Ethnography vs. Contextual Interviews: Methods Matter

Methods matter. It’s often assumed that an open-ended interview is ethnography and the reasons for the confusion are understandable, but an ethnographically-informed approach, which a contextual interview can certainly be, is not the same thing as a true ethnographic project.  Contextual interviews, which rely on self-report data, and ethnography, which focuses on observed data through […]

Why REAL Ethnography Still Matters

Fieldwork takes us to strange places. It allows us to come face to face with unexpected moments of both clarity and confusion, which can, in fact, spark innovation. I once spent a day with a 29 year old man who made about $600K a year running all things web-related for a major clothing designer. He lived […]

Fostering a More Creative Work Environment: Purpose, Power, and Politics

Creativity and innovation are always in demand.  Well, to be more accurate, the ideas of wanting creativity and innovation are always in demand. The reality is often far different. Most of us recognize the necessity of creative processes at work, regardless of whether we’re taking about strategic planning, insights development, product design, or the next big […]

Art as a Research Method

Research is not as objective as many of us would like to believe. We construct complex statistical models, fret over leading questions, and sometimes cloak ourselves in the complexities of science mystery. But in doing so we sometimes miss the bigger point – we’re here to discover, innovate, and find insights that inspire people.  Good […]

Myths, Symbols, and Advertising

Mythology is perhaps the most archaic and profound record we have of our collective spirit. It creates and defines our experiences. From the inception of cave art, and presumably long before that, we find myth and myth-making as a fundamental element in relating to the mysteries of life, the cosmos and the world around us. […]

Shades of Blue: Marrying Art and Science

When chemists at Oregon State University discovered a brilliant new blue pigment serendipitously, they were not thinking about creating art. But in a true art meets science moment, an applied visual arts major bean using the blue pigments in her artwork as part of an internship in Subramanian’s laboratory. This was also her first foray into the world […]

Big Data vs. Insights

Over the last 20 years and the emergence of digital as a central element behind marketing and advertising, the industry had gotten smarter and smarter, creating an expanded set of new metrics: dynamic segmentation modeling, click-through rate, impression share, engagement rates, share of voice, bounce rate, etc. Even with these, it is still very hard […]

Embracing the Whiteboard

Navigating nearly any company today means being well acquainted with whiteboards, sharpies, and post-it notes. But how they’re used differs from setting to settings. In most corporate environments, you rarely see them used as a tools for innovation. Whiteboards in conference rooms are often devoid of any meaningful content and those hanging in offices are typically […]

Finding Balance: Data, FIeldwork, and Creativity

There is perhaps nothing new about the ongoing battle between data and qualitative work, and the influence they have on creativity and design. Data is everything, creativity is dead vs. the argument that creativity is paramount and data is a distraction. Neither position is true, though there is some truth in each argument. The goal […]

Purpose, Power, Politics: Barriers to Creative Organizations

Creativity and innovation are always in demand.  Well, to be more accurate, lip service to the ideas of wanting creativity and innovation are always in demand.  The reality is often far different. Most of us recognize the necessity of creative processes at work, regardless of whether we’re taking about strategic planning, insights development, product design. […]