My guest in this episode is KA McKercher, a designer and writer living on Aboriginal land in Australia. They have over 10 years experience leading social innovation and co-design approaches across Australia and New Zealand, previously working as Principal at The Australian Centre of Social Innovation, the Innovation Unit and the NSW government. Most recently KA has gone independent offering service design and co-design training, coaching, resources and support for senior leaders.
They write in their book:
“Relying heavily on sticky notes privileges those who can think quickly, are highly literate and literary and are well versed in thinking in headlines. Anyone who can’t do that is generally excluded and left bewildered by the pace of commercial design methods.”
Note: This transcript is machine-generated and may contain some errors.
Andy Polaine 00:09
Welcome to Power of Ten, a podcast about design operating at many levels zooming out from thoughtful detail through to organisational transformation, head on to changes in society and the world. My name is Andy Polaine. I’m a service design and innovation consultant, coach, trainer and writer.
My guest today is KA McKercher, a designer and writer living on Aboriginal land in Australia. They have over 10 years experience leading social innovation and CO design approaches across Australia and New Zealand, previously working as principal at the Australian Centre of social innovation and the innovation unit. And they’re currently working within the New South Wales government. [Note: They write in their book relying heavily on sticky notes privileges, those who can think quickly, are highly literate and literary, and are well versed in thinking and headlines. Anyone who can’t do that is generally excluded and left bewildered by the pace of commercial design methods. KA, welcome to power of 10.
Thank you for having me, Andy.
Andy Polaine 01:04
So I’m going to return back to that quote, which I’m guessing is, is where the title of your book Beyond sticky notes came from. But I’m interested in your own journey first. So you know, what was your pathway from where you came from to here.
So I accidentally went to design school after really wanting to go to art school, and not having that be framed as a real job. Sort of ending up in design and architecture, and then being also at the very same time very interested in social science as well. So I studied design, and I studied anthropology at the same time, which was fortuitous, because those things, I guess, would go on to become quite entangled. Yeah. But at that time, I sort of thought cheese, designs interesting, it’s fun, perhaps doesn’t have a very robust understanding of people, and sort of methods of understanding people. And I thought anthropology is interesting, but it feels a bit stagnant and a bit othering. And we don’t really make things. So about, sort of interesting to join these two things together. And very soon after design school, sort of working for a company called optimal usability that doesn’t exist anymore, but was a fabulous company. And it’s time. And one of the early projects that I began working on was around the translation of legislation, which in New Zealand was around how we would better care for kids who are at the precipice of perhaps entering the child protection system. And the project was really to say, can we work in a place based way? Look, can we work in particular communities and with communities to take this legislative change, and turn it into service design, and sort of functional and practical service design. And very naively, I just sort of hurled myself into this with the things I thought I knew about, like, doing journey maps, and personas and workshops, and, you know, having sticky notes and butchers paper. And those things were just rejected, of course, by communities, who were really confused about who I was and why I was there, and what I was doing and why I had so much arrogance. And, and so little cultural competency, actually being quite New Zealander. And that gave me a bit of a taste for design as applied into a social or community setting. Probably a bit of a taste for how little I reasonably knew about that and what my role should be, or could be. And then I guess, set me on a bit of a path of working in a more community led design process, across lots of different settings, predominantly health and domestic violence and child protection. And that sort of just a mask lots of different experiences, about designing with people, particularly in community, not often in boardrooms are not often in offices. And then a little bit down that track, I sort of thought, Well, this has been interesting and fantastic. And all this needs to go somewhere. So hence writing book, but then I was also curious about what it’s like to be on the inside, and to work at a different level and layer of the system and decided to then start working government and seeing what was possible, what kinds of conditions I could create from inside of government to perhaps have people you know, like myself, or much better, more competent versions of myself, come and sort of lead more community accountable work.
