PRISM: From BECOS to Psychedelics, Here Comes a Wild Future with James Wallman

Dan Harden deliberates with futurist and Stuffocation Author James Wallman on what matters most in design today. They dissect a range of issues, from how the pandemic pushed us into an experience economy to how we can design more meaningful experience-driven innovations that value time above materialism.


Episode Transcript

Dan Harden 0:06
Hello, and welcome to PRISM. PRISM is a design-oriented podcast hosted by me Dan Harden, like a glass prism that reveals the color hidden inside white light, this podcast will reveal the inside story behind innovation, especially the people that make it happen. My aim is to uncover each guest’s unique point of view, their insights, their methods or their own secret motivator, perhaps, that fuels their creative genius.

Dan Harden 0:34
Today, I’m talking with James Wallman. It’s such a pleasure to have you, thank you so much. You are a best-selling author, entrepreneur, futurist, keynote speaker and government advisor. That’s interesting. I’d like to hear about that. I’m gonna say government, right?

James Wallman 0:49
Yeah, I’m also a dog walker.

Dan Harden 0:50
You’re a dog walker! Why is this not the first thing on your bio?

James Wallman 0:55
It didn’t used to be my thing. But you know, and also pick up dog poo therefore. But as you know, I gave a talk yesterday. And you know, when someone introduces you, and you always hear these kind of list of things that you’ve done, and you always think, oh, wow, listen to that. That sounds good. And then you kind of have, especially, you know, since we’ve entered the kind of zoom world of working from home, you know, during this COVID time, you think, Well, actually, I’m at home, and we’re all at home during our days, trying to get through this thing.

Dan Harden 1:23
It’s so good to bring it down to a human level. Isn’t that?

James Wallman 1:26
Yeah, yeah, that’s why. But I do do those other things as well. That’s true.

Dan Harden 1:30
Okay. You have done some significant things, that’s why we wanted you on this program. You’ve also written two best selling books about the experience economy,

James Wallman 1:39

Dan Harden 1:40
Stuffocation, which I read, when I met you; and Time And How To Spend It, which the Financial Times named one of the must read books of 2019. You also run this strategy, innovation and futures consultancy, The Future is Here. It’ll be interesting talk about that. And your opinions have appeared in so many different places, New York Times, Financial Times, The Economist, Wired etc. And let’s see what else here. You advise the British government and your role as sector specialists for the experience economy. There’s a lot of interesting stuff to unpack here with you.

Dan Harden 2:18
And the reason I invited you is the things that you think about are things that I think industrial designers like me and the people that will be listening to this should hear about, you know, it’s like, why are we designing? What is the context of our work? What is the definition of prosperity? You know, ever since the founding of industrial design, over 100 years ago, its primary business objective has been to sell more product, because the corporate rationale was that if you made your products better looking back, then they would be more marketable. And they were, you know, those early industrial designers, they proved that, and their design help to catapult these companies like General Electric, and John Deere, and IBM, and all these amazing companies that they, you know, became. But since then, design has certainly evolved into a much more sophisticated and multi dimensional professional that considers not only product appearance, but the entire user experience. Where we’re really just trying to optimize, you know, starting with the initial brand exposure all the way to product disposal. So nowadays, almost every aspect of the product is researched and tailor made for a desired market effect.

Dan Harden 3:39
But one key and I’m coming to your major question here, one key factor remains the same. The core purpose of especially industrial design is to sell more product and fuel prosperity. Specifically, its purpose is to fuel prosperity as defined by our capitalist model, which means making more money. And it’s all about profit, cost reduction, shareholder value, and going in number one, right? But what about what about people? You know, what if? What about experience design? And how can we evolve this model of prosperity to be more of a humanistic nature? What about wellbeing? What about happiness? What about the things that you write in your book? What are your opinions about this? And then even, maybe, maybe insert some of your more recent thoughts because I think in regards to what we now consider prosperity, I think after the pandemic, maybe we would all question, What does prosperity mean to me? What do you think about these things?

Dan Harden 4:48
I think a lot about these things. I think that is an incredible, an incredibly good, rich question. I feel like I feel like you set me up here to kind of, I could riff from what you’ve just said for probably three to four hours.

Dan Harden 5:03
I love it.

James Wallman 5:06
Nobody wants to listen for that long and that’s, that’s fair. But it’s such a it’s such a rich point that you’ve been I’ve been thinking about. In fact, I was really looking at. I don’t know here, you’re probably a fan of the Atlantic.

