Leigh Baker is a very experienced veteran of the manufacturing industry, and brings this grounded, realistic thinking to sustainability. She's a brilliant guest, a quick-wit, and out-of-the-box thinker, and her first episode with us was a listener favourite. Now, Leigh is back to talk to us about human systems, the way we make decisions as human beings, and how we can effectively influence people towards sustainability, and away from the climate crisis.
Special Guest: Leigh Baker.
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Hello and welcome to Episode 31 of climactic your story on climate change. I'm your host Mark Spencer and today's show is an interview with Lee Baker, a sustainability expert based in dandenong east of Melbourne. This is Lee's second time on climactic and we're so happy to have her back in our first episode with Lee we learned all about Paul Hawken, and project drawdown, which has been a very deep well for ideas and inspiration for the show. So in today's episode, we go a slightly different direction talking to Lee about human systems, the ways in which societies and individuals make decisions and actually affect change. This was a really great chat with Lee, and I'm really excited to be bringing it to you. Just one quick note, before we get into it. I sat down with Lee and had a chat for over an hour. And there's so much great stuff in here that because some of it was very specific to Melbourne, in terms of the people and the projects involved, those references actually won't be in the show. But I am interested in maybe putting up a full length unedited version of that chat later on. And I'd love to hear what you guys think about that. I'm very conscious of the fact that the moment the bulk of our guests are coming to us from Melbourne. I don't want to have the show become to Melbourne centric. So we've got a choice to make. Do we include all the references to Melbourne specific projects or people or do we try to to steer conversations to new more broadly accessible, personally, I'm leaning a lot more towards the first because I want to know what's going on in the a CT on the Gold Coast over in Perth, everywhere around Australia and South Pacific. I want to know what the dynamic is actually like, on the ground. To pull that off, though, we need interviewers from all of those places. We need people to step forward and say, Yeah, I can have a chat with somebody doing something great in my local area. If that sounds like something you're excited to do, or you know of someone who might be excited, just get in contact with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we'd love to have a chat with you about widening the climactic network. All right, so without further ado, we'll get into this interview with Lee Baker. And let me know if you liked it and if you want to hear the full unedited interview later on. Lady thank you so much for sitting down with me again for our second proper episode. Now we've talked before and I've recorded it and it's just been like it's it's there in the can for future But you had some time coming into the city. And we decided we should probably reprise our first episode, people really liked hearing from us that there was things we can actually do about the situation, we don't have to be overwhelmed and hopeless. And that's just so exciting. And I love getting the chance to talk to you about this. So you gave me a kind of a range of options of what we could talk about, I'm so lucky to have someone like you that is, is knowledgeable in these fields as multiple things you can speak to. And so you gave me these options. And then one of them was human systems, I thought, well, I'm a human. So that sounds interesting. And, and I know from the very top level human systems, the systems that we humans use to self organize in society that we use for decision making. And it's by understanding these systems and utilizing them to actually make change that that's the way we're going to get things done not just by pointing at things and saying that's wrong, we should change it, we actually have to address the methods whereby we would change it. So human system So you want to take us through a journey? Yeah, let's do it. And this is the reflection of my journey after 20 years is it person in Australia manufacturing, whatever happened in a project to stop it working, was never about the technology. It was always that human systems seeing as humans, we're not really fond of change. As humans, it's sort of changing wills threat. Most of the people most of the time, that's what we're dealing with. And that's what I saw. over those 20 years, there was never a technology problem. When I got hooked into the sustainability space, I saw exactly the same thing. We don't have a technology problem. What we have as a whole collection of human beings 7.5 billion last time I looked at the number, who were doing things alone, always done it. That's what it is. I'd say I heard the other day someone mentioned off and on now that we're 8 billion people, and I thought, surely that's not right. But I also didn't want to go check just in case like it didn't sound like it might. That might not be impossible. I remember as a kid saying, yo, we're at 6 billion. And now we are seven 7.5. Yeah, so that's, that's a whole lot of cats to try to hurt in the same direction. Yeah. And the industrial systems that we have, by and large, if you think about the production line came from Henry Ford. That's sort of 1920 you're about 2 billion people on the planet. In that time, it seemed like it was perfectly valid, that we could extract all the resources that we wanted from the ecosystem. We could emit all the waste that we wanted to into the ecosystem and that we could explore ecosystems and communities together. Work done to get products made, get services delivered, and it would all be fine, man, maybe it was back then. Back then