Andy Polaine 04:54
So I mean, it’s, I think quite a lot of obviously service designers end up are attracted to government actually, because in that sort of systems level of view that you often take of the of the work we’re doing, have a you know where things going wrong. And one of the places where you can actually make some significant change across that entire system is obviously, is in government. At the same time you get there, and you work with those departments. And there’s often an awful lot of good intention, but there’s admired in in process that slows them down. And that’s part of the kind of systems problem, what’s been your experience, and really working there. So probably, you might want to be careful about what you say, but you know, given what you just said about, you know, coming in, let’s be kind of honest, I’ve worked in, you know, in a consultancy, with all that kind of glossiness of that and been one of those people who’s kind of coming to one of those departments to do some work. And I’m very aware of, you know, of how that that kind of arrogance, I guess you would just talked about four, and what’s been your experience, you know, of trying to bring these kinds of methods and process and thinking into those departments, perhaps in a different way to how external consultants would do. So
I think the thing we get the opportunity to do when we’re in a place, and for for extended period of time, is and not dissimilar to co design in this respect, work in a very relationship first approach, right? Where we don’t come in with assumptions about what people are and aren’t doing the capabilities they do in don’t have an I think some language and I think it was Jeremy myosin, who, who presented this language of perhaps the goal is designed and fused, not designed LED. So this language of design led, you know, nice, yeah. And it’s it’s active, it’s strong, it’s a bit bossy. And my experience has certainly been the design of fused is more helpful, not only to truly bring design methods and skill sets into an organisation, but also just to value other skills and capabilities that people have insights they have about their work, and perhaps, you know, I guess, allow them to work with their own curiosity about what is it they want to learn and discover, as opposed to us, telling them that or suggesting that that’s somehow wrong or bad for not knowing or not having had the opportunity to know and, actually, I think there’s many things for designers to reflect on in terms of the pace in which we expect change to happen, which is often admirable, but unreasonable. And also, perhaps that one of the reasons why people don’t engage in design processes is sometimes because of the sheer operational demand. And if someone has this enormous operational demand placed on them, it’s not exactly that easy to step out of that and engage in, you know, what we might think of as a gold standard design process. So in some ways, the way that I’ve moreso thought about it is what can I curate, for folks across the organisation almost like a tasting platter of different conversations, capabilities, micro learn microlearning type activities, that just sort of builds up in a way that’s reasonable to the demands that people have on themselves when they’re in operational roles and positions, but also keeps kind of stoking the fire of building out maybe different mindset, sort of different skill sets, and coming to see how they’re relevant for a very specific context. Because I guess much of design is framed, perhaps unhelpfully as very generic. And as being these tools, that just sort of Bob about in the world, and it can be really difficult to make the conceptual leap between what would that tool mean for me? How would I bring it into my context? And how might it need adapting? And I guess it’s someone working on the inside, there’s a translational role, perhaps in sort of seeing the massive plethora of tools, and meaningfully bringing those in and telling stories about them and adapting them and even doing work and then using that as a way of saying, See, we use that thing. And it was quite good. And people said it was quite good. Do you want to use it too? I’ll give you a hand.
Andy Polaine 09:31
Right? And then you get the snowball effect. Of more, you know, I say the snowball effect, I have this expression called this of umbrella in the rain, which is, you know, at the beginning, everyone thought, why have you got an umbrella? I’m speaking to an Englishman here, my vegan umbrella, you know, and then if so, of course, you know, then when it starts raining, everyone wants to be under your umbrella and that that sort of success attract success, and it’s it’s a slow process. I think. I think though your point about design is being frustrated. The lack of pace, particularly in a, you know, with the noise, if you like from from Silicon Valley of faster is always better, right? And the kind of speed and the your point about designers being frustrated at that kind of lack of places is really kind of well placed and well observed. I think that that’s a we forget to take people on the journey with us and kind of not just forget, I suspect we’re probably deeply impatient about it,
I think so that it can be shaming, right? Like, it’s yeah, that shame is not a good change strategy and to suggest to people that they should somehow be ashamed of the things they don’t know, or haven’t had the opportunity to learn. I think the other thing is that it’s actually very easy to create a product, it’s very difficult to then see all the layers of which need to be aligned to make that an actual part of the organisation. That’s an implementation, not just an installation of some
Andy Polaine 11:03
Yeah, yeah. To defend the service designer. Second to that the reason why the book that I co wrote with Ben elevens is called from insight to implementation was for that very reason why this idea that otherwise you are stuck in in sticky notes land, and and you’ve sort of come up with some concepts, but not really, the implementation is the is the tough bit, which might come to actually but then just talking about shame, I’ve just noticed you’d had the there was a piece of you said about having courageous conversations, and are you enabling people to take off their armour? Which I don’t know if that was, you know, was that a direct reference to Brene Brown? Or was it just happens to be the same language because of this? You know, when we were talking about shame, it’s a difficult area, right?
