You choose to do ethnography because you want to get insight that comes from spending structured time in the real world with real people. You choose to work with cultural anthropologists because they have developed the skillsets and have the experience to uncover and identify patterns among the highly variable and diverse behaviors of the participants. You choose to do design thinking, or design research, because you have a problem, you need to find a solution, and design thinking protocols will get you to a successful solution in the shortest amount of time.

The more time you can spend with people in their natural setting the better. However, we never have the time we need. Therefore Context works to structure interviews, observation time and other techniques to ensure the most value from our time with our participants. Lastly, when clients come with us to the field there is an exponential increase in the value of the data (its ability to get used). We therefore recommend clients make the time to come with us for our field research. 

ANALYSIS AND Solutions  

The process of ethnographic analysis actually begins in the research design phase of our studies, where we develop “open-ended” interview and observation guides that are designed to understand a cultural context as it is experienced and constructed by participants. Our research guides ask participants to relate their experience in their own words, without prompting questions designed to test closed-ended hypotheses. In designing our research materials through this “grounded theory” approach, we attempt to expose the cultural frames of participants—how they see the world—and not test our own hypotheses or assumptions, as is the case with survey research.   All Context anthropologists use the same guides, are trained to conduct interviews in the same manner, and work as a multi-sited, well-coordinated field team that reports to Robbie directly. 

Reports from Onsite Visits: On every given field visit, Context anthropologists contribute to the process of analysis. Every interview we conduct merits its own ethnographic report and each anthropologist follows a similar structure for writing individual reports so that key insights from each interview can be compared to see over-arching themes across participant types and topical areas. Our anthropologists also write observation reports, which are not linked to individual interviews, but rather to general observations made by anthropologists in the field. These observation reports provide an opportunity to do more formal comparison of field sites.  

Internal Analysis: The data generated by the send-ahead exercises we design as well as the interviews we conduct are designed to “tell the story” of a particular participant or business —to bring them to life—so that the similarities and differences among how individuals and businesses approach the particular area of their worklife under consideration become apparent.  These “stories” often become part of the Context Final deliverables and are used as platforms for data immersion. 

As we return to the data we collected for further reflection, and begin to draw out points for comparison among participants, we develop deeper understandings of the meanings that people give to their businesses, the environments and experiences that are significant to them, their social networks and interaction, and the beliefs and values that they hold dear for how their businesses work. When applicable, Context also creates data tables or spreadsheets that array observations from interviews and participant exercises.

In the end, the process of ethnographic analysis requires working with the data, emerging stories, and visual data to tease out the patterns, themes, and findings as they develop.  

Presentation: Internalization and socialization tools  

Power Point remains the currency, however we layer different visuals in and out of the presentation to ensure: 1) people quickly internalize the insights, 2) people quickly find a way apply these insights to their work and 3) people have tools to socialize/communicate these findings to others. We vet final presentations multiple times with our clients and always present in person.

We believe that visualizing findings before and during the final presentation is key. We therefore frequently use graphic recording as part of the final presentation. Graphic recording is a process a graphic recorder captures (using images and text) all of the day’s learning on 4’ by 6’ murals that surround the room. This recording stimulates creative contribution and big-picture thinking among participants, while producing an engaging record to use to communicate with the rest of the company after the final presentation and working session. Depending on the size of the meeting, we either bring in a graphic recorder or Robbie functions in that role (he is trained in graphic facilitation).

Lastly, our final presentations include working with the data not just presenting the data. We want to engage our clients, not do a data dump. It makes our final presentations more engaging and productive.