yeah, Africa was deepest, darkest Africa, it was a mystery. I don't think there's too many terrestrial mysteries left at least on the surface of the land to thoroughly conquer planet at this point, isn't it? Yeah. It's about humans and who we are and how we come together to work in systems. That if we want to change the way that we do business to do it smarter, do a cleaner to do it in a way that protects our future. Then the challenge is not technology. The challenge is understanding humans. Understanding how we cooperate together in systems and understanding how we can motivate people into Yeah, oh, want to do this. Which is one of my old coaching trainers called the art of constructive seduction. Great tagline. And that's what this is about. And while we work on rash assumptions, like humans are logical and business makes decisions based on bottom line, rational economics, we're not gonna get there. Because business is no more rational than any other human activity. We just rationalize it a bit better. We're gonna be going back after the fact and pretending that was done for the right reason. But that's Yeah, the neurobiology of the individual human being is that our brain runs on about the equivalent of a 40 watt light bulb. Yeah, we're biological creatures. There is not a lot of energy spare to draw that brain. It actually uses quite a lot of what we we put out every time But it is of limited perception. It is wired, as we have evolved over time. So the frontal cortex can occasionally do logic is pretty limited. But most of the time, most of us operate on automatic on very old fashioned habits. per se, a lot of those habits are also generated from the education we've had, which is a very 20th century education system. A lot of us have still gone through, we are preparing ourselves for it. Yeah. And yeah, if you think about how we learn language, if you think about where the accents that we have come from, it didn't start in school. We learn habits of anxiety, optimism, whatever we learned, growing up, and I'm a baby boomer, I learned from my parents who grew up during the Great Depression. So they look at my life and I say You've got food on the table, you've got clothes on the back, you've got a roof over your head, you've got parents who are taking good care of you, you're getting an education. Let's see, what else could they pay to life? That's all the things we never had. It's no wonder the baby boomers do a bit of consuming along the way that are told to them. You're just living as you were taught. Yeah. So all our attitudes, all our assumptions, our assumptions, like governments, wrong countries that governments control business. Yeah, we looked them before we had time to think of because we step back and examine them. Now. Some of the assumptions that even Yeah, world leading environmental campaigners ran on a deeply, deeply flawed, but we've inherited them and we don't always observe them. We still think that humans are rational, I think therefore I am, which I think was Descartes and around the 1700 If we were rational, you would never drive past the cancer hospital and see the patients and the staff and the visitors out there smoking. Yeah, it's a beautiful example of her rationality. Yeah. It would be nice if we were, we're not. And so people who think, well, if I just explain the facts, and if I create an understanding of this really desperate future threat, then I will influence human behavior and people will change what they're doing. operating on an assumption that is really not valid. We evolved on the plains of Africa, or some say Europe now, but wherever it was, the plains there was a rustle in the long grass. The ones who thought all that could be a saber tooth was the ones who survived. So we are biologically coded for anxiety. We are Logically coded to avoid short term loss on that smoking mountain on the horizon. Not a problem. Here now today, I've got a I've got to avoid those saboteurs. So that's what we brought through with us. Yeah, it's not good. It's not bad just is. Yeah. Yeah. A Yeah. A limited conscious processing capacity, a tendency to act on habit on reflate with on reflex without reflecting. That means if you say to somebody, oh, you should do something different. They immediately go, Well, what am I going to lose, particularly when you're coming from a sustainability message that for the last 30 years has been relentless, in terms of something terrible is going to happen. And people are going to have to buy lists and use lists. And businesses gonna have to comply more. There is no motivation for the average human being. Yeah, that's the message that doesn't trigger any of the behaviors in us is not appealing. It's actually those the reverse. Yeah. And one of the gifts that we have and the one of the reasons that I still am relatively optimistic about what we can do is we now like never before have an understanding of human beings. So a guy called Martin Seligman who did some research on helplessness years and years ago. And what he found is that if you make a problem permanent, and if you make it pervasive so that it's everywhere, and if you make it a personal problem as a result of the failure in the person, whether it's your greedy consumer or you evil capitalist, what you create is helplessness and helplessness does not inspire action. Nothing beats action. Yeah. So you look back on 1970s 1980s messaging and you go, guys, if you want to create action that isn't not healthy, so to better understand human systems, with your background in the manufacturing industry, and you started off by saying that whenever a new process or a change was attempted to be made, and it didn't work, it wasn't a failure of the technology was a failure of the prepping of the people involved or failure that the human element of that change gives a good example of a successful change. You saw happen that used human systems as