Yeah. And I wonder if there’s anyone who’s gotten away with not being deeply influenced by Brene Brown, because the way she speaks about this is so accessible and warm and friendly. And, you know, certainly it does come you know, and be inspired by Brene. Brown, but it also comes from a flavour of community organising and activism. That is less the pointy Jelle. Yeah, style. And a little bit more the, you know, the whole, you know, let’s not build a fence, but maybe have a much longer table. And, you know, even Krista Tippett, I think the host of on being is another person that models this kind of hospitality and invitation, which, you know, really some of the ingredients that I guess I speak about a lot in the book, but also speak about a lot in design practice that perhaps we’ve maybe forgotten some of the hospitality based aspects of convenient people and hosting conversations.
Andy Polaine 12:50
Yeah. And as a kind of sideline to that. I mean, you’ve been, well, you’re in New South Wales, right? You’re in Sydney. Sydney hasn’t had the lockdown quiet that Melbourne has had. But you know, I guess you’ve talking about sort of hosting and hospitality. There’s a lot that I guess we’re naturally attuned to, from, you know, hosting, being a host of people in the space, put it that way, there’s also a lot that as you point out, that we’re completely kind of ignorant of or unaware of, or you’re unconscious of or just not getting right, in those physical spaces. I’d be interested to know what your experience has been actually of doing this trying to apply some of these things in the remote space?
It’s a good question. And I think for me, many of the same principles and practices apply. So you know, I think it’s prayer, Parker and others who have often said, you know, something like 80% of the work of being in the room, happens outside of the room, and before you even get to the room in the first place. So I guess in the virtual environment, I’m still trying to do things like build relationships with people, one to one and have conversations with them, ahead of there being any sort of group based thing that’s going to occur. I think there’s really small things like asking people, you know, is there anything that you’d like to tell me or share with me by which will make this issue more accessible for you, or more engaging for you? And that might be a small thing, like, you know, make it okay, that I can turn my camera off, or make sure you have enabled captions or, you know, there’s a whole bunch of stuff. Yeah. I think small, like novelties, can play a role as well around maybe there’s, you know, almost like Easter eggs built into invitations built into virtual convenings. And afterwards, I think there’s a lot that we can do around buddying people up. So there’s a greater sense of safety, even in a virtual room, you know, there’s a huge wealth of things.