Dan Harden 5:17
Of course

James Wallman 5:18
In 1927, you may or may not know this, there was a wonderful essay published by a guy called Earnest Elmo Calkins called Beauty the New Business Tool. Have you come across that is that? Is that like a famous piece that people know about? Because it’s such an important, important turning point is exactly what you were talking about there, in terms of what first came out. So actually you can see it in cars as much as anything. So first of all, you have, you know, the Industrial Revolution produces these, Henry Ford produces these cars. And he makes that crazy statement about how once somebody has one of his cars, they should never need to buy another one, I can’t remember they’ve about verbatim quote or something like that. Okay. And that seems to him like a good idea because he keeps selling cars. And then along comes Alfred Sloan, and others like Alfred Sloan, in particular, General Motors, who does something incredibly simple, he sort of changes a few details and some colors. By season, he borrows an idea which originated back with Louis the 14th, actually, in the time of Louis the 14th, in the luxury industry, with the idea of the seasons, which is where we will borrow these ideas from. Right, so you can go way back to Louis the 14th for this, but the people that really got it right. They were of course, the Americans, and you can see this in the car thing.

James Wallman 6:35
And so in the 1920s, you had this wonderful situation where the problems of making stuff that was good, had sorted now. I mean, of course, we’ve evolved since then. But you know, there were good toasters, there were washing machines that were cars that worked. But in order to, what you needed to do is to get people to buy more and to keep buying. And there was a debate at the time about whether this was the problem of overproduction, or as it also was seen as under consumption. So this was the real moment.

James Wallman 7:05
The 1920s was the flex point, the shift from an industrial economy to a consumer economy. And for the first time ever, we saw of rising standards of living, that have been sustained over pretty much a century, which is incredible. And of course, the Americans did it first. And then the Brits, the other countries copied it, because what this led to was this consumer driven materialistic economy where people would buy more stuff than they need. And of course, consumer engineering was both in terms of not changing the the function of the product but is the aesthetic of the product, exactly as you’re talking about there in terms of industrial design, or one at one element of it, but also consumer engineering in terms of credit.

James Wallman 7:53
Well, the thing is, if people don’t have money to buy a car, they won’t buy a car. But if you loan them the money to buy a car, if you give them credit card, they will go and buy that car, and they will buy these houses, etc. And what that does is it fuels the economy. And what that’s led to is an incredible, unprecedented rise in standards of living that humans didn’t have till then. It’s really easy.

James Wallman 8:18
You know, lots of these millennials today. Now I’m sounding old, but will really kind of be cross about what’s happened, you know, obviously, what’s going on the environment is terrible. We have, we have real problems. But they forget that until, from the point of the 1920s, really, that the masses for the first time, got a chance to have really good standards of living.

James Wallman 8:39
I’ve given talks where I stood up at the beginning and said, who’s had a shower here today? Yeah, and of course, you know, yeah, you have a few people that go, you can see them that maybe this in the UK that go a bit red, but generally everyone laughs and then I say, okay. Imagine, think about Queen Victoria for a moment. Now, you know, geographically the British Empire was the most successful ever. I think you covered about 20 something percent of the world’s mass. You could you could go around the world pretty much without leaving. Was it Queen Victoria? Yeah, Queen Victoria. Yeah, without leaving Queen Victoria’s land. There’s a very wealthy woman and I say to people, what do you think her shower was like? Okay, do you think she had a good shower? Now think about the shower that you used this morning? Who’s shower do you think was better now? Now not in terms , of course, she probably had some pretty amazing mosaics, right? In her shower. But think about the ability to choose the water temperature and the water pressure that you had. Chances are, Dan, you had a better shower this morning than Queen Victoria had for the whole of her life.

Dan Harden 9:39
Is all, everything you just talked about, you know, the rise of consumerism and product and materiality and conveniences. Yes, they make our life. We feel better, perhaps in the moment. Do you think it makes us happier? All this consumption and stuff and materiality and even design? I mean, I think it does. It’s so hard for me to like, place myself back in like 1880. Would I be as happy as I am now in 1880? Or how much of what we have done with after the industrial revolution has contributed to my happiness?

