Scrum Facilitators Community podcast

Ethics and Design as a force for good - Astrid Poot

May 05, 2023 Astrid Poot Season 3 Episode 2
Scrum Facilitators Community podcast
Ethics and Design as a force for good - Astrid Poot
Show Notes Transcript

Sjoerd speaks with Astrid Poot: artist, rebel, designer - making people happier, stronger and more autonomous.

We include many topics and ideas in to the discussion, like ethics in design, the power of great stories, system change and more.

Astrid has created lots of tools to simplify the topic of ethics to help people express their values and ideas on ethics, leading to more ethical designs. You can also invite Astrid into your company, to help discuss ethics in design with your department or teams.

Let us know what you think of the episode, tips for next topics or facilitators to invite, and all other input!

Astrid wrote a (dutch) blog as a companion to our talk:  Ethiek kost moeite, maar is niet moeilijk. An english translation: Ethics takes effort but is not hard. In her blog you will find various tools, reading tips and Astrid's own publications, like 'Anger as a force for good' and the children's horror book 'De dag dat de aarde omhoog kwam'.

Are you working with Scrum/Agile and have similar stories and tips to share? Or do you know someone that you want to voluntell to be a guest? Reach out!

Also check out our website, LinkedIn and Meetup

So it's very nice to see what what were these distinctive memories that did shape me? And I decided to look my ever Feiffer's ever building in in the world and that's the radio telescope and doing a no. Welcome to the Scrum Facilitators Community podcast. The place for real conversations around Scrum. Hello and welcome at the Scrum Facilitators Community Podcast. I'm joined today by athletes both who will introduce herself in a short while and our podcast is a community podcast. So what we do is we get people in who have interesting topics to talk about that are slightly related to Scrum Mastery Team coaching, Agile ways of working, or might be something totally different and can inspire us in our work. So I'm sure at Canada I'm your host today and I will try to add some interesting stuff out of our states, although that is not a problem because she does a lot of stuff afterwards. You're already laughing. That's that's a good start. You do a lot of stuff because we discussed before starting this recording, we did a short talk and it was difficult to choose topics. So can you give a brief overview of stuff you're doing at the moment or Yeah. So you're passing the problem onto me. Yes. Yes, I do a lot of stuff and I think and I always when people ask me what I do, it's actually rather difficult to explain. So what I think now, but it changes all the time is that I am an artist and I work as a designer and my method is a designer and I look, I see problems or challenges in society and I pick them up and try to change them. And it can take many, many shapes and sizes. So I've done a huge research on ethics in our design field, but I'm also publishing a book for very small children in a few weeks about the environment. I do a lot of things and I think what I try to do is I try to make other people happy and strong and autonomous because I'm a big believer in everyone's own strengths. I'm a big bit careful towards experts and professionals because I think they tend to make the other people into non-experts and nonprofessionals. But people are often stronger than they know. So the things I make exhibitions, educational programs, fiction, art, everything is to show people that are actually stronger, that they may be less. And it can be in many fields. Yes. And that is exactly one of the points where we touch in our work fields, I think, because as a Scrum master coaching is a big part of your role. Facilitation is a big part of your role, and it's also about getting the best out of the people. It's not about you as a person hosting a workshop or running a a design iteration or whatever. It's about getting the knowledge out of the group and the creativity out of the group and and looking their potential. So there there are some similarity. This. Yeah, I'm curious to see what we get more. And then of course, how would your friends describe you? Yeah, this is a difficult question because it's it's it's sort of trip for humble bragging. I'm not a big fan of humble bragging and but I think I meant to ask my daughter, but she's still asleep, so I didn't manage to reach her in time. So I think my French might say I'm determined, I'm creative. I think many people said that to me. And so it's okay to to repeat. And I think many people believe I'm a bit crazy, which I really like that. Yes. Yes. Yep, Yep. Okay. Yeah. We we need the craziness for the for the creative process I think also. Yeah. But also that there I think I've been reading a lot of books and system change and one of our books is from the seventies that I'm reading now and it states that the ill adapted people or the people who change the world. So if we're all very much into the system of following the rules, nothing will change. But we need to adapt to people to change the world. So embrace your craziness. Yes. And that will cause change. So glue yourself to everything to change. You wrote I'm a big fan of this, so people calling me crazy. I thought at the beginning it was a bit embarrassing, but no, actually I think it's really cool and important to be a bit crazy. Yes. Yes. It's the the catalyst for change, I think. Yes. Yes. It's and it's also been used for marketing by Apple, of course. Very brilliant idea in there. Adheres to the crazy ones, etc., etc.. But that is the point. A marketing aside, right? Mm. Yeah. Yeah. I don't want to advertise anything. It's just pops up in my head that's how. