Corporate ethnography isn’t just for innovation anymore. It’s central to gaining a full understanding of your customers and the business itself.
Unlike traditional market researchers, who ask specific, highly practical questions, anthropological researchers visit consumers in their homes or offices to observe and listen in a nondirected way. Our goal is to see people’s behavior on their terms, not ours. While this observational method may appear inefficient, it enlightens us about the context in which customers would use a new product and the meaning that product might hold in their lives.
But people often can’t articulate what they’re looking for in products or services. By understanding how people live, researchers discover otherwise elusive trends that inform the company’s future strategies.
This is a short article centered around ethnography at Intel. According to the author, Intel has perhaps one of the largest corporate ethnography staff in the world. Good for Intel.
This is just another example of a paradigm shift we’re seeing in design and user experience in general: it’s not just about the product or interface anymore. What this means for designers and researchers is that they are now targeting a different set of stakeholders. Instead of talking to product managers and marketing people about the desing of a website, application, or product, we’re now at the table with cor0porate strategists and executives.
It’s about time.