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Four ways to help transform ethnographic insights into action

Like carpenters who build dream houses from simple wood and concrete, it takes a lot of work for ethnographers to build dazzling insights from raw data. Doing analysis is where we spend the vast majority of our time. Still, an essential step in creating value for our clients is presenting our findings in a way they can easily digest and incorporate into their platforms and strategies. Here are four things we do to help our clients transform ethnographic insights into action:

  1. Insights that are compelling to begin with

First you need a good foundation. Having great data collection and analytical processes that make the most of that data goes a long way in creating compelling reporting.

We study a lot of ordinary things like cooking, cleaning, personal care, using technology, and managing health and illness. Frequently our clients have spent years working in these categories and most of their lives engaging in the behaviors themselves. It becomes our challenge to bring fresh insights to the table, powerful enough to change the ways our clients think about topics they are already very familiar with. To do that consistently takes our entire toolkit: including sociological theory, inductive data collection and analysis, and just a lot of hard work. This is step one. You can shine and shine shallow findings, but they will still be shallow.

  • Reporting for success

Once we have strong findings based on strong data, we make sure to report it in a way that’s engaging and exciting for our clients. The insights aren’t going to gain traction if people fall asleep while we are sharing them.

Typically, we have more findings than we have time, so just the fact that we have to fit a lot into our presentations makes them fast-paced and entertaining. We also make sure to pair our findings with stories from the field. Sharing real life examples helps the audience get a better sense of what an insight looks like in practice, hopefully in ways that our clients can relate to and connect with solutions.

  • Video from the field

Almost all of our presentations use video clips to illustrate key insights. Seeing our participants in action helps clients get to know their needs on a more personal level.

Video helps us to demonstrate patterns and call out opportunities for innovation visually. We try to choose video clips that are empathetic, engaging, and entertaining. This level of engagement helps make the insights sticky. Individual clips will live in clients’ memories long after the presentation is over, and ultimately, the accompanying insight might find itself shaping the direction of their brand.

  • Ideation sessions

We regularly use ideation sessions to help clients develop action steps from ethnographic work. This is an extended brainstorming session shortly after we present our findings, usually the same day or the next day. The structure of the session differs depending on how much time we have and the audience size, but usually ethnographers and client stakeholders break up into small groups and come up with lists of ideas inspired by the ethnographic insights. We then compile and refine those ideas, spending time discussing and developing a select group to move forward with. Later, we send the client a report of all of the ideas for their reference. Ideation sessions are a great way to ensure concrete, direct solutions right away.

There you have it. Four ways we help our clients transform their insights into action. What other ways have you found helpful in making the most out of your research findings?

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