Andy Polaine 14:57
Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely nice. support, you know, in breakout rooms are though. So there’s probably two sides, there’s definitely spoiling breakout rooms that you can, you know, in those virtual spaces where, you know, you can say to everyone, hey, come up with a thing and share it with the entire group of, you know, 30 people on this video chat is obviously quiet, you know, a demand on on real quiet love people actually, you know, to work in a small breakout group together, and then kind of come back and report as your group or something like that, that that kind of helps, definitely helps create this sort of sense of safety in the group and take it less, the focus less on the person. One of the downsides of breakout groups is the way you can kind of jump around them, you can’t kind of see them all at once. And I think one of the things you see in a visual space is, oh, there’s a table over there where one person is kind of not included. And the other three people are kind of, you know, at the wall, you know, doing whatever they’re doing. And this other person seems to be a bit checked out of you encounter, you know, I mean, presumably, you’ve encountered that in physical space. I saw you nodding before, have you kind of come up with any ways to deal with that in the virtual? Yeah, so
the best tool that I’ve found is, I build all of the breakout rooms in advance, and deliberately curate who’s going to be in that specific breakout room. And particularly when I’m teaching design or design related skills, I’ll always have someone in the room that I’ve sort of briefed ahead of time around, these are the things I’d like you to look for what I’d like you to exercise as kind of a peer to peer facilitator in your own group. And even as a really simple thing, making it really safe for people to leave the breakout room and come back to the shared space. So we have a session where we had I think about 170 people. And I said to everyone, breakout rooms, distaff, all of us have some of us that create a huge amount of anxiety, and we just hate them. So I let everyone know, and actually show them a screenshot and say, This is how you can leave, and you don’t have to feel bad leaving the main space, we’ll just have some quiet music, you can turn off your camera. And here’s an independent thing you might like to do, or think about. So. I think there’s a power dynamic here, though, that as the host, we set what’s what’s permissible, right. And even if we don’t say people come up with their own sense of what the unspoken norms are, so one of the most powerful things for a lot, I found was just to say to people, just come as you are, you don’t need to apologise for your kids, jumping on your back, cat sitting on your computer, you know, the blinds that you don’t really like behind you, and you have this perception and our professional. It’s okay. Like and if you’re feeling a bit frazzled, and if you just start crying in the middle of the session, it’s going to be okay. And I think for people even just to hear that explicit permission, I noticed a massive shift.
Andy Polaine 18:02
Yeah, that’s true. That’s a very good idea. So I guessing those kinds of ideas also, were the sort of itch that you sort of wrote the book to scratch or tell me, people write books, usually, because the one that they want doesn’t exist. And there’s a sort of there’s an itch, they want to scratch themselves, sometimes also born around out of frustration. So your books go beyond sticky notes, codesign, for real, and then mindsets, methods and movements and the real it’s kind of its underlying, which I’m guessing you’ve been talking about a bit already. You What was the genesis of this?
So a few things. So I don’t know if you’ve noticed this in Europe, but certainly in Australia, and also an Altero. In New Zealand. There’s been this, I don’t think explosion is too wild word to use of the language of codesign. So we’re seeing it everywhere. From organisational strategies. We’re all commission recommendations. And there’s a great deal of projects that go out to market to say, We want an agency to come work with us and to co design. My observation was most of those things weren’t what I had understood that to me. And when I say what I had understood, I mean sort of connecting to the lineage of, you know, participatory design practice or emancipatory design practice, or community led design practice that particularly I think back home and Altidore is a much bigger, more burgeoning field of, of people who think it’s a seeing design, not as a toolkit, but a catalyst for more even power dynamics, or more opportunities for people to play a role in the decisions that shape their lives. So I was feeling this dissonance, I guess, between the language that people were using, and then what was actually happening, which was really just kind of fancy workshops, and actually not even very Just not even very good workshops. And as you say, I was looking across the market. And what I could see was super convoluted academic texts that are just not accessible. I could see little bits and bobs that people had put together, maybe a blog here or a blog there. But the other extreme was these toolkits that were all tools, and no connection to what would you need to unlearn? And what would you need to be even to be successful? And what’s actually the social movements side of it as well, that, you know, really, this isn’t just about jazzy new methods, but the the opportunity for greater civic participation, you know, greater connection and neighbourhoods in between organisations and the people gussied up to serve or to partner with. So I felt there was a gap. And that seemed to be the case, particularly once the book was out. And people were sort of saying, you