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So thank you for that introduction. And in our podcast we also always have a chain question that the previous guests asked and we asked the new guest, So of course you get this on to you, you've had time to prepare. So I'm curious to hear what the answer is, but I will read it out first. Of course. And the previous question was asked by Mike Glasser, and she asked what thing or experience from your childhood still influences your work today? Yes, great question. And also very nice to think about, because I believe that everything you do in the present or in originates in your own past somewhere. So it's very nice to see what that word, these distinctive memories that does shaped me. And I decided to flip my first ever Feiffer's ever building in in the world. And that's the radio telescope in doing Allo. So it's set in the north of the country next to the the moor. It's a radio telescope built in the 1950s, and it's its only aim was to collect radio waves from the universe to see if there would be alien life. And the other thing they did was to read from these waves and understand the shape of the Milky Way. So it's it's it's a small telescope. But then it was a huge project. It was insecticides, the science budget for the whole country for one year into this single thing, a million guilders by the time. And what I like about it, he said, is show so much love and hope and optimism that you can build something that's completely abstract in a part of the country where there's no scientific consensus, no science, culture or science history into a nature reserve, and you get everyone on board and spend all this money. And then there's this strange thing that doesn't concretely benefit society in any way, only that it shows dreams and hope and and being interested in the rest of the universe. So as a child, my father used to work there and I used to cycle past it all the time. I've always wondered about this beautiful machine just standing there. And so I've been talking. My father passed away a short, a short time ago, so I didn't write a book on the telescope too, to honor him. And I talk to the people who still work there, and they had this beautiful anecdote. It wasn't initiated by Professor Ort, which is a physics professor in, I believe, Delft at the time, and he he wanted to explore for his radio telescope where I was quiet, where there was no traffic, no telecoms, no radio signals disturbing the telescope. And he he pointed at doing a lower than you went to the village. Small village convinced the village council, but also the forest, sir, was the boss of the of the area where it's placed. And he said to these people, your village will have a view on the universe like no other place on earth will ever have. And with these words, he he just won them over. And this crazy project started. And that's been an influence through my life. That's how no matter how big your dreams are, you could always try to realize them. And even the people you expect to convince want to be convinced of your beautiful story and it's still there. You can visit. It's lovely to go there. Go. We put a link in show notes so people can easily find it. And it's also the story also shows the power of storytelling, not just your theory that you're telling, but also, of course, in the story out to the people in the Village embraced this project. Basically how they got one over, it's awesome. So if there are any product owners listening, this is how you present the vision. Listen to Professor Ort. Yeah, yeah. Yes, it's a great example. Thank you for that. I don't know if you've had time to think about it yet, but do you have a question for the next guest already? Yes. Yes, I, I'm a big collector of, of beautiful things, but they can be anything. They can be a plastic model snail or a rock or whatever, because it links to stories again. So it's also storytelling. So I want to ask the next guests, what is your favorite object you own and what's the story behind it? Okay, cool. That's pretty nice. I'm already thinking about it myself. And that's, of course, also why we already let you ask it in the podcast so our listeners can already think about it a bit for themselves. And I'm very curious who will get to answer it. Yeah, we will see you in a little while. Okay. Thank you. That about rounds up the introduction. Are there any things that we missed maybe that you still want to put forward for people who don't know you yet? Or to advertise? Maybe to advertise? No, I don't advertise. I think it's it should be the storytelling today that didn't see advertising. So I don't advertise. And I think what might be interesting to add is that it's what I love about my job because I remember you asking me that too. And yes, I think that that's that's just really that really says something about us as a designer. What I love about my job is that I learn so much. So every project, every topic, every encounter causes new ideas and new new