welcome
cartLogin

Emic & Etic

April 13, 2010

In knowledge management there is quite a lot of interest and use of anthropological and ethnographic methodologies. It is important to know the limitations of these methodologies. Simply listening to people’s stories is not ‘doing anthropology’ although that seems to be a rather common practice in knowledge management.

I studied Anthropology for an undergraduate degree in the 1970’s. I have continued to use many of the techniques and approaches I learned from all 4 anthropological disciplines ~ cultural, archaeology, linguistics and physical. I learned early on the importance of distinguishing between emic and etic points-of-view.

Emic is the insider’s view. When knowledge managers focus on the story from the story-teller’s point of view they are getting the ‘emic’ view. Etic is the observer’s point-of-view. When knowledge managers analyze email for social networking analysis they are getting the ‘etic‘ view. Both points of view are valid and can give the ‘participant observer‘ different insights into the group being studied.

I’m currently doing some initial analysis from both points of view. I gathered a group together a few days ago and used some elicitation techniques to collect current issues, hopeful expectations and perceived problems about a work process and a possible solution. At the same time, I’m collecting, counting and analyzing what I call ‘knowledge artifacts‘ ~ volume of documents, frequency of use, number of requests, who requested, who filled the request ~ all collected in someway by ‘not asking people questions’. By comparing these two points of view I’m pretty sure I can build a good picture of what these people ‘say they want‘ and ‘what they actually do’.

From my experience it is by combining the emic and etic points of view that is the most useful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts

About the Cynefin Company

The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.
ABOUT US

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.

© COPYRIGHT 2022. 

Social Links: The Cynefin Company
Social Links: The Cynefin Centre
< Prev
Next >

The Knowledge Wheel

- No Comments

  This posting is derived from an earlier post from my Baoman’s blog. This is based on ...

More posts

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram