“For all the current buzz currently surrounding ethnographic / anthropological research – this isn’t the only way to feel out what or how to design (in the broadest sense of the word), doesn’t always provide value, and absolutely shouldn’t be part of every design process – anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t asking enough questions about what their client needs and hasn’t factored in the skills of the team at hand. At its worst ethnographic research is an expensive, time-consuming distraction that can take the design team (and the client they represent) in the wrong direction.
At its best, well, at its best it inspires, informs, and delivers insights that can shape and sustain ideas/products/services/resources through the organisation all the way to the consumer, it’s cost effective, it’s timely, it’s responsive. It’s as much about bridging corporate culture as bridging cultures.”
A recent HarvardBusiness.org article about the use of anthropology and ethnography in global R&D strategies (blogged about here), has got Nokia’s user anthropologist Jan Chipchase a bit worked up, as he thinks it “largely misses the point”.