A Best Read of 2019: “Ethnographic Thinking: From Method to Mindset,” by Jay Hasbrouck

This book was written for business by a local author and it was at my favorite local bookstore (Three Trees Books in Seahurst, WA) and it really helped me navigate difficult conversations around race, ethnicity and organizational change in 2019 (the book itself was published in 2018).

A lot of the challenge for me over the years has been getting organizations to not only understand intellectually what their problem is – namely a lack of diversity, particularly in leadership positions – but to actually to do something about it that will make a difference. Namely, how to get people to make those qualitative changes that yield the coveted quantitative increases in the number of “diverse” folks who choose to stay once they’ve been recruited. It’s not just hiring that matters. It’s retention. It’s people’s actual quality of life and sense of belonging and contribution to the places the work, study, worship and lead.

The book is about bringing the myriad represented cultures in all their wholeness, to bear in the organization’s culture, their offerings, and their voice and tone guides. From a holistic as opposed to a reductive perspective; to do this, the book draws on the field of ethnography. Ethnographic thinking, Hasbrouck teaches, is not as a method that is obsessed with metrics and big data, but as a mindset – one that we cultivate while reading this amazing book, written from the perspective of a talented anthropologist and ethnographer.

What I particularly appreciated about this book was that, when I applied it to race, it had the effect of centering, on a conceptual as well as a concrete level, the bodies and lives and minds people who are otherwise objectified in our desire to attain more diversity.

I got a lot more buy in with the organizations with which I consult after reading it, because it was prioritizing business and led to a robust shared pool of meaning for practitioners of all backgrounds to come together for the public good – without sacrificing the bottom line.

Published by Seahurst Wellness and Education Center

I’m a skill-building, proficiency-obsessed tutor and consultant who puts relationships first. I am also a certificated teacher with over a decade of classroom experience. Everything I do is geared to facilitate students’ familial and scholarly wellness and their sense of meaningful contribution to society..

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