well. And it may be one that didn't kill him and the negative comes to mind first, of course. And it was years and years ago and it was in a warehouse in a pharmaceutical company, and they were going to put in Automated picking equipment is pretty groundbreaking in those days. So what you'd see now like an Amazon warehouse and Wi Fi, yeah, yeah, it was far less sophisticated, but it was the beginnings of that. And why are we gonna do it is because they had a literacy problem in the warehouse. Okay, so they had a lot of people in the warehouse English a second language. And so they were picking orders wrong. Yep. So they put in this wonderful, amazing picking machine that was in extraordinarily complex. So it needed specialist operators and then I neglected to work through will who was going to load the machine from the other side. And it was going to be the same way house people with the same literacy issues actually hadn't accounted for or made any. So it actually went in it actually worked, that the amount of effort involved and so at one level Yes, she could take the box and say after two years, yes, it did what it was supposed to, but it was supposed to do that within 12 months. And in the meantime later just at the success level we can vary government deck as well like oh, no, we cleared the bar after we lowered it. Yeah. And that's Yeah, that's just human nature. We are not rational we rationalize. Mm hmm. So it's when you engage people if you tell them why you're doing what you're doing, if you engage them with what does that mean that then if you work through the process, well that means this bit of your job is going to be harder but that means that bit of your job will become easier is the trade off worth it and get people aside? Then nine guys keep not control when you get lucky human immune system at the biological level. I'll resist my don't know why but if you May, I'm going to push back. So knowing how to get people over that hump of being opposed to change being resistant to change or, or making it as smooth as possible. Let's see, I think, inherently we will dig our heels in. Always. Yeah. Although, nowadays, I don't want to be the one to always throw out your old smartphone metaphor. It's like, Oh, well, we are all very eager to upgrade our phones and change that we have to get used to something new. Because is, is going back to your constructive seduction technique of you can see all the benefits right there. You're you are motivated to make a change because it is appealing, but it's only appealing for some people. Yes, yes, it's true. I have a friend who's still carrying rallies iPhone three really quite proudly. saying, Yeah, this is enough for me. I just need to make phone calls. I am not seduced by the better camera lists, that although he probably totally plays with my phone. But we have reached a tipping point, at least in that market where the majority of people do want upgrade. They do want the bigger, better faster. Yeah. Because somebody told them what the benefits are. Yes. So us here working in environmental spaces and climate change circles. We need to just get better at saying what the benefits are and then absolutely easy for people to change. Yeah, that goes study marketing. Hmm, I was gonna I was gonna ask you, I'm getting into it. Like with young people listening? What's the best way to start learning about human systems? And then what are the potential applications because like, straight away potential applications of getting people willing to make change? Well, change is a constant even though we don't like it. And we've got a lot of change on horizon, whether we address climate change at scale or not. Either way, changes locked in, absolutely barreling down the tracks at us like a train. So then In any potential occupation, any life from this point forward is going to need to manage change. Yeah. Even if it's just just in their own life around why they have hard. What's it like to manage change? Hmm? Is that sound fun? No. It's like fully embrace and get the most out change how we thrive on chat? Yeah, make the best change. And that's where I come from in the sustainability space. It's like who says it's a cost? Yeah, who says it's all about us having lists, but it comes from the beliefs that we have about the systems what we believe that because the government is control. Now, if you think so you go to your local member, you lobby them, they go to the party. Eventually you get a bit of legislation through what does that legislation probably do that legislation says business you've got to comply with these standards. So see, our sustainability officer will eventually And reluctantly look at it see the minimum that they can do. I go from an engineer or a product designer or a logistics person and say, Well, what do we do about this? Now that's sort of the long way round. I'd rather at least go to the CEO, if not to the engineer themselves, and say, yeah, how can you improve your career by understanding how to work with human systems, and by directing it towards some of the $74 trillion in savings available in the project drawdown research, or the $12 trillion of private sector opportunity available in delivering on the UN sustainable development goals? Let's make it interesting about new technology, smarter technology, and yet, it's still not about the technology generation coming in. Through the workforce now into the workforce there has an amazing opportunity to start thinking, Well, what how do i do human systems better? If I keep an eye on social media, not just for the next iPhone, but for behavior change, if I look at systems thinking, if I look at behavioral economics, Richard Solow, recently won a Nobel Prize in Economics for how can I use behavioral economics? How can I take something as boring and 70s? Is Myers Briggs personality taught and use set not as a labeling tool, which is how it's been