As pointed out in the branding chapter of The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling, the Financial Times has an article today by Kim Thomas pointing out the value of finding the customer’s story, this time, through the use of anthropologists.
The idea of using social scientists was pioneered at Xerox PARC and reflected in Julian Orr’s book, Talking About Machines.
The idea has resurfaced as big technology companies believe anthropologists can discover the story that remains undiscovered by traditional quantitative research methods. Xerox researchers today use a technique known as ethnomethodology, which involves visiting workplaces and observing working practices without preconceptions.
Peter Tolmie, the area manager of Xerox’s work practice technology group in France, says: “Standard marketing research and statistical data is often frustratingly shallow when you want to move towards designing technology.”
The advantage of using anthropologists is that they can uncover the customer's story. Says Intel researcher, Ms Bell: “I’m always looking for the ethnographic story that totally turns your world on its ear, the thing that challenges some really basic core assumption you have made.”
According to Thomas, Microsoft is another company trying hard to understand the customer perspective. Shannon Banks, a UK-based product planner who heads a global team looking at the needs of information workers, says that initial “broad exploratory research” may uncover “pain points and unarticulated customer needs that they do not even recognise”.
The results of the Chinese research by Intel?
- findings about Chinese parents’ concern that computers might distract their children from learning Mandarin led Intel designers to launch this year a PC that has a touch-sensitive screen that allows users to write in Mandarin.
- the significance in China of locks and keys as manifestations of authority meant installing physical locking mechanisms, visible from elsewhere in the room, rather than software locks were popular with parents.
Read the full Financial Times article