry truly understand customers and adapt to fast-changing markets.”