Sep 18, 2023
In this episode of The Brainy Business podcast, Melina Palmer speaks with ethnographer Dr. Felicity Heathcote-Marcz about the significance of ethnographic research in understanding customer behavior and organizational culture. Ethnography, a research methodology rooted in anthropology, has found new relevance in the business world. Felicity explains that ethnographic research involves immersing oneself in the studied context, actively interacting with people, and collecting qualitative data to gain deep insights.
The episode emphasizes ethnography's value in the transport industry, highlighting various projects that have uncovered valuable insights into future mobility trends and incident management. Felicity also addresses challenges such as time constraints and the Hawthorne Effect. Business professionals looking to make informed decisions and improve organizational culture will find this episode informative and practical, offering a comprehensive introduction to ethnographic research and its applications.
In this episode:
00:00:00 - Introduction,
Melina Palmer introduces the episode and the guest, Dr. Felicity Heathcote-Marcz. She mentions that ethnography is an important method for understanding customers and lays the groundwork for the upcoming episode on observation skills with Christian Madsbjerg.
00:02:21 - What is Ethnographic Research?,
Dr. Felicity Heathcote-Marcz explains that ethnographic research originated in anthropology and involves studying cultures and local contexts to gain a deep understanding of people and their behaviors. She discusses how ethnography has evolved and how it is now used in business to gain insights into customers and organizational culture.
00:08:29 - Role of an Organizational Ethnographer,
Dr. Felicity Heathcote-Marcz describes her role as an organizational ethnographer at Atkins, an engineering and transport consultancy. She explains that she studies the culture within organizations, conducts research on future trends in the transport industry, and collects immersive data by observing and interacting with customers in their natural environments.
00:11:05 - Impact of Ethnography on Organizations,
Felicity discusses how ethnography can provide organizations with a deeper understanding of their customers and employees. She explains that ethnographers can identify opportunities for improvement, inform decision-making, and facilitate cultural change within organizations.
00:13:26 - Ethical Considerations in Ethnographic Research,
Felicity emphasizes the importance of reflexivity and self-awareness in ethnographic research.
00:16:19 - Ethnographic Methodologies in Business Contexts,
Felicity discusses the challenges of utilizing ethnographic methodologies in a business context, where time constraints often limit the depth and richness of the data collected. While some purist academic ethnographers may object to condensed time periods, Felicity suggests spending as much continuous time as possible with a specific group to establish rapport and gain valuable insights.
00:18:09 - Accompanied Drives and Ethical Considerations,
Felicity explains her approach to conducting accompanied drives, where she sits in the passenger seat with the driver and encourages them to share their thoughts and experiences. She emphasizes the importance of maintaining participant anonymity and establishing trust to overcome suspicion and encourage open communication.
00:21:28 - Nudges and Behavioral Science in Transportation,
Felicity discusses her work with local transport authorities in the UK, focusing on designing behavioral nudges to encourage residents to shift from private cars to public transport or active modes of travel. She highlights the importance of considering contextual factors, such as weather and incentives, to effectively change behavior.
00:25:10 - The Effectiveness of Nudges in Shifting Behaviors,
Felicity presents findings from a study conducted in Manchester, where text message nudges were used to encourage walking, cycling, or using public transport for commuting. The results revealed that the effectiveness of nudges varied depending on contextual factors, such as weather, and suggested that larger incentives may be needed to change behaviors in unfavorable conditions.
00:31:44 - Social Pressure and Incentives for Mask-Wearing,
The discussion focuses on the social pressure that exists regarding mask-wearing in different countries and contexts. In some places, there is a need to set up schemes to incentivize mask-wearing, while in others, people automatically conform and penalize those who don't.
00:33:05 - Importance of Ethnographic Research,
Ethnographic research is highlighted as a valuable approach to understanding differing opinions and behaviors. By taking interlocutors seriously and stepping into their worlds, researchers can gain insights into their motivations and beliefs. This approach requires being present and observing without bias or preconceived notions.
00:34:13 - Understanding Beliefs and Motivations,
Ethnographic research delves beyond surface-level behaviors and artifacts to uncover the deep-seated beliefs, cultural influences, and personal experiences that shape people's actions. By exploring these underlying factors, researchers can gain a comprehensive understanding of individuals and their perspectives.
00:36:22 - Immersion and Risk in Ethnographic Research,
To truly understand certain contexts and realities, ethnographers may need to immerse themselves in potentially risky situations. This could involve not wearing a mask in a non-mask space or accompanying individuals into dangerous environments. Immersion allows for a more accurate and complete depiction of people's experiences and challenges.
00:38:16 - Conclusion
Melina's top insights from the conversation. What stuck with you while listening to the episode? What are you going to try? Come share it with Melina on social media -- you'll find her as @thebrainybiz everywhere and as Melina Palmer on LinkedIn.
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