October 23, 2006

Ethnography - A Top Odd Job

CareerBuilder.com excerpts Nancy Rica Schiff's books, Odd Jobs, and its sequel Odder Jobs, for their list of Top 20 Odd Jobs. Number 19 is "Ethnographer".

This doesn't bode well for those of us promoting early, qualitative, "soft" field research as a primer for product innovation. Pitch staffing an ethnographer on a UX project and a client is likely to say, "Oh, that's one of those 'odd jobs', like Wax Figure Maker (number 3), or "Dog Food Tester" (number 16)." Why should I pay for that on this project?

The answer, of course, is that ethnographic research is one of the few ways you can really find out what customers want. Better yet, you can find out what they need, even if they can't express what they want yet. Participants in a focus group won't be able to tell you what they need if they don't know it themselves.

John Rheinfrank, one of the smartest guys I ever was lucky enough to work with, once told us the story of how his team did the field studies that led to the disposable camera. Insights into why people took photos, and the circustances and situations surrounding the photo-taking event, led to huge business opportunities.

But fortunately, I can call myself an "information architect", which sounds much more smooooooth than one of the "top 20 odd jobs".

Posted by jameshom at October 23, 2006 12:24 PM | TrackBack
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