know, I’ve been looking for this. Yeah, so I guess, I wanted to write something that had these three aspects. So wanted to say something about the social movements side of things. And what, what some of the, I guess, particular literacies around power and privilege that might be helpful, or are helpful for designers to have a much greater sense of, or anyone that can be in CO design, it’s not just designers. The second part, I wanted to talk much more so about maybe some of the mindsets that we don’t often see talked about in design hospitality, in particular being one of those things, but also the grittier parts of things like asking people to be in ambiguity. But whether that’s actually a reasonable or possible request, and if it is, when and how and how does that get supported. And then pretty light on the methods and really focusing on the model of care for codesign, which is sort of one of the core frameworks, which is really about bringing about some more trauma aware practices into doing design and convening groups people, and just generally not trying to replicate the great deal of excellent design, books, and design methods that are already out there. But tell us how to do things like generative design research,
Andy Polaine 22:25
there’s a large part of this is really about designing the process, right, or kind of applying a level of thoughtfulness and detail. And there’s an incredible amount of it, I think it’s very rich on that. To kind of not the I say the process, not so much the process itself, not even the kind of actual work that you’re doing. But the preconditions in which all of this is taking place. And applying the same amount of effort to that you talked about in conditions for CO design is really kind of like the first kind of chunk of it. And you’d have one, you have these kind of four aspects of support and sponsorship time and money, culture and climate, and commitments. And particularly those first three, well actually, notice that the support and sponsorship time and money and commitments are all I would argue proxies for how important people think this stuff is. Because if they’re not there, and when a common thing, and you mentioned it before is anything a codesign is expensive, or and we talked about the speed thing as well, I can imagine you’ve had the sort of pushback on this is going to slow us down or whatever. You know, it’s there’s no budget until it’s something that someone decides is important. And then suddenly there’s budget, right. So you know, a lot of this feels like what you’re doing is trying to kind of surface this as no need just is, you know, this is important, because this is the right way to treat people. But this is important, because otherwise you don’t get the outcomes you’re after. You know, I think designers tend to talk about design too much actually to to stakeholders, and people who are kind of, you know, might be pushing back on them or people they’re trying to convince, you know, when you’ve been doing this work, both when you’ve been doing this work, and maybe when you’ve been sort of talking or teaching or whatever about this, what have been some of the kind of main push backs that you’ve had on on this way of working. So I
think that I don’t have time or we don’t have time is a big one. And I think there’s some reframing around that around, you know, going slow now to go fast later or or thinking about future liabilities that may arise from not having sufficiently invested. You know, in the early days. I think another sort of objection or a thing that people get hung up on is they have Miss heard something along the way about everyone has to be involved, or everyone should be involved. And I think this is a great fallacy that when that’s possible, and to that, therefore, everyone has to be involved in same ways. And I guess what I particularly advocate for is that we Think about people who know people who care, people who perhaps haven’t got to have a seat in the conversation, but have important insights to share. And we’re really prioritising those people as the core co design team, if you will. And then there, as we both know, a great, great, huge list of many different ways in which people can be involved, that may be more about breadth, and depth. Or there might mix those things.
Andy Polaine 25:30
Right. And so I think, you know, one of the things that happens when people say we need to be inclusive in this is like, everyone has to have this a right and everyone has to be involved, because then it becomes a kind of political thing of all, we can’t speak to those people, unless we keep bringing these people is that the kind of thing you’re, you’re saying ends up happening. And those people aren’t necessarily the right people, or they may even be unsafe people to be in or make the space unsafe,
or there are people who, whilst have views that arguably are being you know, that they deserve to share our views that are already well understood, and well represented. And I think the part that designers are very guilty of, and we all are because of our impulse to want to create something new, and maybe create some kind of shrine to ourselves, as well as that we often sort of parachute into contexts without sufficiently understanding what’s already known. And I think that does mean that we often then go back over old ground, as opposed to sort of saying, Where are the cracks? Where does the road end? You know, where are people falling in the river? That just got to be a very complicated metaphor. But, you know, I think there’s a different way of thinking about this. And it does require being brave enough to say, Well, should everyone be involved, and that’s perhaps actually not inclusion, nests, perhaps just a very unsophisticated understanding or sophisticated way of thinking about it.
