Simon Roberts' UKUPA Ethnography Presentation


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Anthropology and the Abduction of Strategy

15th March 2012

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Simon Roberts' UKUPA Ethnography Presentation

  1. 1. Anthropology and the Abduction of Strategy UPA London, March 15th 2012Simon RobertsReD Associates
  2. 2. Thank you for inviting me… 2
  3. 3. My journey to date 1996 2012
  4. 4. What’s in an anthropologist’s name? Applied Business Commercial Design Corporate
  5. 5. Back story: anthropology in business
  6. 6. The repeated discovery of anthropology in business“Five years later, in 1996, the Fast Company article titled‘Anthropologists Go Native in the Corporate Village’ reports (again)the enthusiasm of increasing numbers of major corporations forconsultants with anthropological credentials. And as we’ve seen adecade later, in 2006, the commercial market for anthropology is stillnews”.Anthropology as ‘Brand’: Reflections on corporate anthropology, Lucy Suchman
  7. 7. In the recent past the focus was on the method… If you want to understand how a tiger hunts, dont go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.   A.G. Lafley, former P&G CEO
  8. 8. …and methodological ‘innovation’ flourishedThe pure and the impure? Reflections on applying anthropology and doing ethnography, Simon Roberts 8In Sarah Pink (Ed) Applications of Anthropology: Professional Anthropology in the Twenty-first Century (Bergahn)
  9. 9. Increasingly confident claims are made about the power of these approachesLaying bare the cultural erotics of consumers (Sherry)Puzzling things out in situations of complexity (Cefkin)An opposable thumbAn externalised mis en scene (Darrouzet et al)A messy engaged romp with uncertain outcomes (Blomberg)A cultural project
  10. 10. Anthropology/ethnography has staked a claim to a home within business, and beyondCreated an audienceFormed a communityPut up boundariesSplit into clans and tribes…and started to move, slowly but surely, from the smalldetails to the big picture
  11. 11. But what it is and what it’s for is still open to interpretation. (And that’s no bad thing). -----Original Message----- From: [] Sent: 27 October 2004 17:02 To: Simon Roberts Subject: Now I understand.... Si I see a lot of company managements in my line of work, but I have just now met the first one who have talked about taking an ethnographic approach to their market research. Very exciting stuff. It was egg, specifically the chief executive Paul Gratton. He explained it as getting punters to do some drawings with crayons! Can I sense your influence in this? Eric
  12. 12. Anthropology’s abduction of strategy
  13. 13. At ReD we identify gaps between what people want and what companies give them. We translate those insights into solutions that will thrive in the marketplace.55 consultants in two offices. Copenhagen & New York PRACTICESProduct and Service DevelopmentCommercial GrowthComplexity ReductionOrganizational PerformanceDISCIPLINES KEY INDUSTRY SECTORSEthnography and Anthropology Consumer ElectronicsBusiness and Economics Telecom and ITSociology and Organization Health and Medical DevicesPolitical Science Consumer productsArchitecture and Design Public Sector and NGO 13
  14. 14. We are a strategy consultancy focused on top line growth01. 02. 03. 04.Product/Service Commercial Complexity OrganizationalDevelopment Growth Reduction Performance•  New product definition •  Sales channel management •  Identification of over met •  Innovation training•  Brand and messaging •  Sales force effectiveness needs / wasted activity •  Solutions for cultural issues•  Product road mapping •  Marketing spend •  Portfolio simplification •  Innovation intent•  Future visions •  Customer profiling and •  Segmentation simplification •  Innovation audits and metrics targeting IDENTIFYING INSIGHTS Insights from field research, expert interviews and secondary research UNDERSTANDING PEOPLE Social situations, personal motivations, interpersonal dynamics…real world data 14
  15. 15. While every ReD project follows a similar and proven process, the approach can differbased on the starting point RESEARCH AGENDA DEVELOPMENT AGENDA Open-ended Discovery Strategic problem-solving Opening New Doors Solving the Problem For example: For example: •  What emergent interaction paradigms should we be •  How can we accelerate the technology refresh cycle taking seriously? in small and medium size businesses? •  What impact are social networking technologies having •  How can we extend our franchise with small on the way we think about friends? businesses? 15
