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137. Using Ethnography to Understand Your Customers and Staff, an interview with Felicity Heathcote-Marcz

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Today I am so excited to introduce you to Dr. Felicity Heathcote-Marcz. I know you’ll learn a lot from this conversation with Felicity because…I did too! As you’ll hear throughout the episode, I’m not worried about asking the “dumb” questions like “what does that mean” or “what’s that term you just used?” I’m here for you dear listener! And, I figure if I haven’t heard of something, there’s a good chance there is at least one other person out there who would benefit from a definition as well. I hope you enjoy learning with me in today’s fascinating discussion with Felicity.
You will get some ideas for tests and observational research you can do in your business to get an edge into the minds of your staff and customers. I hope you enjoy learning with me in today’s discussion with Felicity.
I hope you love everything recommended via The Brainy Business! Everything was independently reviewed and selected by me, Melina Palmer. So you know, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means if you decide to shop from the links on this page (via Amazon or others), The Brainy Business may collect a share of sales or other compensation.

Show Notes:

  • [00:07] I’m excited to introduce you to Felicity Heathcote-Marcz an ethnographer at Atkins Global.
  • [02:54] Felicity shares about being the point of contact in her organization for ethnographic research.  She leads many ethnographic projects all to do with the transport industry.  
  • [03:57] She shares about some of the traditional ethnography projects she has led. 
  • [05:44] Ethnography is a methodology that originates from anthropology. The method began by studying cultures and trying to understand them from the ground up. 
  • [07:33] Now ethnography is at a place where the practice has matured and there are many networks for sharing knowledge and evolving.  
  • [09:46] It is up to the organization’s ethnographer to study the spaces and to understand the concerns and realities of different organizational stakeholders and then provide a narrative back to the organization.  
  • [12:39] The Hawthorne Effect is when people know they are being observed and consequently they change their behavior (often without realizing it).   
  • [14:56] In long term projects the Hawthorne Effect quickly melts away because it is not possible to keep up a pretend display of performance.  You become part of the culture the longer you are there studying a group. 
  • [15:31] One of the key challenges of ethnography in business is time.  You always want as much time as you can have in the field.  
  • [16:59] If you don’t have a long period of time for a project, try to spend as much continuous time with the group as possible. 
  • [18:38] She reassures the people she works with that her studies are completely anonymous and none of it will come back on them as an individual.  It is really an opportunity to tell their story.  
  • [20:14] Ethnography is more about understanding in generalities that you can only obtain on an individual level.  
  • [21:10] Felicity shares about the behavioral science piece of some of the work she has done. Nudges have become very popular as a policy tool.  
  • [23:35] Historically traveling in private vehicles was the most dangerous because of accidents but since COVID it has shifted completely.    
  • [25:27] Three-quarters of respondents want to accept the nudge to walk, but didn’t (based on the weather that day).  
  • [26:15] Active travel nudges might be more effective in the summer when people are more likely thinking about walking anyway.  In the winter months, nudges are not enough to move people out of their private cars.  
  • [27:58] Melina shares about Colu and Littery and their use of nudges for social good. 
  • [29:33] It is easy to incentivize people when they have the possibility to win something. 
  • [31:45] It is interesting how some countries might need to set up schemes to incentivize adherence to things like mask wearing in the pandemic, and in other social contexts people do it as an automatic and penalize anyone that breaks that code.  
  • [33:58] As ethnographers we have to take our ethnography seriously.  It is not about us or what we think.  It is about being present in a space for a long enough period of time to be able to understand the people you are researching. 
  • [35:11] It is important that research is not done in a way that is biased or coming in with our own assumptions of why people are behaving a certain way.  
  • [37:50] All ethnographic work is completely unique.     
  • [39:07] Melina’s closing reflections.

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