Chapter 3: Improving Business Performance Through Ethnographic Research
From the Book: The Refractive Thinker®: Vol. II: Research Methodology, Second Edition


This chapter addresses the literature foundation and research methodology applied by Benedetto (2009) in his Dissertation Study, which focused on understanding the constitution and working of a character-based culture. Benedetto (2009) concluded leaders who align individual performance with institutional expectations for ethical performance are more successful than those who emphasize financial returns as the primary measure for business success. He stated many business leaders fail to recognize the critical role organizational culture plays in company success and demonstrated through ethnographic research how leaders created, nurtured, and rewarded an ethical, character-based culture that led to continuous success. Benedetto (2009) also concluded leaders and researchers have often ignored ethnography as a research methodology because the impact of organizational culture on company is under appreciated. Through the design and execution of an effective ethnographic study, Benedetto (2009) discovered artifacts and practices within a character-based culture and how these elements combined to drive exceptional company performance. Benedetto (2010) shared detailed results of the study in The Refractive Thinker Volume IV. Both chapters stem from the University of Phoenix 2010 Qualitative Dissertation of the Year, An Ethnographic Study of Character-based Culture in a Small Business Setting. Students and researchers can learn from the variations that arose within this ethnography, which extended into the external environment to include customers, suppliers, and advisors. An internal quantitative survey, validation panels with employees not part of the interview cohort and visual ethnography were research variations of potential interest. The chapter strives to show the richness of ethnographic research, which is not present within other research methods. The chapter should help students think more deeply about designing future studies related to organizational culture. The chapter should also help leaders appreciate the value of ethnographic research and its contribution to understanding the nexus between culture and organizational performance.
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