In this episode I speak with the brilliant Gerry McGovern about the story behind his exciting and very much needed course Earth Experience Design - we answer some community based questions about this topic as well as talk about the disassociation of behaviours that persist within the creators of online products and tools.
S1: I think. Welcome to the Doing Design podcast on this site, Saidy, hosted by all the world's best live design and innovation trainers after CES two-income now for regular listeners, you know what we do with this is to income, but it's the home of many of the world's best trainers in the spaces of design, research, service, design, user experience, design, content design and more. Now, in this experience, I speak with the brilliant Gerry McGovern, creator of the Top Tasks method and author of the latest book Worldwide Waste. We talk about the story behind his exciting new course, and it's a very much needed course called Earth Experience Design, and we answer some of the community based questions about this topic, as well as talk about the disassociation of behaviours that persist within the creators of online products and tools. Now, look for more information on this course. See the link in the show notes. So let's just jump straight in. Jerry, how are things great to have you on the Doing Design podcast?
S2: Not too bad, Gerry, considering this crazy world we're living in and really delighted to be chatting with you again.
S1: I know, yeah, well, we're going to be trying to do more around the Earth experience, design the course that chair you're launching in January, but you're coming live from Brazil, Jerry whereabouts and very whereabouts in Brazil, are you at the moment?
S2: Well, my wife is Brazilian, so we haven't been back to the family for a number of years, so we're staying at the moment. Is Italy
S1: right? And what was the what was the experience like of flying from presumably Ireland back over to Brazil? What was it like?
S2: Was the flight? It was. It was a little bit, you know, you had to be very careful and cautious, but you know, it was a bit of a surreal experience. Yeah, in the process,
S1: lots of ships were in the mosque for the full flight. Presumably we did.
S2: Yeah, we did.
S1: Yeah, yeah, it's it's crazy. When it was just an interest was was the flight full? Was that full of people or it was?
S2: It was reasonably far. Yeah, it was. You know, there was. Yeah, it was. It was fairly fun. Yeah, it's
S1: yeah, it's it's something like I think most people at this time of year would either be doing one or two things to be getting ready to have Christmas at home. We're usually looking to go away and make make best use of the time. But I don't know. I maybe you and one other person I know was taken a flight in the last year, which is it's kind of a I don't know how we'll approach it in the future, but it's something that I'm I'd love to get back to that point of being able to fly and enjoy the good weather and visit Brazil, for instance, will be it's on my list.
S2: Well, we see yeah, I mean, it's kind of, you know, in in relation to the topic, like I used to travel and fly all the time because, you know, work the clients and to work. But you know, it's something that I'm. Looking at seriously, you know, basically eliminating our business flight and really only only traveling for family reasons. You know, just to maybe go to Brazil every, every couple of years and stuff like that because, you know, the impact of flying is enormous. Absolutely. You know, on the climate and these are things that have never even thought about three or three or four years ago, and you really have to begin to. Question so much, so much and why you need to do them, so I think that the world changes are that. I think that, you know, if we do, you know, come to Brazil, you know, the future with will stay. So we're staying for about three or four months that we stay for a significant period of time. Yeah, so to speak, to maximize, you know, rather than, you know, going all over on a regular basis, so to speak. So there's a lot of. You know, there's a lot of issues that, you know, certainly I find myself examining that I really didn't think that much about, you know, up until a couple of years ago.
S1: And I think there's a really nice kind of parallel between what we're going to end up speaking about in a few minutes. But I was the same. I lived in Australia for 13 years or something, all up in the last 15 or 16 years and flying back and forth to Ireland was just like my biggest obstacle to doing. That was usually time off work or price of flights and so forth. And the impact of it was like a little tick box on the UI whenever I was booking my flight. So would you like to offset your carbon for this flight? Yeah, no, it feels better. I've done it. I've paid it like I've paid my my ethical tax and it's gone. But I think what the pandemic has has given us has given us this sense of perspective and allowed us to take a step back and reflect and question, you know, Well, what can we be doing and what should we be doing? And it's a nice kind of freedom to the Earth experience design course that you've been talking to me about this for a long time. Definitely. You are one of the first people in my ear and I was just carrying on. Yeah, that's interesting. All right. Like, you don't know what the don't know what the community would be thinking about this, whereas we can see Gerry, you know, we put it up on LinkedIn and we put it out on Twitter and we put it out in our own communities. It's it's something that people are starting to really, really think about. But what is it about the the whole kind of invisible side of our behaviours? Why is it still a thing the people don't really get or really want to want to approach and talk about? What is it, what's holding us back, do you think?