  16. 16. Open-ended Discovery is about opening up completely new terrain– whether a newmarket, a new technology or a new business domain. EXPLORING A NEW MARKET SEEKING VALUE IN NEW TECH VENTURING INTO NEW BUSINESSES Display advertising technology: is this The future of sound the right example here? Defining Prospects for 1st Time How do you pick up on the Identify growth areas for Y Corp, the Computing Devices in Emerging technology adoption in K-12 edu? leading hearing aid manufacturer Markets What it is good for: What are the limitations: -  Exploring new usage situations -  Doesn’t deliver a definitive strategic direction -  Developing a new vocabulary around a subject -  Without strategic objectives there can be a lack of a solid case -  Inspiring new thinking through speculative ideas -  Opportunities are inspirational, not necessarily impactful 16
  17. 17. Open-discovery projects give executives a consolidated point of view arounduncharted territory to help reach consensus and have a perspective on first steps.Open-discovery to open up fresh new thinking Content -  Deep customer understanding around unknown territory -  What to focus on, relevant issues to consider -  A differentiated point of view tailored to a newcomerAudience -  Executives looking for a consolidated viewpoint and approachImpact -  A fresh perspective that can facilitate consensus among the team -  Inspired action (“we can do this”) -  Clues on meaningful first steps 17
  18. 18. Strategic Problem-Solving involves finding a fresh customer-centric perspective to businessissues that lie at the heart of the core business. ADDRESSING UNMET NEEDS NEW PROPOSITION DEVELOPMENT IDENTIFY MARKET ADJACENCIES Identifying adjacent opportunities for Getinge - a digitally-disrupted postal services business Create a new innovation road map Create a SME centric cloud Identify opportunities for a digitally- and value proposition computing proposition for US telco disrupted postal services business What it is good for: What are the limitations: -  Helps clients take key decisions -  Concepts often aren’t radical, but they are right -  Gives an ambitious yet realistic vision of what can be done -  Customer insights aren’t exhaustive, they focus on the problem -  Can unite multiple divisions under a common value goal at hand 18
  19. 19. Strategic concerns are increasingly about how to differentiate within a market, andhow to climb up the value chain as a businessStrategic Problem-solving to address competitive issuesContent -  A differentiated perspective within well-known territory -  Rethinking the ‘basics’, things that businesses can control -  A strong sensitivity to client needs based on their competenciesAudience -  An implementation group looking for fuel to innovateImpact -  Value propositions that are tactical with clear industry positioning -  Concepts that are ambitious and realistic enough to take on -  A formulated and rationalized approach that gives confidence to a team’s next steps 19
  20. 20. Lafley’s tiger meets two philosophers in the jungle"Business schools tend to focus on inductive thinking [based ondirectly observable facts] and deductive thinking [logic and analysis,typically based on past evidence]……design schools emphasize abductive thinking - imagining whatcould be possible. This new thinking approach helps us challengeassumed constraints and add to ideas, versus discouraging them.”A.G. Lafley, former P&G CEO
  21. 21. Our approach requires questioning traditional management science & applying socialscienceMystery LEVEL 4Conflicting data Not even a range of possible future outcomespointing in alldirections Social Science- No hypothesisAbductive reasoning LEVEL 3 Range of possible future outcomesHeuristicSome connecting dotsWeak hypothesis- Heuristic A LEVEL 2Inductive reasoning B Limited set of possible Management future outcomes, one of C which will occur ScienceAlgorithmStrong understanding of situationand future LEVEL 1 Single view of the future- Reliability in testingDeductive reasoning 21
  22. 22. And starting, and finishing, in the world of business Client’s Change in Existing Situation Client Practice Business Practice PHASE 1 - Frame Social Science PHASE 6 - Realize Defining the problem Articulating impact and its consequences Challenges to Roadmap of Existing Solutions & Assumptions Initiatives Depth PHASE 2 - Research PHASE 5 – Recommend Value Uncovering insights Proposing a course from the real world of action New Discoveries PHASE 3 PHASE 4 Platforms for And Insights Organize A Fresh New Perspective Synthesize Growth Analyzing data Prioritizing and finding impact patterns Relevance
  23. 23. The promise of anthropology A highly specific, understanding of what is going onA focus on identifying opportunitiesLanding those back inside the business“A strategy is a coherent set of analyses, concepts, policies, arguments and action thatrespond to a high stakes challenge” Richard Rumelt, Good Strategy, Bad Strategy (Crown Business)
  24. 24. Thank you. Please stay in 24