James Wallman 10:15
Yeah. Hey, I’d say it’s a brilliant philosophical question. The thing is living that, you know, we go back to Aristotle, for the idea of living the unconsidered life is not worth living, and consideration is design. So whether you’re thinking about the design in the design is choices, right? So whether it’s the design of a car design of a home design of a life, design of how you spend your time, this is designed design is about choices, I think. So therefore, yeah, there’s loads of stuff that’s come with materialistic consumerism and the Industrial Revolution, which I think has been terrible for us. But one of the things that’s come with it is the ability to have health care, which means that we live longer lives. So we’ve got a lot of, we’ve got a lot more time to be miserable in, at which point, we can make some choices. And I think that too many people have got caught up in the bad sides.

James Wallman 11:05
There’s a wonderful book by a guy called, oh, forgive my memory for a moment. But the book is called The High Price of Materialism. And he’s at Knox University, it’s a brilliant book. And the problem with being materialistic is really bad for your well being. If you think you’re going to find happiness in stuff outside of you. And this is one of the problems that came with materialistic consumerism was that we ended up thinking that if you get the girl the guy, the car, we’ll say the job right? There was a there was an incredible shift in the 20th century from ideas that were internal, and thinking that happiness was about being honest. And, you know, having integrity to being much more the culture of personality rather than character. So everything is about outside and you’ll find happiness outside of you. And that is, has been really negative. So and that’s when my work comes in.

James Wallman 12:01
I refer to Earnest Elmo Calkins piece, partly because I think that in the same way that that essay of his, Beauty is the New Design Tool, I want to write a piece of the Atlantic called Experience, the New Design Tool, The New Business Tool, forgive me. Because I think that we’re at a point today where products are good, services are good. If you go with the concepts in the book, The Experience Economy, about the progression of economic value. Of how we’ve risen from agrarian to industrial to service, and now to experience economy. All those things that have come before have become commoditized. And the great example for this reason, and this is borrowing from Joe Pine, and Jim Gilmore, who wrote this book is coffee. If you think about the value of coffee beans. They’re not worth so much, right? If you think about the service, industrial goods, so you think about buying. You guys have Nescafe?

Dan Harden 12:58

James Wallman 12:59
Right. Okay. So you know, if you buy Nescafe, you know, instant coffee from your local store, that’s I don’t know what that costs about $4 or something. But per cup, it’s probably like 25 cents a cup. And then you get a coffee, service good in a local cafe, maybe that’s where that’s going to be like 3, $4 per cup, right? And then you go to Starbucks, when you go to you go to Starbucks, it’s probably gonna be what, five $6 for a venti, latte, no real milk, you know, some sort of special thing, you can spend six $7 on a coffer. Or you go to a speciality place and pay even more as well, right. So you can see each level here, what’s happened is the previous incarnation of the economy, the the previous thing, in terms of the progression of economic value has less and less value, and it’s become commoditized.

Dan Harden 13:54

James Wallman 13:54
And so if, as a designer, if as a business, you want to stand out, if you want to connect with customers, and where customers are seeing value, and you want to move beyond being commoditized. So you can charge a premium to be successful, you need to think about the next level here. So you can’t make money from commodities. It’s hard to make money from products, it’s hard to make money from services, and really where you need to play where you’ll make creating the greatest amount of value and therefore putting yourself in a position to capture the most value is through the experience.

Dan Harden 14:29
Absolutely. I think even what we’re doing right now, you know, I have a lot of hardware around me, these commoditized products, they’re good ones. But what we’re doing now is something far more than that. It’s the services and the software. It’s enabling us to communicate that we are the way that we are. This is the experience economy happening right now. What we’re doing right now.

James Wallman 14:51
Yeah, I saw this in China actually statistic and it said that something like 93% of people there said that it was a choice between their iPhone or Wechat. They ditched the iPhone.

Dan Harden 15:02
Yeah. Ironically, there’s a parallel drive happening because there’s still this insatiable desire to consume amazing design, right? We’re seeing this everywhere. design has become commoditized. Yes. But more people appreciate it. More people see it, they want that identity, they want the brand association. But what I’m seeing is this insatiable drive is creating this disposable economy, of course. People are consuming product, the way that they watch TikTok, it’s so fast. You know, people will buy something and look at my cool new headphones. And, and yet, it becomes a fad. And they might put it down after a month. And it’s, it’s, it’s gone. They’re on to the next thing. So how do we reconcile this dichotomy of Yes, we understand the experience economy one up, but we also want more hardware, there’s a lot of want, isn’t there in society today?

