How can my team benefit from Ethnographic Thinking?

When you and your team learn to think like ethnographers, you’ll gain a set of very powerful skills. This workshop will teach you how to internalize and apply four core attributes of ethnographic thinking so that you can accelerate innovation and creativity, break down barriers, build trust, and drive productive change.

  • Accelerate Innovation and Creativity. When curiosity becomes an inherent part of your thinking, your mind is continually exposed to more and more ideas from many different perspectives. Over time you’ll begin to discover new and unexpected connections between those ideas, and build even more ideas inspired by those connections. On the team level, a culture that honors and rewards continual curiosity breaks through rote processes, dissolves silos, engages in more creative problem solving, and accelerates innovation.
  • Break Down Barriers. By deferring judgement and integrating unfamiliar modes of thinking into your work, you will escape the limitations of presumptions and organizational biases to better align your work with customers’ cultural contexts and behavioral needs. Teams who defer judgement are able to generate more customer-centered strategies and more quickly and accurately focus their prototypes and/or hypotheses on addressing customer needs. They’re also able to cross-pollinate ideas between differing viewpoints by emphasizing alignments, constructing empirically-grounded positions, and dislodging organizational biases.
  • Build Trust. By expanding your awareness and opening up your senses to the unfamiliar and watching for unstated social cues, you can discover the unrecognized cultural rules that drive the behaviors of customers, stakeholders, and even your co-workers. This will allow you to empathize with others, and to feel more confident navigating unfamiliar settings, both in the workplace and in your customers’ worlds. Understanding the context and worldview of others also gives teams the foundation to identify shared values that resonate behaviorally and emotionally for everyone. This familiarity and sense of common purpose builds trust and can pave the way for effective organizational buy-in.
  • Drive Productive Change. By adapting thoughtfully, you can more easily reframe risk and learn from experiments (or “failures”), while maintaining your focus on larger objectives. Adaptive thinkers know when to ask the right questions (either game-changing questions or more subtle position-shifting ones) that dissolve rigid or obstructionist practices and create psychologically safe spaces to initiate productive change. Teams that integrate and reward strategic adaptation can more easily generate momentum, benefit from from calculated risks, and continually evolve to meet marketplace demands.

Why Ethnographic Thinking?

Experienced ethnographers are trained to be continually curious, defer judgement, expand their awareness, and adapt strategically. These are all essential components for successfully understanding people and their cultural contexts. When practiced over time, these skills (and others) create a way of framing the world that has benefits far beyond research projects. Ethnographic thinking will help you and your team increase appreciation for openness and exploration, hone interpretive skills, and cultivate holistic thinking in order to broaden perspectives, challenge assumptions, and cross-pollinate ideas between differing viewpoints. These skills will allow you to understand yourself, your team, and your organization in cultural terms; and to develop more impactful insights and effective strategies. (There’s much more to explore in Ethnographic Thinking: From Method to Mindset.)

How does it work?

This workshop is designed to help you become an ethnographic thinker and to apply that mindset to improve your work, your team’s dynamics, and better navigate your team’s role within your organization.

Through short readings and engaging presentations you will be introduced to each of the four core attributes. Then, you’ll engage in experiential learning exercises to experience and respond to what you’ve learned. Finally, you’ll map out how to apply the benefits of ethnographic thinking to your everyday work environment and team interactions.

Who Should Attend?

Any team that needs to:

  • break out of a silo-ed, constrained, or reductive mindsets;
  • stimulate more creative ways to solve problems;
  • build organizational buy-in and overcome organizational biases;
  • generate more momentum and forge new alliances;
  • improve team dynamics;
  • become more adaptive;
  • take calculated risks;
  • continually produce more customer-centered outcomes.

What’s the Schedule?

This workshop consists of four sessions, each dedicated to a specific attribute of ethnographic thinking. Duration, timing, and content can be tailored to the specific needs of each team or cohort. A typical configuration begins with two 3/4-day sessions on Thursday and Friday, followed by two more 3/4-day sessions on Monday and Tuesday of the following week.


Framing:Let’s Get Small: The Benefits Thinking Like a Child
A Parallel Universe: Rethinking the Familiar
Applications:A Curious Habit: Thinking Beyond Professional Paradigms
Increasing the Odds: Discovering Unexpected Opportunities


Framing:It’s Not All About You: Understanding Cultural Logics
What is Common Sense?: Battling the Myth of Intuition
Exercise:Befriend a Stranger
Applications:Empiricism and Meaning: Building Interpretive Skills
Burrs Under the Saddle: Challenging Judgments & Assumptions


Framing:You Really Shouldn’t: The ‘Sayable’ and the ‘Unsayable’
Outta Sight: Reading Social Scripts
Exercise:Modified Derivé
Applications:Synesthesia: Improving Peripheral Awareness
Not Really that Scary: Navigating Unfamiliar Settings


Framing:Far Out: Appreciating the Unexpected
Not Home, Not Work: Serendipity and Spaces Between
Exercise:Diverse Directives
Applications:You Failed: Next?: Appreciating Incremental Risk
The Restaurant at the Edge of the Universe: Embracing Ambiguity

What other details should I know?

The workshop is led by seasoned applied anthropologist Jay Hasbrouck, author of the book Ethnographic Thinking: From Method to Mindset, in conjunction with a staff of highly experienced research professionals.

Pricing is per seat and varies depending on location, venue, and other factors. Feel free to get in touch with any questions by using our contact form.

This NOT a methods workshop, although research teams will find that developing their skills in ethnographic thinking is useful for their work as well. If you’re looking for training focused more specifically on ethnographic methods, please visit this page.