Andy Polaine 26:55
I mean, you’ve talked a lot about power power structures, creating safe spaces and building wrote down a quote, he said, building trust and relationships before offering tools or methods, which I feel that we probably do the other way around most of the time as designers. And you know, and I’ve seen it, as you’ve seen it done an interesting because you, given your background, there’s a guy called Chris Hayward, who’s been on who I used to work with, who’s been on the show comes from anthropology background, and I’ve seen him really brilliantly in a workshop where it was a large group of people that lots of different kinds of parts of the lots of third party service providers for this particular thing. And one of those third party service providers was considered to be the problem, basically, and the woman who was, you know, representing that service, there was kind of a pile on starting to happen in the space, and she then understandably started to become quite defensive, which then started to kind of lock down where things were going to go in terms of kind of opening up the problem space and all of that stuff. And I saw Chris just, well actually be incredibly empathetic and human, but it had just had a real ability to kind of diffuse that. And not only to kind of, you know, help that woman feel more included, unwanted, and to sort of, which helped her kind of dial down her and her defences, take off her armour, actually, but also, at the same time, stop the others in the room from from the kind of pile on and over the course of two days. I really, it was just, it was brilliant to see, I don’t know, you know, if I asked him about it, he probably would remember it. I don’t know that he was such a sort of, it just seemed to be something he was very kind of attuned to, I think, from his anthropology background, actually, of understanding of being a stranger in a strange land. And I don’t, I’m not actually part of this community. And you know, I’m, I’m, you know, I’m colonising this community as a, you talked actually about a design being, particularly when working with indigenous people design being a colonising practice. And there’s that nice piece from Katerina Davis, in there about, you know, we need more more designers, more Maori designers and good allies, and no more white saviours. And so many people assume we need something that we already have. And that kind of skill to shape that safe space in the middle of seeing it was a recurring recurring fact a dynamic where a space that might have been assumed to be safe starts to become not safe was a real skill. I thought then it was really nice to sort of see in practice, you talk about kind of You Can we have can have a lot of sort of good intentions and set up stuff as best we think we can. But the same problem arises there which is this is our kind of guess of what we think should be the safe space, how do you deal with a kind of correcting, you know, what we think is a safe space might not be how do we do that better? And then in the middle of it when you realise something is not going as it should? How do you correct for that?
Look, I think the first thing to acknowledge is safe. And I want to say safe enough, because I don’t think that it’s possible for all spaces, right? Like, we’re human beings and we’re colliding into each other. And we’re, you know, saying and doing things. So I think safe enough for me as the, the framing and within that, according to who. And I guess in my work, I take a particularly special focus on folks who will not be the highest on the matrix of domination who will not have the most authority in the room, or for who an identity or experience is likely to produce an other kind of effect. And I often have quite a few conversations with people ahead of time about what safe enough might be like. And, you know, often people because they’ve thought about this, often really a lot, particularly survivors of different kinds of have done a lot of work and had to do a lot of work around how do I feel safe, or safe enough. So often, people have really practical suggestions, like, I don’t want to hear what everyone’s jobs are, at the start of the session, I want to hear who people are in their community. And I just don’t want to be shamed, that I, for example, non unemployment right now. And that person’s got three PhDs. So people will often make suggestions about what that could be like. And I guess, as a somewhat, you know, a person who’s facilitated a fair amount in the space, I’ve also got a bit in my own memory bank of things that I might draw from, I think it’s a really different matter as to when the space becomes unsafe. And I think the people that I know, that are really good at doing this experience, or have experience some exclusion in their own lives, that allows them to the sounds a little bit kind of woowoo, but feel a sense that something’s broken, and the relational space, and someone’s done something that’s awkward, that’s harmed someone. And, you know, I think this is where the whole courageous conversation things come from. I don’t know that people who are hosting workshops always see it as their role to take a corrective action of some kind and to practice calling in. So let me give an example. I was in a workshop some time ago, and the workshop was about LGBT health. And there were these very lovely consultants who were running the workshop and became clear to me that they weren’t, in fact, running the workshop, there just set up the room. So there wasn’t sort of anyone running anything. And I’d made a particular comment and my experience as a non binary person in a very aggressive, older cisgendered person sort of said to me, all, that’s fine. But we all just need to grow up here and stop being so worried about language. And that would have been the perfect opportunity for the person hosting the conversation to say, we have already committed in this space to prioritise the safety of LGBT people, and to listen deeply and not to minimise. But instead, these people just kind of sat back and they were very awkward. And nothing happened. And, of course, that just reinforced this power dynamic of Yeah, it was somehow Okay, for that to happen. So I think as a facilitator, we have to have the capacity in that moment to call out and call in at the same time and offer invitations that people might think about their behaviour might change it, and if they don’t change it, that they may need to leave the session.