James Wallman 16:05
Well that’s funny. I mean, again, this comes back to the structure of the design. And I think it was Victor Lablow, who wrote fantastically on this in the 1950s. And at the heart of the consumer project is consumer dissatisfaction. Somebody has to think what they have isn’t as good as the next thing that comes along. And I’m not anti that because that’s, that’s also called progress. And the fact that so many people not just have this insatiable desire to have better things, but that it is available to them that it’s possible to them. And this just wasn’t possible for our ancestors in the masses. But I’m not going to fully agree with you that this insatiable drive exists for more and more products. And it is about the brands because take these headphones that you can see I’m wearing here, these are their Sony’s ones, and I’ve got them in New York when I was there just before the pandemic, and they are awesome. I did some research. But my brother did some research, he got a pair by it wasn’t Sony, it was some other firm. But you know, they’re the great noise cancelling headphones, they work, they do a really good job. Of course, what happens here, you know, somebody figures out a way to do this, like Tesla, for example of how to do, you know, electric cars, and it’s amazing, and you get that innovator, and then someone else figures out how to do it too. And then it becomes not quite commoditize yet, but that will happen.

James Wallman 17:26
My work as a trend forecast I’ve been doing since 2004 is understanding how things change through our societies. And this is data that I may have told you this when we were drunk in Vegas that time. So stop me here if this is too much. But the way this works, and this is based on work originally by a sociologist at the University of Iowa in 1962. And it’s something called the Diffusion of Innovations. It was originally the back end of his PhD thesis, but it became this book. And this observes how ideas spread through any community and it works. It works everywhere. It’s also people call it the Technology Adoption Curve. Nowadays, I’ve seen it called that. But it’s all borrowed from Everett Rogers, the sociologist to figure this out, it basically works in a way that you’ve seen. It’s it’s this smooth S curve of adoption, you get the innovators who try something first, early adopters, early majority, late majority. And then the laggards the ones who you know, the people that still have landline phones.

Dan Harden 18:24
Right, right

James Wallman 18:25
Actually. Yeah, my mom still has on but not many people have them anymore.

Dan Harden 18:29
Yeah, you’re almost extinct. Yeah, yeah. Right. Or the classic adoption curve, that we’re all, especially as designers are all familiar with that. That we try to extend lengthen and elevate that curve. We try to control that curve, that adoption curve. But we’re not very good at it. I would argue.

James Wallman 18:53
When you say control it surely as a designer, the idea is to push it steep as possible to get as many people as buy your product. Yeah, okay, fine. We, you know, you’re you’re an expert.

Dan Harden 19:03
For a more timeless experience. And we really seek that. The opposing force, of course, is technology because even those headphones that you’re wearing now, as good as they are, and I think you were trying to convince me that that no, I’m that is a good product that is lasting, and I am satisfied, and I’m gonna stick with it. But I’m gonna guess it in a year or something better is gonna come along and you’re gonna want that. So the technology is working against that curve. So maybe it’s okay to have cyclical adoption curves where you have a wonderful experience with a product and then you have another one after that.

James Wallman 19:43
Just I know that this is for a podcast, but you can see me on this screen. Can you see how old this iPhone is?

Dan Harden 19:50
Oh my gosh, you actually have a real button on the bottom.

James Wallman 19:54
It does what I needed to do. And I also don’t have email on my phone. So I make it I don’t have email on my phone. I don’t have Twitter on my phone, because I’ve done the research on what you should do in order to be happy. And this is partly this thing about to about this, this move. I’m not talking about it yet. But this move I believe from materialism to experiential ism is to do with the fact that we’ve reached it. It’s not anti materialism, it’s more kind of Super. And I mean, super with the Latin term on top of materialism.

James Wallman 20:22
Now we have enough things. What we should look for. The smart person who’s just stopped for a moment. And let’s use, Ferris Bueller as the great philosopher. Life knows pretty fast, you should stop and look around him once a while otherwise, you’re gonna miss it. What you want out of life is not to die as the person with the most toys in the graveyard.

James Wallman 20:46
Winning nowadays, I think is changing. You want to get the most out of the existence you have you want to live a long and healthful life. Look at look at the push towards healthiness. I mean, in the old days, you live a certain time you do your job, you get your gold watch, and you’d have a short retirement and die. And that’s why all those systems made sense. But now people are living longer. And we’re much more conscious of of what life is going to be like when we’re in our 70s and 80s in our 90s. Because obviously, there’s just been a knock to our life expectancy expectancy because of this pandemic.

James Wallman 21:22
But I think it’s not just about gathering things, but thinking, Okay, I’ve got this four score years and 10, and hopefully, you know, more kind of thing. But I want to live a healthy, fulfilling life, and I want to have this sense of life satisfaction. And within a consensus, I think a consumer society gives us that opportunity. We’re lucky one of the magical things is spare money spent on healthcare.

