“John Weeks”:http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/ob/weeks/ at Insead did an interesting bit of ethographic research entitled “Unpopular Culture: The Ritual of Complaint in a British Bank”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0226878120/qid=1070905181/ and was interviewed about this in the ever-interesting “Thinking Allowed”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/thinkingallowed_20031126.shtml programme on the BBC. One of the first things he said was that he became interested as a grad student when he heard about the MIT project Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century and contacted one of its sponsors. Well a little Googling later wouldn’t you know – there was only one British bank who sponsored that particular project – NatWest.
He said (paraphrasing) he would come back from a hard day’s ethnographic observation and talk to colleagues about his study of organizational learning and have something like this exchange:
“What do you see?”
“I don’t think I’m seeing anything!”
“Well what are they doing then?”
So I’d describe what they were doing (complaining mostly) and they’d say
“Well that’s what they’re doing – that’s what you need to write about!”
A succinct description of the purpose of good ethnographic research!