What is a researcher? A personal manifesto

Thinking in terms of a business and design context, what is a researcher? There is no one path, no one exact job description, no one single approach or professional charter to follow. Among the many variables that can shape this are the individual’s background and training, personal philosophy and worldview, and years of experience. For … Continue reading What is a researcher? A personal manifesto

User Experience Research at SpendWell – My First 3 Months

Three months ago, I started a new job as user experience researcher at SpendWell Health, a start-up here in Portland, OR. SpendWell is building an online marketplace where people can purchase routine health care services directly from providers with upfront prices. Individuals with access to SpendWell as a benefit of their insurance plan can search … Continue reading User Experience Research at SpendWell – My First 3 Months

“Fixing Culture”: The Case of Olive Garden

Tasteless, hotdog-bun-like bread sticks. Bland pasta sauce. Operational inefficiency. Excessive corporate spending on private jets and a crappy new logo. These are just a few of the issues identified with the casual dining chain Olive Garden in a scathing September 2014 report entitled "Transforming Darden Restaurants." The 294-page report was written by Starboard Value*, an … Continue reading “Fixing Culture”: The Case of Olive Garden

Culture, Pushing Boundaries and Change

The Narcissistic (American) Anthropologist

plant-breaking-through-bricks

Recently in my professional career I have been yet again posed the question of “why study cultural context” – not so much from a “prove your value” perspective but from a “help us sell this stuff” perspective.

I got to thinking about the connection between “values” (broad term for not-so-easy-to-measure sociocultural “stuff”) and value (the “dolla bills”) and how the way we (at my company, in my profession) help create meaningful change by solving human-centric problems.

Essentially it really all comes back to identifying the need for and efficiently managing the process for change.  Change is what helps us grow – both socially and  – in business terms, financially.   And it all comes down to understanding the boundaries so you can bust them.

It took me back to my go-to explanation of the meaning of culture:  what happens when humans collectively respond to constraints (the big stuff on a social…

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Starting a job in Corporatelandia? Work it like the anthropologist you are

These days, lots of anthropologists (including recent anthropology grads) are finding work in the private sector, oftentimes as researchers, analysts, or strategists at big corporations. My first job out of grad school was at an insurance and financial services company where I worked as a consumer researcher, business consultant, and project manager. Although I had … Continue reading Starting a job in Corporatelandia? Work it like the anthropologist you are

Tips for starting a new job: Play the role of anthropologist

Image courtesy Understanding Science   In my search for advice on starting a new job, I encountered this 2006 article on Yahoo! Personal Finance by Jim Citrin, which suggests that the new employee "play the role of anthropologist" to get a good assessment of the company's organizational culture (and ideas for how to change it … Continue reading Tips for starting a new job: Play the role of anthropologist