The change management profession is coming into its own. We are recognized as vital to successful change initiatives and an important contributor to business growth and endurance. We are formalizing and getting certified. Let’s not close ranks just yet.
Let’s Go Against History
History is filled with examples of professions that create a watershed in order to keep the bar high and ensure that nonmembers are kept below the entry point using new terminology, acronyms, and associations among their techniques. Let’s take some of our own teaching to heart, building an inclusive discipline that opens us to new ideas from other professions whose insights, findings, and contributions can help keep the content and practices of our profession evergreen. This article strives to start this process by featuring a discipline and association whose thinking can broaden ours and contribute to more effective ways of transforming organizations.
Ethnography is a body of thinking that complements and contributes to our own.
Ethnographers systematically study people and cultural phenomena primarily through observations from the point of view of a study’s subjects. EPIC, Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, is an association of individuals involved in the practical application of ethnography—bringing to life principles and theories related to culture and human behavior that help to build business value. Founded as a conference in 2005, EPIC is “dedicated to providing practitioners, businesses, and partner organizations with access to the best practical ethnographic expertise from around the world.” EPIC’s founders, Ken Anderson and Tracey Lovejoy, wanted to establish a conference that was not discipline-specific and not connected to a methodology, but one that brought together like-minded individuals (both academics and practitioners) at the junction of theory and practice who have the common goal of business innovation. EPIC members and participants are all practitioners from multiple disciplines driven to use ethnographic principles to drive innovation and create business value.
Ethnography was not always seen as immediately relevant to the business world, a situation not dissimilar to change management prior to the 1980’s. Like the community who gathered at the first ACMP Global conference, people who came to the first EPIC Conference believed they had, at last, found a professional home. This year marks the 10th anniversary of EPIC. The 2016 conference, being held at the University of Minnesota in late August, carries the theme of “Pathmaking –suitable for a profession that has, indeed, forged many new paths providing insights about people and their daily lives, bringing significant innovation and value to organizations ranging from technology companies to civic institutions.
Pathmaking as a Theme
Conference planners expect that the Pathmaking theme will help to emphasize “the power of anthropology and business in combination to create transformative innovation, growth and strategic success for companies, industries and communities