Apr 24·edited Apr 24Liked by Vaughn Tan

Always speaking my language, Vaughn. Particularly the situated and intentionally small, sneaky experiements for learning. I'm curious if you have a favorite list of examples strategies?

I've used "sneaky" or unexpected approaches in design research to understand gray markets (e.g. understand abortion access by undercover visits/shopping to pharmacies and sonographers). And always looking to uncover new ways to understand spaces with a lot of uncertainty or messy behavior.

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thank you! the gray markets situation you describe feels a lot like how i think about ethnographic research as an ethnographer — the outside observer has to fade into the background to understand (as best as possible) how the situation would unfold if the outside observer wasn't there at all.

that fading away is related to sneakiness for sure, though i am using "sneaky" here to specifically highlight actions which are designed to be innocuous or unnoticeable to a particular audience in the org context: any team or person in the organization that (whether intentionally or not) resists doing things which don't have a guaranteed/well-understood probability of success. this can be the finance team or a manager/director with an immovable KPI to hit. sneaky strategies are designed to enable the sneaky to take action that doesn't trigger that resistance, and maybe to amass enough evidence that the action is worth taking at larger scale to eventually overcome that resistance.

some sneaky strategies i like are:

1. designing negotiated joining into an existing HR personnel development process (i write about negotiated joining a bit here https://vaughntan.org/unfrozen)

2. introducing Boris into management offsites (more here: https://vaughntan.org/unpacking-boris)

but i will always go back to james c scott's work when looking for extensively documented sneaky strategies (though the orgs he is concerned with are organs of states, not businesses or NGOs): weapons of the weak, the art of not being governed, domination and the arts of resistance

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