abused by way too many HR departments to make people wrong, that say, if the human race is broken into these four groups, how can we use that as a model For how to influence each of the four different groups, if I understand that how can I make things happen better? If I go to marketing and marketing to great place to start? Because we're all marketers in one way or another whether it's marketing to our partner what movies that we want to see, or kids marketing to their parents well, holiday they want to go on on what toys they want Christmas. Yeah, good. Yeah. If everybody who cares about sustainability stop guy marketing is evil. Yeah. Turn it to the light yellow. harness that power for good. And yeah, that is fundamentally human nature. And that's got a bit at a controlling selling is way too many consumable products that haven't been designed into a circular economy mode where they could be infinitely remade into more consumable products and that's the core thing of consumption. Is that Consumption inside a linear economy might not make it use it don't put rebate yet something something that's the problem like the consumption has led us to create lifestyle so we enjoy having we're only scared of the change so you don't want to give it up like yeah the lives we have granted there's there's no there is anxiety in the workplace people are suffering mental illness and stuff we there are downsides of life but I personally don't want to give up most of my lifestyle I like the live in apartment building and catch the train for this city and go to eat it a variety of places and yeah even you technology some people look at the smartphone and go Yeah, and look at all the resources and minerals. Yeah, think about maybe your you may not remember get blasters and landline telephones. And you had your camera separate. And you had your headset for it. Yeah, and yeah, you have maybe a vinyl record player. All these are done. Yeah. The one device that I'm holding up in front of you now has replies probably in five and 10 things. Yeah, even an encyclopedia. Yeah. And so we've got to be able to see the reality of the human systems, we've got to understand that 35% of the human rights is passed focus 35% of the human rights is present focused so that 70 75% say 25% of the human rights slip is in any way comfortable thinking about the future. Now, I'll swap models now from Myers Briggs to one of the marketing models called diffusion of innovation and identified five populations, innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. Okay innovators 2.5% of the population, early adopters 12% of the population And then there's the rest. So yeah, there's 15% 85%. If you've got something new, then you've got to get it from the innovators and the early adopters, you got or call to the rest of the population, guys. You want something? That's the skill, and we have the knowledge base. And so for young people interested in sustainability, spend 50% of your time studying circular economy and biomimicry, Cradle to Cradle product innovation, the toolkit of future creations and then and then the other 50% of your time dealing with humans as light is not as you want them to be. Mm hmm. Because the other things that we know about the human populations that's 3%, of psychopathic sociopathic to a clinical level. Wow. So there's more psychopaths, then innovators. And sometimes the innovators are psychopaths, but a couple of lights Yeah, differently and it's probably Something in weird creatures. Yeah, up until even 100 years ago. If we didn't belong to a family in a tribe, we died. We're still wired that way. We're still wired to the majority want to belong. Autism advocate Temple Grandin is on the spectrum itself. points out that was my tribe was the weirdos who went in the corner and pounded rocks on rocks come up with the first Flint axe. Wasn't that chatted a lot around the fire. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And, like I said the food to fake the rock. Yeah, Mcdo because the people who are willing screwed in the group because that's where their their power in the security was coming from. They cared a lot more about the social dynamics and just keeping up with that was was 90% of the time. Yeah. And so yeah, limited mental energy was being spent on the present. Yeah, so around three quarters of the population cares about getting on with the grip looking good, not looking good. Who's got more power? Who's got more prestige? How do I keep in most the people? Who has a pair on the prestige? Because if I'm on the outside, I'll get bullied. Yes, sir. makes sense for the president if the President is sustainable one that can carry on or definitely, unfortunately, we're not in that state at the moment. And we're we're currently sitting on a cart that's on a track. That's the cliff world carrier, what's the cart and not the track underneath is not the cliff. So those of us are in that 15 to 25%, who are thinking about the future worrying about the future. They get a lot more skill. Yes. In changing human systems, and this is one of those things where I have my opinions on the top list of things to study and everybody will have their opinions, the importance Is that you shift your perceptual systems? How do I learn to understand people better? How do I learn to organize group interaction together? Because one of the things that we know that human perception is what we perceive is limited by what we believe, and the questions that we're asking. So, if we believe that consumption is evil, then we will go looking for ways to reduce consumption if we believe that government controls business when we will be lobbying in government. If we ask the question, well, who actually designed the product that's sitting in front of me now? And what system is a part of? Then you find a different target audience, and they're the makers of the world, and they'll probably be blown