Ethnographic Stories Disrupt Organizational Paradigms and Spur Innovation

Aug 06, 2013, 11:07 ET from American Marketing Association

Ethnographers working in the business world play a critical role in deciphering the complexity of the marketplace.

CHICAGO, Aug. 6, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The research is the first comprehensive study of its kind examining the way various organizations use ethnography-an approach derived from cultural anthropology- to better represent the customer's lived experience to managers.


The authors' findings highlight how in many leading firms, ethnographic stories play a creatively disruptive role in: 1) challenging firms' received wisdom about consumer behavior; 2) helping managers walk in the customer's shoes; and 3) developing new business ideas.

In these three areas (market understanding; consumer empathy; market innovation), ethnographic storytelling has been a driving force in improving the tracking of market evolution, changing the way organizations connect with consumers, and stimulating innovative thinking.

The analysis appears in the July issue of the American Marketing Association's Journal of Marketing.

According to authors Julien Cayla and Eric Arnould, "in an era where we constantly hear about big data, we forget that these new and powerful analytical tools say little about meanings, emotions and motivations. And in a world of largely uninspiring market research, ethnography is a unique way to inspire managers and stimulate organizational creativity."

Based on these findings, organizations should encourage different ways of telling stories about markets, through office design or by developing compelling mechanisms to share and circulate market stories. Even if analytics and advanced statistical tools are increasing in popularity, organizations must simultaneously transform themselves into venues for storytelling to better tap into the complexity of consumer experience.

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SOURCE American Marketing Association