On behalf of Innovate Carolina, Eric Gorman from Faster Glass Consulting, and myself, I’d like to thank you for attending our Foundations II session on Consumer Insights.  As a facilitator, you never seem to get through everything you’d like to and, just like ethnography, you can’t always predict where the class will take you, regardless of the PowerPoint slides.  I’d especially like to thank you for the many questions asked during the session.  In particular, as we were discussing the progression of an Ethnographic Interview, the question of (paraphrase) “during the aspiration part of the discussion are we trying to just get them to open up or learn about particular insights?”  While I know that’s not the exact question, it was a great one – and not one I’d ever been asked.  Eric astutely answered, and I completely agree, that it’s both.  One (opening up) begets the other (learning about particular insights).

Yet, on my way home, I wished that I had added a third and, I think, even more important purpose…it’s to open up you, the interviewer, as well – to change your perspective, focus you in on the person to whom you are speaking and break down your own frame…to put you in their context and remove you from your own.  In one of my favorite movies, Déjà Vu, with Denzel Washington, a father who had lost his daughter provides Washington, the investigator, a picture of his daughter and says simply, “Because I need you to care about her.”  In the end, this is the genuine focus of Ethnography and, hopefully, of the organization that seeks to carry it out.  The more emotionally open you are, the more valuable the conversation will be.  In other words, we want you to care about them.  It’s a sure path to empathy and allows for deeper reflection on ways that you and your company can move towards authentic value in your products and services. 

In some ways, the ethnographer takes some of the same risks he/she is asking the interviewee to take.  To be genuine, to be an emotional outlet, to look people in the eye, ask questions and listen actively isn’t always easy…yet, I can say that it is always valuable.  It’s an honor to be trusted and it’s often humbling to be a part of someone’s emotional journey.  In the coming days, I would encourage you to take anywhere from 10-30 minutes and practice it.  Tell someone that might know to some degree that you’re practicing and would they mind helping you out.  We’d love to hear how it goes and if there’s anything you find that was surprising and/or impactful.  In the meantime, we genuinely hope you will look to incorporate some level of an integrated quantitative and qualitative approach to your next development project. 

Per several requests after the session, I’ve linked sharing folder HERE with references and slides from the class.  It contains:

  • Slides & Workbook from the class
    • Choose a problem
    • Profile Extreme Users
    • Design/Execute Quantitative Survey to ID Extreme Users
    • Design Ethnographic Interview Rubric
    • Execute!
  • The Power of Small Wins by Theresa Amabile – Sample in journaling qualitative study
  • The Wilcox Feeling Wheel – referenced in class as the Alcoholics Anonymous Emotion Wheel
  • Sample Ethnographic guide

Hopefully this helps to illustrate the different focuses and how they can flow together.  Feel free to use it when you practice or model it in your next project!  If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to either of us at doug@leapinsights.net or eric.gorman@fasterglass.com.  We’d be happy to provide additional context or detail to the session.  Thanks again to Eric for adding his perspective and rich experience to the class and to Cheryl Jacobs from Wells Fargo for securing the space and setting up a great buffet!

We look forward to seeing you, and hopefully a few of your friends, at:

  • Networking at Birdsong Brewery in March
  • Innovate Carolina 2017 in RTP on April 21st
  • Foundations III in May as we focus on Idea and Portfolio Management. 

Thanks again for your participation in our community and have the rest of a great week!


Doug Powell

President, Innovate Carolina