S2: Yeah, thank you. You know, there was actually when you asked, was there any questions, you got a very interesting question. You know, what was it? How was it or do you got a great
S1: question from Yana, who's on the Slack channel? And I'll be I'll be completely honest if Yana listening to this one back when I when I first saw it, I was like. OK. I haven't really thought about this. And I was how has geometric figuring since the 11th century impacted design teaching today? And I had to follow up with Yana because I was a little bit ignorant in this space. I understand about the whole kind of deep connection to our past and why we do things currently. But their whole thing was like what design narratives are rooted in geometric figuring and whose expense and detriments? And when I spoke to Yan a little bit more on Slack in a private message overnight, they pointed me to a few things that basically said, Well, basically the tools applied in design have been orchestrated to promote religious thinking. And at this point, I'm Catholic, and Jerry is probably similar to me. Oh my God. Here we go. Someone's going to talk about God and religion. And I instantly start to repel what I was like. OK, I was leaning into this conversation on a particular narrative and viewpoint. This tool has been used to colonize the peoples of Europe and later the colonies or today's ex colonies. What is it about design that promotes Christian thinking and the cast expense and the detriment of everyone else?
S2: So, yeah, and you know, I didn't understand the the initial phrasing of the because I'd never heard of it, but certainly the basic underlying theme that that question is exploring, I think is is absolutely correct and I think is is the foundation of why we are destroying the Earth. I think the modern religions are a core driver of of the reason why we are destroying the Earth, because the modern, the embryonic religions are founded on human superiority and humans separate is in and that, you know, we have souls and nobody outshines their all. You know, we're special well-watered. Nobody has no other outsize feelings, only only us. So they've made they've essentially said, you know, here you are the art. It's it's it's it's up to you. Everything, everything is, you know, they're for you. Everything is for your convenience. It's all about you and and God is even in the image of you. So like, you know, so we've we've created this, you know, structure which legitimizes our ability to destroy the planet that we live on. You know, I think the modern religions are a core pillar, you know, in decolonization, as it was telling and the ships that went to destroy all the natives of of South America or enslaved Africans or went to Australia, the ships had three groups of people on them. They had the soldiers, the scientists and the priests and the priests legitimized what the soldiers and the scientists did. So I think if we are to have a hope to fix the extraordinary mess we have made of the world we have have, we have to first and foremost recognize that we are part of the world and that, you know, in the broadest sense of things, what goes around comes around. And I know the specific example of that. I've been tracking a lot e-waste electronic waste and reading up a lot about the last couple of years. And every year we're producing about 50 million tonnes of e-waste, which is enough to build a great wall of China. And it's doubling every 15 years. So in another 15 years, you would be able to build two Great Wall of China every year from from e-waste. Much less than 20 percent of it is properly recycled, and a huge amount of it is actually illegally or semi illegally exported from rich countries to poor countries like Ghana or Nigeria or Pakistan, where it is, where it is burnt in open pits and, you know, and dumped in, you know, rivers and lakes. The the the irony of this is that so much e-waste is being dumped and so much of seeping into the water table that's going back out into the seas and it's polluting the fish that we in the rich countries are eating. So we're eating our laptops, you know, we're eating our smartphones. Some of the trace elements in that we talked, you know, we think we're so clever in in Europe and North America. We think we can always export the crap to the global south and that that that the poison will stay there and it'll only poison poor people. But because everything is interconnected in this world, it's beginning to cut. We've we've we've done so much poisoning that it's actually coming back to us in the process. So it's either it's either a wake up moment that says, you know, that this intense individualism and selfish it is this that has driven so much of culture in in the last 100 200 years, or maybe 50 60 years in particular that that's going to destroy life on Earth. And if we don't create a system which looks at everything the water to soil and tries to design it in the context of all of those sustainable issues and boundaries, there won't be a planet, there won't be one, there will be a planet. There just won't be a nice little planet in another hundred years. You mean the speed is exponential in the last 25 years. Humans of all of the CO2 that we have created since we emerged out of the swamps, we have created 50 percent of the. In the last 25 years. I mean that if that if that's not scary. I mean, if you think about that, we're mean to modern human species may be treating 300000 years or whatever. So we have created 50 percent of the damage in 25 years. It's exponential. Our destructive power is growing exponentially. And if we don't radically shift our thinking.