knowledge. And I think that's the best part of my job that I get to learn so much. And being and learning attitude is I think for everyone so rewarding because you you get to engage with other people from this attitude in a very nice way. But it's also so interesting to know ever so always know more will never stop. So that's the best part of my job. So that's why my topics are so diverse. I do it many things because I'm very interested in everything. Probably. Yeah. The good news is the knowledge will never end. Probably there's always more knowledge to be gained and more experience is to be gained. So if you have this attitude, you will never be bought. That's a good thing. So and if we then move to maybe your current area of work or focus. So what area are you currently most passionate about and do you have any tips or advice for practitioners who want to dive into that area or maybe not as experienced yet to to learn about that? Yeah, so there's sort of a route in in in my knowledge development. So like I mentioned before, Essex is now my main area of research and and that originated in my previous topic that I worked on for many years and that's maker education and the maker to maker movement. So it's that's movement where people who use and research technology for fun it's a very fun movement and many things that are originating in the maker movement actually make their way into companies and into society. And it's very much about repairing things, building things, making funny, crazy things. So I did a lot of projects on that and I did a lot of projects on maker education in primary schools. All of schools were actually engaging in technology and making and creativity because of my research and of course, when when I was working at one of the core values that are maker movement is that that you share that it's noncommercial and that that's your user friendly attitude towards everything. And, and as a designer, I use this maker education research topic as a sort of a sort of a break for my commercial work. But then I thought, why do I need a break for my commercial work? Why can't I change my commercial work? It's so sad to have to step away from the core work to to be comforted. So I changed my commercial work, got rid of it, and only do nonprofit work now and now. So that that started. So. So then I started to do the ethics research because that was awesome. Once I was with our team, we made a beautiful project for families who have a little baby with Down's syndrome, and it's a beautiful project where their families learn to work together with their small child, to develop the child and to be be whole as a family around the situation. And it was a beautiful project. And of course this project didn't get many awards, so we were invited to London to pick up to lofty awards, and I said, Yeah, but this is so shoestring, this project, So, so we can only come to London if, if, if there's something in it for the project more than just we getting drunk on a very posh party next to the river, there has to be more to it. So I said, we can only come to London if we are, we are allowed on stage to, to do a speech on a project and about a responsibility of the creative business. So we did. That was very good and afterwards it was just a fancy drink and everyone stepped up. They were queuing up to meet us and to express their gratitude. And it's incredible that you do this. It's such you're such an example. We're definitely going to support your project. And many promises were made. And then afterwards, nothing happened. Nothing at all. Nothing. So we were just sort of the yeah, the comfort for the evening. But afterwards none of these people made reach out to us, None of them, and nothing really changed. And that got me thinking because I've been working in advertising and in different design agencies and I never met awful people. They're everyone's very nice, very committed to good goals, supporting Greenpeace being part of Extinction Rebellion. They do it all. But at the same time they do this awful commercial work and I wanted to know why. So that's when I started my ethics research and a lot of the why has to do with the fact that people feel when you didn't study philosophy, you're not entitled to have an opinion on ethics because it's very difficult and you have to know how to quote comes and you have to really understand what they all meant and said. And it's really hard to do all this. And so so you have to be an expert before you're allowed to speak. And it's going to cost you. If you want to be an ethical designer, that will mean you will never have any money again. You will have to run your computer on Linux and use only open source software, which which is a sort creative people who want to have fancy tools and and and you won't have any income so you'll never look fancy again. And the final one, it's the system. The system can't be changed. It's the way of the world. It can't be changed. But then in my work, I've made a good living with doing only good projects. Well, okay, I don't wear snake leather boots, but I don't like snake leather boots. And so I'm not very rich, but I'm rich enough and, uh, and I've never had, never had this difficulty in attitude towards different big ethics philosophers. So it's to me, it's not, not a habit, not a big problem. So I thought, how can I the things that I do unconsciously, how can I make them available