Integration of ethnography in R&D

In the last few weeks, there has been an interesting discussion on the the anthrodesign Yahoo! group concerning "Integration of ethnography in R&D". It basically addressed the link between ethnography and “action” (e.g. implementation) in a client-vendor research relationship, a somewhat controversial issue. The discussion started with how "actionable" ethnography results should be and the problem with that term (""something that will allow me to do my job based on what you've told me)". There are some very good points there, especially about: - what does ethnography means for R&D ("needs to be there from the beginning to frame the problem AND at the end to inform the marketing", "moving from finding to insight. Cameras find stuff. People produce insights. Insights are actionable. They give us design principles that guide creativity and can test what we create. (...) All of this informs our research planning, "Making research "actionable," to me, means providing specific direction for transforming whatever social context you've been studying", "people need to make choices/decisions, whether they be creative or strategic, and they look to the research to help them do that. This can mean inspiring new choices that they weren't aware of, or (commonly) deciding between options that they are already aware of but can't decide or agree on.") - the questions to be asked: "how do projects get managed and recommendations get communicated here? Via presentation, text doc, what doc size etc? Which audiences - there are usually multiple. How many versions should I expect to create, over time, for which audiences? Who's my partner-in-crime internally who'll deliver the message with me? Should they take the lead in comms, or should I? Which people can I talk with? How can I assess the accuracy of these people's perceptions and rapidly put together a basic org map and understanding of this org's dynamics, before I commit to doing a project that's not positioned for success? ". - Some indeed distates the word "actionable" as it forces people to take results and "do something", whatever that is. The point for one of the discussant is about rumination: t seem rather unseemly to me to simply take participants' interactions with me and then "do something," instead of reflecting, ruminating, and turning back to the participants for validation.

(I haven't really put people's name next to the quote since I was not sure about how public they wanted these statements to be revealed; it's a mailing list).

Why do I blog this? great points to keep in mind when working with non-academics. The tension between "actionable" and "rumination" is very intriguing and is sometimes difficult to explain to people (aka potential clients).