S1: Yeah, transform and shift. I mean, like it seems to be that there's a huge disassociation between what we do, like our like in terms of our behaviors, both online but also like in the real world as well. And its impact because it's invisible. It's, you know, we recycle them. We like, we're OK. I've done my bit of often goes and we spoke a little bit more around this in another episode with Joe McLeod's in terms of ends, ends of experience. As much as that look like this is the society which be accumulate and the next week or so. But online, it seems us for a long time and you've spoken about this and worldwide waste on your podcast and in your book as well. For a long time, people perceived on online your website design or UX design product design to be the greener of the of the kind of approaches to design. Because it's not wasting paper, we're not cutting down trees. And that is being perpetuated for for a long time. And I fell into that trap as well. So what is it about the course Earth experience design? Who's it for and what kind of things can people expect to get out of us,
S2: as you indicate there? You know, one of the things to really reconnect actions to really understand behaviors. So there's an in the book Worldwide Waste or the final or near last chapter. There's four things that I say that we can we can do to try and make things better or try and move in in the right direction. And the first one is about about what you know. Is it worth it? So, you know, we'd be looking at a true world and true cost in the environment, so I'll come back to that in in a few minutes. But the second one is the waste that, you know, digital has a weight and the heavier it is, the more polluting it is. So, you know, a great challenge from digital design is to design the lightest to lightest way. How can we design with the lightest weight possible in in the process? So there are numerous techniques and looking at the options and you know, and maybe one thing here so that a small decision by decision that we could make now is if we if we turn our cameras off because I don't think our cameras are being recorded. Just a simple thing that that I say about an idea if you if we speak for an hour. An audio that will take about 30 megabytes of data. Whereas if we speak for an hour with video, that's about 300 megabytes of data. So we could have scenarios where you know you start your meeting and five or 10 minutes you leave the video on because it's nice to get, you know, to see people. But then you move to audio, you're always looking for the lightest option, and audio is lighter than video. And you know what as well. Psychologically, it's lighter for a lot of people. You know, there's a lot of stresses, too. There are a lot of studies coming out. People don't like watching themselves constantly seeing their own face coming back better than other people's faces. So there's a lot of stuff that light for the planet is also light for you, you know, and people saw lightness designed for lightness, you know, design, you know, lose weight in the design process. So that's the second one since the first one. Is that what you're really asking in it and asking that question at an experience level? You know, is it the water to the Earth? All the materials? The second one, you know, to lose weight, whatever we can in the design process and a connected one that's often interrelated is in waste eliminate waste. So wherever there's waste and the process clearly identifiable, you know, removes that. So a simple example of that might be, you know, in web design, you're you're sending down 300 kb of of success for the page, but it only needs 12. You know, that page doesn't need to be added to the layout at page only requires 12 what you said. You send it down as a package because you are too lazy or it's part of a framework or stuff like that. So constantly eliminating waste in in the design process. And there's two areas as there is which which the weight area. There's design waste and there's use waste. So there's the waste that occurs during the design process. And then there's the waste that would occur in in the process of using that thing that you have actually designed. And and so that's the third one, the fourth one you know, it would be looking at. Don't, don't do it. Wait, what? I can't wait that often. You know, the the best thing to do is to do nothing or create nothing or, you know, to to maintain rather than to create. We have been brought up in this tent culture of of creation and the very act of creation creates. Negative things as well, and a lot of times there's there's enough there already. And we should, you know, take time and really think more about things and think about, is there stuff we can reuse or is there stuff that's already out there? So it's a kind of working with the people around, you know, helping evolve a new design philosophy that is, you know, contrary to this modern consumptive extract of planned obsolescence, you know, nothing lasts. Type of design philosophy that everything is so surface that that, you know, we need. We need it. We need to change, you know, the culture, the way we think about things.
S1: I mean, if there's people listening out there that are user experience designers or product designers or just anyone that is in the role of creating. New things or new new pieces of value for their business. What can they expect to to take away from it in terms of actionable things? Is there like is it an interactive workshop? How do you see it working?
