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Open access chapter on Ethnographic Exploration of Values

From the book “Values-Based Innovation Management” by Henning Breuer & Florian Lüdeke-Freund)


Values being made explicit for an organization or values being clarified and negotiated among stakeholders may set the normative foundations to reframe innovation activities .... When not only value commitments of individuals but also normative orientations and values of customer segments or stakeholder groups are at stake, advanced methods such as scenario modelling and ethnographic inquiry apply.





Business anthropology, and its application of ethnographic methods, examine fundamental aspects in the life of their respondents from the respondent’s point of view. For instance, ethnographic inquiry for a sports shoe manufacturer would not start by asking respondents what they might expect from the next generation of running shoes, but it would try to understand the meaning of sports in their lives. Field research through participatory observation, in-context interviews, and multimedia documentation delivers rich empirical data. Individual findings are aggregated in preparation for iterative pattern recognition and interpretative insight analysis. Ethnographically generated insights usually explain a variety of phenomena and articulate a conflict or tension to be addressed through innovation.


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