for more people to to help them understand that they're actually much more powerful than then they believe? So I talk to many people and it did a lot of research and and came to the conclusion that if we empower people to express their personal knowledge and values, that are given to them in their upbringing or studies or religion or football club or whatever, and connect them to the knowledge of the great philosophers which are often it's down to the same thing, but in a different expression, different way. And we can help people to vocalize these values in a professional way. Then we can actually change the field of design so it it's not enough to say this doesn't feel good because your colleagues can't deal with it, doesn't feel good. But if you can express why it doesn't feel good to you that often, a very strong, a strong line of thinking that lies underneath it is actually very similar to the source of the great philosophers. And then if you if you manage to be able to if you can express your thoughts in that manner and share them with the team, then you can actually change things for the better in the professional context. So that's the scope of my research and I've been doing it for I think two or three years now and I'm working towards an end product. But of course, because ethics is is a it's an activity. Yeah, it's it will not be another book because there are many books on ethics and design which are all very big and fat and difficult and who has the time to read. So it will be workshops, it will be meetings and maybe it will be some provoking the Style magazine to this course you into action? I'm not sure about that. So I'm working now towards a message of sharing. This will benefit most people without adding more books through the stick that nobody reads anyway. So that's, that's in short, my research. Nice. And so if people want to start with also looking into ethics or maybe if there are Scrum masters or team cultures or I'm just going to use the word I know you don't like it professionals working in companies who want to say, okay, I want to add some ethics stuff to the discussion with my team or with my boss or whatever. Yeah, I start. Well, you can start by inviting me. I like I really like for my project too, to learn. So this is not a commercial plea. This is really for me to learn. I'd like to be a part of that process, so please invite me over. I've done so for some companies already and it's really interesting to to do, but I've also written quite a few articles already that help you so we can put them in the show notes. So there's actually rather a few tools I developed that are a good guide in working with your team in such a way. So I've made a super small summary of the main lines of thinking in philosophy. It's like one drawing that has three theories in one, and there's only ten worse, I think. And but also I've made a set of ten questions that to help you to understand for yourself what is what you believe to be good. And by answering these questions for yourself, you can then create a set of values for yourself. This can be the starting point of a discussion with the team, and that's really interesting because if you take these personal values as a core, then you will benefit from the diversity of your team very much. It's very interesting to see people coming from a different cultural background or a different sexual orientation or a different age or different country to to bring in different values and discuss these values. Then you're very quickly can come to an understanding of what you believe to be good as a team. So on my website there are many tools to do that. So I'll make a nice list, collect them into one block and then we'll put it on the them. That's a really nice thing. So you can just started and obviously if they have questions about it, they can reach out to you, Right? So yes, very much please do, because it's really because I've been doing the research. But of course, it's really a collective effort. I've talked to many people and I've met many people who really opened up about their doubts in in the industry and about the doubts about their work. And it's so valuable to share this knowledge and getting involved. More people will add to the force of the movement. So let me and I also worthwhile I don't know what you think of this, but to define what we mean by design, because a lot of times when I speak to people and ask them what what do you think design is? They come up with just the visual part of stuff, right? So, so they've been designing a website or poster or whatever, or maybe sound design if they, they, they are a bit more creative in lots of it. I think design is more than that. They're what would you say? Yes, I'm really radical in that field. I think everything that tries to change the behavior of someone else is design everything. So a person stopping you at the root is designing a situation he wants to change. So and this this definition, I didn't come up with it myself. It was invented by Victor Popovic in 1974, and he says everything is design and design is education. Everything and everything is design. So you always try to change behavior by designing something. And if you take this definition at the core, it also means that professional designers are not people who are exclusively entitled to design. Everyone can design. And I'm really fascinated and inspired and humiliated