“The study of human cultures, or ethnography, may sound more suited to academia than to the business world. Though ethnography is indeed a social science, a number of companies use it to gain a greater understanding of their customers. Their objective is to garner information to help create and develop products and services that better meet customers’ needs— especially those that customers haven’t yet articulated. Alcoa, Microsoft, Whirlpool, and Yahoo have used ethnographic research.”
Note though that the article’s web page has the wrong title (“Green House Effect” instead of “Redefining Research”) and probably also the wrong illustration.