S1: Yeah, but on the metrics thing, they're being able to measure and build that narrative out to your employer or your organization and say, Well, actually what we're building are not being used. It's it's so currently I know from speaking to Joe McLeod, lots of our physical devices that are at home that are inanimate like fridges and so forth. They don't have any metrics associated with them. So those organizations don't know what's being used and not used. So in some instances, metrics are completely required to help enable that narrative to change within the organizations. And what do you think? I know you said like, there's a huge cost there, but I think if you think of it in terms of the digital realm, I know what you mean, like analytics and stuff can add to the page weight and slow it down. And then there's a cost associated with that.
S2: So interesting, you know, because you know, I've been involved in the web since the mid 90s and. You know, it used to be Web trends back in 96, 97, and you know, I remember, you know, spending years in meetings, discussing analytics. And at one stage, I remember looking around the room and there was about 10 or 12 people in the room. This big organization, huge website, you know? And you know, I was just thinking to myself, this is torture. Absolute bullshit. You know, here we are discussing the analytics. Yeah. And none of us have a clue what they mean. And we're just we're just pretend we're being intelligent here. All the page views Middleport, the visits said, you know, and they spent this amount of time on the page and and this abandoned that abandonment rate. And if people were honest, genuinely honest, 99 percent of people that I've met have not clue what they're talking about. So most analytics, most analytics is actually great. So of course, there are certain environments where it's critical. But the amount of analytics that we produce ninety nine point nine percent of it is absolute crap, and it's absolute useless. I mean, think of the madness of how would you use analytics if you were a health website in a pandemic? You know, all visits are going up a really popular, you know, like, I mean, what does that mean? Oh, they're spending loads of time on our page. I wonder, do they have COVID? You know what? What sort of crazy? Most analytics they could be telling you the total opposite things. You know, they spent a long time on the page where they're confused. Or was it a really good page like most of the time? Exactly. Because I spend like we, I look at analytics and then I look at people using the website they like. The analytics would be like telling a totally different story to the actual reality of people. So, yeah, I think we should depend less absolutely analytics and more of an observation of human behavior if we really want to understand what's happening and what's not happening in an environment. But again, I'm not disagreeing in the sense that there may be situations, but I just find we don't think enough. You know, we just don't. We don't we don't make wise decisions. We make stupid, quick decisions. You know, like you, too, I'm sorry. Yeah, let's get loads of analytics. And sometime later, we'll figure out a way to analyze the most. Analytics is an absolute game and turn them off. I know there's
S1: I know people listening to this podcast now will be like, OK, I'm sold on this, but I work in an organization that has absolutely no plan or really like my boss doesn't show that they care about the situation. And I want to call out a quote by Ilia Prigozhin, who John Thakrar alluded me to a number of years ago. And he said that in an unstable, complex system, small islands of coherence has the potential to change the whole system. And I remember when John quoted that I hadn't heard that before, I probably should have, but I hadn't. He just basically explains that even out at your own, being at your own self level, you have the power to change the system. So you coming into this course, even if your organization doesn't really display any of the signals or appetite of wanting to change or thinking like this, but you bringing this in and helping maybe inform one other person that you work with, you can start a movement from within, and that's something that's really, really important to us that this is doing. And this is a city that it's just not always might. You might completely disassociate yourself with the values of your organization if you're working for an FMCG or whatever it is. This course is going to give you the capability to help shape the narrative to help kind of transform that complex system that you find yourselves in. And that's what Jerry's created. He's created a three hour interactive workshop that really focuses on that. That really helps shift the conversation into the more the actionable state. And I know for one, Gerry, I'm really excited about it now is that the last week of January should know this and off the top of my 19th of January, Jerry said. It's only around the corner. You'd only be getting over your Christmas dinner at that stage. And I know for for people listening in, if they're clicking on, it's in the show notes. There's a link to this course in the show notes we're donating years of each ticket to a not for profit, working for environmental change in Brazil. They're doing quite a lot of work in this space story. Do you want to talk to us a little bit more about what it looks