and and I don't feel small, humble yet humble by by the actual accidental design that's happening all around us. And I think as professionals, we need to look at that much, much more carefully. So it was a very nice little story about the supermarket where I go next, close to my house, and in the Corona period, of course, people at the supermarket had to keep working and having all this risk of of being infected. But all these people were scared and in a hurry. So they designed a routine through the supermarket. And it was a very personal appeal to the people in the shop to please, please, please stick to the rules they made. And it really worked because it was a personal appeal. So did did the supermarkets, supermarkets professional actually in that moment was a far better designer than the corporate designers of supermarkets who came up with stickers and arrows that everyone ignored because it's a corporate communication. Who cares? So so this this cashier was actually the better designer. And I think as design, it's very good to look at the world from that perspective is to to be very humble about the influence and the attitude that we have towards design and also be very aware of the damage we might do. So yes. And that's the ethics part again. Of course. Yes. The other side of ethics. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So the absolute core of my ethics research is over. The answer to my ethics research is to question. When you're in a situation as a designer, in the broadest definition, there's two things you can do. You can ask yourself, Will, this helps your situation? That's the first question. And then the second question is as important will it damage anyone or anything? And if it damages anyone or anything, it's not a good solution. And if you stick to distill two questions, you'll get stuck all the time. But just interesting where it hurts. There is the problem. So you have to investigate the pain. But if you stick to these two questions, you will always be you will always be aware of the things that you do and things that you cause. So for instance, now with with the AI happening, everyone's really enthusiastic and it's going to solve many of our problems. May be, I don't know, but it also causes a lot of computer calculation action, which end, which causes a lot of energy use, which causes warming of the earth. So there's much more to it than only this this clever tool that might or may or may not help us. There's a lot of things behind it are actually also very important to take into account, because if we're going to use cheat, if we're going to use it, there will be data sent. We will need more data centers and we know we don't like those, but that will be the consequence. So really think of your work in the broadest perspective. And no, you can't change it in the broadest perspective, but be aware and from this awareness you might change into someone or you might find some space in your own practice to make small change or big changes, depending on what you want and what you can do. Because I'm also very friendly. I don't demand people to do chores. Yes, exactly. We have to invite people to investigate this. Right. And make it also safe to explore more, because that was something I was thinking about. And I'm also going to ask you about a challenge you see and have overcome and maybe tips how to overcome it. But first, I want to give you this challenge or hypothesis, maybe why I think many people will steer clear of this topic, because I think when they start investigating it, they will maybe in self-reflection, feel like hypocrites or are afraid that there will be called out as hypocrites because you're asking these questions. But but you're like, okay, you're asking critical questions of social media usage, but you do it on Facebook. Why are you on Facebook? Right? So sometimes you get these responses and I think sometimes people are afraid of of exposing themselves in this way. And I think that is one of the one of the challenges we have to get more people thinking critically about these design choices and the influences. Yes, they do. They're afraid to hurt their reputation. Yes. And they're afraid to do cos anger and other people. And that's also really scary. I mean, when I started this research and I did my first publication on it as such, so no, I'll never, never have a client again because this is so pain in and this difficult, everything's a problem. Never nice meeting any more because she's always finding something to discuss about and, and but of course that didn't happen because I find when when when you think something usually many more people are thinking the same thing but maybe feel a bit more reluctant to express their thoughts. So so when you express your thoughts, you're actually doing it for many people who are a little less brazen in you. So I think it's important to do that because it will comfort other people and make space for other people to express these thoughts, too. So if you're invoke anger, then you've hit the button. So anger's actually really good because if someone's angry, there's this there's something at stake. And that's interesting because if it hurts, then there's a problem to solve. So actually causing anger is really good and expressing your criticism on Facebook. On Facebook, Yes, of course. Because you need to read. So there's always this this this goes it