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Ethnographic fieldwork as a means for innovation

How can we do it differently for added value creation?

FieldWork_cropped These days I am working on a new elective course for an executive master at Copenhagen Business School, about the use of ethnographic fieldwork in innovation. My initial proposal for this new elective has just been approved (yeah!), so with great enthusiasm I am now embarking on putting together the fascinating content ;-D

The elective is targeting managers and leaders within an interest in innovation, and the purpose of the elective is to explore and reflect upon the use of different kinds of ethnographic fieldwork - from an academic perspective. The methods introduced in the course can be applied within their own organisation, as a means to either organisational developement or maybe even in management development; or they can be used with consumers or users, to explore outside perspectives and gain new insights.

Now I am not an anthropologist myself, but most of my projects (research and consulting) tend to involve different degrees of fieldwork, simply because in my experience, fieldwork is one of the most powerful means of innovation.

Whether we want to really challenge ourselves and each other, or whether we want to "think differently - together - about what we do", fieldwork provides a powerful tool and a powerful language. Not only for understanding "what is", but also in helping us "imagine what could be", and none the least, for providing us with the necessary motivation to "create what will be".

However, the fieldwork needs to be carried out by the very same people who are going to do the actual innovation work. Not by consultants. Not by external experts. But by the team of innovators and by their leaders - themselves. This part of the innovation cannot, and should not - in my experience - be outsourced. Period.

But such an approch to fieldwork requires training, and a strong methodology - which is exactly what I am attempting with this elective course. The course therefore targets managers and leaders wanting to be able to use - in a reflective way - different types of fieldwork, in order to enable, direct or facilitate innovation work.

So how do I propose to do that? Well, the final course program is still in the making. But since it is a 3ECTS course, there will be four half day sessions. Each session will introduce a different type of fieldwork (shadowing, in depth interviewing, instant images etc), which we will discuss and prepare for together in class.

After each session, students will be asked to try out the method in relation to a relevant research question, and document their fieldwork in a field report that they will submit before the next session, thus enabling us to also generate insights from the fieldwork, and do the analysis work aswell. Thus providing for not only critical academic reflection and analysis, but also a highly practical approach to working with innovation.

We have not made any final decisions as to which three methods to be used - but I am REALLY looking forward to developing the course content further in the coming months, with a few of my favorite anthropologists ;-D!.

So if you, dear reader, might have ideas, suggestions, or anything else that you would suggest to be included in such a course content, please do get in touch.

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