Andy Polaine 33:53
So so there’s a thing there, which is it because we were talking about shame, obviously any in that situation, you would kind of probably shame that other person, but that you just who said it, by calling it out, or you know, there’s a danger of that happening.
And calling it in, though, I think is the thing to do. The other impulse is to shame and to be Yeah, Karen, stop it. But the thing that’s really helpful is to you know, even a question like, it can be fairly kind, but strong at the same time around, you know, might that comment, actually be a reinforcement of all the things we’ve already been speaking about today. So, you know, things that invitations as opposed to interrogations, or, you know, calling out can can be something that needs to happen some of the time, particularly if we see our practices working in solidarity with people in the room who have less power, not colluding with or helping people who have more to feel safe and comfortable.
Andy Polaine 34:58
No, I think So you know, it’s more of an evening out of things as well, you know, an evening or an evening out and evening, at CES, the same words, and evening out of their power about rebalancing of the power dynamics there and as the person facilitating whether you actually call it convening, that CO design space, you know, you have a lot of extra power, because you literally, you’re the one standing at the front with the mic or whatever. And that gives you kind of a bigger, bigger clout, and so you can kind of rebalance. And now, we’re coming pretty close up to time, you also, you’ve, you’ve got the book, you also have produced these mindsets, guides. There’s quite a few other things on your website. You did say earlier, you’re working on another, another book, what’s it called?
Yes. The new book is tentatively called Beyond service design, which evidently there’s a beyond theme going on. And this particular book is a question that I’m holding in my head about how is it as service designers, that we may be colluding with the manufacturing of need and new needs. And this is particularly inspired by John McKnight ’s work on the killer society, in which he makes this observation that perhaps, you know, one of the issues we’ve run into is not because we don’t have enough services, but because maybe we have too many. And maybe there’s some areas that have been professionalised to such an extent that we’ve lost some of our capacities to care for and about each other. And in no way, am I suggesting that we don’t need some services, for sure. We need acute services, for example, we need people to do surgery on us, we definitely don’t want to do that on each other. But there are a whole bunch of other services in which we’ve invented. And perhaps, you know, as service designers, we’re kind of playing in the territory of inventing services of maybe creating services that people can’t stop using, or that actually don’t build their capability or efficacy in any way. And maybe that’s not always the outcome that we’re looking for. But whether it should be particularly in some categories of service, in which we might say community capacity is an outcome we want. But the way in which we go about creating boundaries, and structures and services may not reflect that. So it’s not particularly well formed. But I’ve been increasingly talking to folks, such as at the Australian Centre for Social Innovation, about what that doing around caring for carers around building up community resilience after bushfires around community mental health and new models for keeping people out of the child protection system. And the thing that all those projects have in common is they’re not services, and they don’t get framed in the context of service, they get framed in the context of capability. And I’m just curious about some of those things and working through some of the different stories, the different approaches. But importantly, what I’m also asking is, what is that ask of the service designer? And are there some things perhaps that we need to give up or some ways that we might reframe our own thinking, so that everything isn’t to service, a better service and new service a different service, but we see that there’s different directions, different roles, and I get a different outcomes?