means calculation. Yeah. That that you always have to have to perform. And perfection is like you said before, perfection doesn't exist or perfection is in the way of done with this. Yeah. There the perfect is the enemy of done. Yeah perfect enemy of done. So if you want everything to be perfect, nothing will ever change. Because if I would be very consequent in my ethics attitude, I would be invisible to the world because even sharing things online is already damaging the planet. So. But then nothing will change because I would I would just isolated and eating grass or something. So there's always this calculation. But if you're aware of it and if you understand that that anger is actually very powerful, positive energy to cause and to feel, then you can change. And I like it that you're never the only one who believes it. Yes, that's very important. So and this also brings maybe a nice full circle, because you started out with your own introduction with being a bit crazy and being a bit crazy also takes a courage or it's it's similar, right? It means you do stuff that other people would not do, probably. And this means you can break these barriers and create spaces for other people to think, Oh, well, maybe I wouldn't put it that way, but there is something to this and let me share what do do it? So, so that's, that's really interesting. And then I think that's that's really powerful. And for me, one of the main takeaways of this talk already aside from all the other great stuff you say about design and ethics, and I think looking at the time, because time management is my Achilles heel, I'm very open about that. And we discussed this also before you're used to podcast of an hour, we aim for half an hour. We're going to bring it to a close and who knows, maybe we follow up later or we can organize some workshops together for people to dive deeper if they like. But for now, I think there's already a lot of gold in this. So I want to move to to the closing. And then we have basically also three standard questions that we all to also give people some more stuff to dive into. And the first one is what book or article would you currently recommend to our listeners? Yes. So I'm going to break the rules. I'm going to mention three, but they are really short, so I hope it's loud. So first I think it's very good to to to know that we have as a as a society, we have this understanding of of good. So please read the Universal Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Read it every once, once a month. Just look at it and think, okay, it's my work still in line with this super important declaration and I think many commercial activities are actually not in line. So people are entitled to peace and quiet. I'm not sure if if tick tock and likes are actually maybe they're actually violating this human right. So go over the Universal Declaration of Human Rights once a month, then in the ethics. In the ethics context, read the publication a Bit Rich by Eilis Lauder. It's a research into the value and the cost of jobs in society. And of course, it's it stays, as you would expect it, that low paid caring jobs are very important to society, which are very badly paid, and the people who are paid the most are usually also people who damage society the most. So it's very nice to read this, actually a calculation of the worth of different professions. And finally, for poetry, read the book Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. It's about fungi and lichen and dust. Just best topic ever. It's so interesting. And so as a metaphor, you can use it on celebrity, on everything, but it's also just a very poetic, nice read. It's a it's a nice triptych that you leave us with. And I think people can surely tag on to this. So I'm not mad that you. Two, three. Okay. Okay. We're not publishing this podcast. She wrote, My God. Oh, God. Why, thank you. Yes. And we already have the question down. So that said, it's hours later you see in place. And yeah, we already discussed a bit. People may reach out to you probably through LinkedIn or your website, which will link, but do you have any public talks or appearances planned currently? Well, it's always very irregular and for the coming months it's quite I have some some teaching, but that's not public public knowledge. So right now I'm not not, not in the time coming out of talks but not open. But I'll publish them on my website and please, please reach out because everything I do is thanks to the society and the community. So whatever you have to ask us, say please reach out. I'd like Ted. I hope people will do that. And I also want to reiterate your invitation of getting you in their company to do some workshops and learn about how ethics and design work or could work better, basically because that is what we're looking for right now for their work. So thank you very much for your time. I really enjoyed inviting me. Yes, I really enjoyed this conversation. I do get the idea that if you have an hour to talk and that's three, but there's also some value in keeping it short and focused through. And yeah, who knows, maybe we we can speak again. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you for listening to the Scrum Facilitators Community podcast, the place for real conversations around Scrum. Do you have a story to share in this podcast? Get in touch with us at podcast at Scrum Facilitators dot com.