S2: like over there? Brazil is a very complex society. It's it's got its completely opposites. It's got, you know, a basic maniac in charge trying to destroy the Amazon and obstructing many others trying to, you know, really, you know, save and and and it's interesting here to see, you know, our whole. We always look down on recycling. You know, you can see in a society that that, yeah, as humans, we we are contemptuous of recycling. You know, every every evening, if you look out the window, you see a bunch of guys walking down the street with is carrying, you know, these these big cards and the cards are full of cardboard that are full of plastic. And basically, those those poor guys have spent the day going around rubbish tips or whatever around the city, either. They specialize in different things and collecting cardboard or recycling. And you know, in Brazil, you can fix practically everything because there's just such a huge difference in the world of society. It is extraordinary world and is extraordinary poverty. So a lot of the products of the wealthy that when they get rid of them, you know, end up being used by the poor. So there's so there's there's massive workshops everywhere to take things apart and said Brazilians are tremendously, you know, innovative in relation to fixing things. But here's what we want to do with them in the West. We want it. We want to, you know, if if we followed the model of capitalism, then all of that fixing would disappear and we just start buying up tools and, you know, but by just throwing stuff away. So the margin of success in society is, you know, we are contemptuous of those people who recycle. We want to get to a state where we recycle nothing, you know, and we just throw all the plastic away. That's what we regard as as a success. And you know, you have to to be a different model. We like the idea of how we talk about a little bit in the course of re-use designing stuff. You know, there's loads of great stuff happening around design systems, you know, design stuff that can be reused. Design stuff that can be fixed. Dan has just announced a new laptop where I think they've gone from 16 screws to four screws, you know, in the process. So they've made a whole. Range of decisions in the design process to make this laptop fixable. To make this laptop repairable, so we as designers of digital things, should be asking the question how how will this be disassembled? Can it be disassembled? What are the components of this which could be reused rather than almost constantly reinventing, you know, new things? So I think you know this, you know, the cultural change. Hopefully this discourse will set us on it, you know, help in some way. But it is like what you said, just finishing up that that about John Tucker said that somebody else said nothing. Humans have made cannot be changed by huge, you know, by humans, human. Anything human made can be changed by humans.
S1: Yeah, there's there's a few things in that like and there's just touching on the the topic there that you said about ends and so forth that Joe McLeod, who has written and the book and now engineering is working with us, that this is doing now on creating their own course so people will able to get a much better understanding how they can take this, the learnings from Joe's books and into action. So we're going to be working with Joe on that. And then there's another course from Ballina Raffi on the Essentials of Thrive ability, which which starts, I believe, in February and March. Yeah, I think it's the March, the 24th from recollection and the principles of nature to making organizations a force for good. So there's if there's a few courses that we're working on at the moment with the first one that I believe is going to set the way for the rest of 2022 is with Gerry McGovern on Earth experience design, which Gerry having me on the date there again. January the 19th is January 19th. And let me just say this, I'm on the website. You see January the 19th.
S2: Oh, okay, yeah. And that ends. Sounds brilliant as well from just being done, you know? Yeah, this book is brilliant and brilliant, brilliant concept. And you know, it's so maybe there's a mood of change. I mean, when you say, what's what's going to change, you think, Gosh, you know, nothing I can do has any big impact. But if we were lucky enough to be part of a wave or a movement and we're all you know, but but doing nothing is not an option.
S1: Absolutely. I mean, being active and talking about this thing is what we need. So even if your organization, as I said, is not really aligned to your own personal values, join Gerry on January the 19th for this course because it will help you build that narrative and bring a fact almost of of material to that conversation within your organization because action needs to happen. No, this isn't something that's that's going to be put on hold for another 15 or 20 years. We need to do something about this now. We need to change our business models. And what better way to start off the new year than with Gerry McGovern and Gerry the 19th? Gerry, it's as always, it's a gift. Speaking to you, it's not even a pleasure. It's a gift. If people want to follow you on Twitter, what's the best? What's your euro or your handled Gerry?
S2: Just Gerry, McGovern, Gerry. And, you know, just to say as well as what you're doing, you know, this is it's part of a really good movement, a movement for good, you know, because we designed our way into this problem. So let's design a way.
S1: Absolutely, Gerry, stay safe over there. Have a great Christmas, and we're looking forward to know for the, you know, when you get back into Ireland, uh, in probably the middle of next year, at some point, I'm sure would like, stay safe,
S2: thank you and stay safe as well.