Andy Polaine 38:38
I’m really fascinated to see what you come up with. I think the thing when you just talked about the caring for carers thing, I think there is a because we healthcare is a classic thing we talked about and service design as one of the kinds of big services that will be around, you know, has been around since before we were born. And we’ll be around after we die. And there, those are the two points we know we access to the health care services, as well, our birth and death. But you know, one of the things going on in Germany, for example, is, you know, with with COVID, is that the politicians will talk about, you know, we need another 1000 in intensive care unit beds, but the nurses have all burnt out. And so they’re leaving that profession, and actually one in mice of family circle is has done exactly that. And because there there was an interview with somebody, you know, from an intensive care unit, and they just said, you know, beds don’t make people better. beds, don’t make care for people. If you don’t have the staff. The numbers of beds don’t make any difference. And it’s very frustrated with those kinds of political statements. We just didn’t really understand the context or what it’s like to be, you know, actually working in those services. I think there’s a lot of services that I mean, look at that, and I feel like I’m always kind of loading on the tech industry here. But you know, the tech industry is obviously full of that. And we think of, you know, Amazon and the rest of them where you’ve got or you know, the content, auditors of people have to kind of view objection or content and from Facebook and all those kind of people, there’s a, there’s all these other services for whom the people in their services aren’t really cared for at all. Yeah, so I can, I can definitely that and that resonate. So as you know, the show is named after this rain, Charles Eames film called power of 10, about the relative size of things in the universe. And the last question is always what one small thing is either overlooked or underappreciated, and could either be redesigned or more well known that has an outsized effect on the world
feels like a extraordinarily difficult question. To ask, look, I’m going to say something that has, has personal elements to it, and it has work assignments. And because we’ve already talked about this a little in the conversation is, I think the thing we can all do better, whether it’s to our family, our friends, our colleagues, workshop participants, is just know how to write a really good invitation, we just really fail on that we failed to make it personal, we failed to make the personally feel like special to some extent, and like we care about them are attentive to their needs. I’ll provide just a really quick example as I was hosting birthday party the other day, and a friend of mine with autism was coming along. And I’d said to her in advance, would it be okay, if I burns and scented candles? Or would that be really disruptive for you? And would that make it really unpleasant to be in my home? And mediately? She sort of came back and said, Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe you even asked me that like, yeah, ideally, prefer if you didn’t, if you don’t mind? And it’s like, well, no, I don’t mind. Like it doesn’t affect my experience at all. But it was clearly going to have a really big impact on yours. So invitations, personal invitations, professional invitations, just make them a little bit better. Not so generic. And, you know, I think that would make a pretty significant difference about who’s in the room and how they feel about being in the room.
Andy Polaine 42:28
You talk about actually meant to us it’s talked about this before, but you talk about love quite a lot in the book as an as an important part of this process. And my biggest complaint about sort of professionalisation of genesis of the word even being professional is that it seems to kind of exclude all of that exclude, you know, love and emotions and how people feel that’s kind of irrelevant in the kind of hard business world and stuff. And yet, without that, you sort of don’t get anything going anywhere. Because there’s just there’s a lot of resistance that people will then push back on. And do you think it’s too extreme to say that when you don’t really take into account people’s how people feel about things? And how it kind of how they feel excluded or included? It’s actually, fundamentally people feel unloved?
Absolutely, I mean, I don’t think it would be an understatement that it is all of our wish to feel in some way. So you know, when we’re together, and I think that’s just as true for a design workshop as it is and family and community. So yeah, I think we’ve got to talk a lot more about love. I’m particularly loving all of the contributions that people bring, including the ones that aren’t obvious to us, or we don’t naturally value or because it’s not a professionalised skill, and we might have classified it as craft or hobby, that we don’t value them, we don’t see what that is and what they can bring in. You know, that’s probably drawing a little bit more on the asset based community development type approaches in which we just recognise that everyone has gifts to offer and our role, or at least I see it as our role to create enough hospitality and safety and a warm welcome in which people feel like they can share whatever those gifts are. I know that sounds kind of soft and fluffy, but it’s, it’s actually hard and important.
Andy Polaine 44:23
That sounds like a very good place to end the podcast. Thank you so much for being my guest on power of 10.
Thank you for having me.
Andy Polaine 44:31
As I’m sure you’re aware, you’ve been listening to Power of Ten. My name is Andy Polaine. You can find me at @apolaine on Twitter, or polaine.com where you can find more episodes and sign up for my newsletter Doctor’s Note. If you like the show, please take a moment to give it a rating on iTunes. It really helps others find us. And as always get in touch. If you have any comments, feedback or suggestions for guests. All the links are in the show notes. Thanks for listening and see you next time.