away by learning about biomimicry, or Cradle to Cradle Can I show? Yeah, I was thinking that this before and you're saying, you know, do you want to go the route of lobbying government, a lobbying counselor to lobby the party to make a change to tell the company to tell the engineer. And when that happens, that's the way people are doing things now, very well intentioned, but so you do that. And then that work gets dropped on that engineer's desk and to the engineer, that's just some work to do. They're happy to have some work to do, that's fine. But it's just work. But if you'd taken that bright idea to the engineer directly had that conversation, that's a promotion. for them. We've thought this great thing, here's what we can do the consumers gonna love it, because here's all the benefits the idea everyone wins quicker and more with that system. And the other thing is, it's a message goes a long way around to the government to the CEO down the chain by the time it gets down to those brilliant designers. So it's going to be so negative, and it's going to be all about scale, all about compliance, and it's going to be The goal of zero reduce our emissions reduce our energy use, it's not going to be design me a living building that makes more water than it uses that makes more energy than it uses actually sequester carbon instead of emitting it. You must cut water use by X amount. And x is the limit is the is the lowest amount possible is the regulation. Yeah. And that's where you're in position. Yeah. And you also run into something called the law of diminishing returns. Because to get that last 2%, or that last 1% becomes increasingly hard, because you're unconsciously doing it inside of the design of the existing system. Mm hmm. It's, it's when you start asking different questions and open it up that people are. Yeah, yes. So the short term and Scala zero, but the long term is actually a building sequesters greenhouse gases. Oh, I can do that five different ways. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And rise around that ball. Yeah. So yeah, that's why living buildings is one of the Jordan coming attractions. Yes, I'm gonna train you to be able to quantify with the existing stable datasets yet. But it's up there. And so if if you can get to the entrepreneurs, the innovators, if you can get to the engineers who love a new challenge, I have a lot of friends or engineers Surprise, surprise. And one of them said to me a while ago, you know, like, we love solving problems. If you give me a problem of a small Skype, I will solve that problem. If you double my Skype, I will go Oh, yes, please. If that's what you want, give me the criteria for success and I will design you something that delivers on that, but you got to give me the scope of the problem. And so while most of the designers and makers inside tradition supply chains are thinking in terms of one way systems, it's gonna end thinking in terms of reducing waste and reducing energy. They can be limited, turn around and open it up. And that's what Paul Hawkins doing was drawdown, one attack on fi maxed everything else 74 trillion in long term savings from shifting toward economies that sequester greenhouse gases instead of emitting them. What else is he quantifying in database? Do they have as the 1000 coming attractions? really powerful technology that can't be quantified yet? What else have I found out 1 billion new jobs in the emerging sectors that are going to be more difficult to own? So that's what he's on about. Yeah, this is not a challenge. In AI technology. We have the technology and when we get smarter at change human systems. And if we combine that smartness of changing human systems with the vision of businesses, regenerates ecosystems, then we end up in a whole different place and we end up with and yeah, Paul Hawken doesn't like how he says, hope is precise and feel what we need is fearlessness that we end up with something to aspire to. And if you think about it, 200 years ago, people got on sailing ship. I sailed around the world to the other side of the planet, they got off and West Coast of the US are in Adelaide, and I walked halfway across continents, because I might find gold. aspiration for something better, is a fundamental human driver. Go call if you're listening. That's what we need. And it's there in front of us if we prepared to give up Humans being logical humans being good, except that humans are disliked weird and we're our own predators. And there is no one homogenous human is all different sorts of humans in different sorts of influencing. And there are tools so that we can influence better. And let's do the real work. Thank you so much, Lee. Okay, pleasure. And that was Lee Baker sustainability and systems thinking extraordinare I always really enjoy getting to talk to Lee it's completely different perspective than I normally am exposed to. And I always feel honestly quite a bit smarter after talking to her which is, I think the sign of a good conversation. I hope you enjoyed that as well. If you want to hear the full interview on edited, just let me know drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. At climactic show, or drop me an email email@example.com I'd love to work at the best way to release that and maybe others in future as well. But for now, thank you so much for listening. If you liked what you heard, please consider leaving us a rating and review on iTunes or Apple podcasts or wherever you're listening to this show that really helps other people find us but even more important, if you liked it, please just tell a friend. Thank you so much to our guests today. Lee Baker. Thank you to rich Bowden, our co founder, our producer Caleb fitty Caro, our composer Greg Rossi, designer Abigail Hawkins, and Senior Advisor threatened Miller on behalf of the whole climactic team. Have a great week, folks, and we'll see you next time.