Dan Harden 21:48
But how do you retool our description of what gain in one’s life means, you know. It just seems like society is on this, this drive to consume all the time. And I agree with you, we don’t need all that stuff, you really don’t when you think about it. I even have to force myself at the end of the day, you’re probably around eight o’clock at night, I just decided I’m not going to look at my phone anymore. I will listen to music, play the guitar, do some art. And I feel this pull. You know, I feel the pull that I really should be in contact or what if I miss this? And I have to just tell myself? No, you don’t need to do that. But what if you know, I think there are a lot of people that maybe don’t realize that they have these choices, and are we conditioned? Are we conditioned as as people to, to over consume? I think I think we are. And how do we deal with that?

James Wallman 22:48
That’s a superb question. I think we are conditioned to consume. The problem is no one tells us how to stop because that’s what the system is based around. And that’s the reason for the success of our system. And I think this is why this book Time and How to Spend it has had some resonance and caught on with some people. The FT liked it because one of the things that it looks at is that we’ve taught to consume, but we’re not taught how to spend our time. Everyone want everyone wants to learn the skills of production. But you know, we want to get an MBA, you want to learn how to do social media, you want to learn how to code, but no one wants to learn the skills of consumption of how to manage your time. It’s interesting that you have that pulled down as someone who’s really successful when you talk about listening to music. I’m guessing you’ve got a record player, you got record player or no?

James Wallman 23:34
I do yes. Ah, nice. And the joy, right?

Dan Harden 23:38
The crackle, the pops. Yeah. Listening to some old albums. You know from when I was 16.

James Wallman 23:47
My kids just got into the Fresh Prince of Bel Air or my daughter, she’s just about to turn 10. And I’m like, you know, I’ve got a record of that guy’s, before he was on the TV. She is like super impressed. Now what we need to do is not just think about the skills of production, but the skills of consumption, the skills of living.  A friend of mine, a guy called Brian Hill is at Brigham Young University in I guess it’s in Salt Lake City, but it’s in Utah. And his is the most popular class. He has, like 700 people come to his class, and he’s an experienced design professor. And he takes the learnings from how to design experiences and translate that for people into so this is what you should do with how you spend your time. And I’m nudging him actually, I think he’s gonna write a book, which is great news. And that’s what I did with Time and How to Spend it.

James Wallman 24:40
I talked to people much smarter than me at places like BYU and Stanford and MIT and LSE in London and Oxford and Cambridge, in Tokyo. And I took their ideas and I sort of formed it into something simple that people can use to think about how they spend their time. And the same structure, Dan, I’m sure I’ve pitched this too many times. So forgive me, but can be used for any designer who’s designing somebody’s time when you think about designing experience. Your design is quite responsibility because you’re designing, when you design experience, you’re designing somebody’s time my first book Stuffocation, looked at how should you spend on how should we spend our money? And the answer was, spend less on stuff, spend more on experiences, it will make you happier. And the follow up was a was a response to the question that people would say to me, this is great James. Spend on experiences. Great. So what kind of experiences should I choose? I didn’t know the answer. And the answer, when you think about it is okay these are the experiences you should choose, which is really saying, this is how you should spend your time. And if you think of the currency of the first book, Stuffocation was money, how you spend your money, stuff, or experiences, the currency of experiences, yes, it’s money. Yes, if you fly to Vegas for the weekend, if you you know, go to Hawaii, if you I don’t know, you know, go to an amazing restaurant, or you go to a theme park or whatever you do with your time. But the most important thing you’re spending his time because you can go get more money, you can get a higher paid job and getting other clients. And you can stretch your time a little bit. If you restrict the calories, if you go jogging, if you do weight training, you know, these things will make you live a little bit longer. But you’re going to die. And you won’t you can’t buy another week very much. But you can get more money. So when you think about your experiences, you really ought to make the right decisions. Because I’m borrowing from the American writer Annie Dillard, how we spend our days is, she says, of course, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. And so from a personal point of view, knowing how to spend your time, if you don’t know how to do that you’re a full. From a designer’s point of view, if you’re designing sometyhing to suck time. If you’re designing an experience, and that could be EX for employee experience, it could be a product because a product will come with the time you spend with it. It could be the experience at a theme park, it could be the experience in a restaurant, in a in an airport, it could be in a retail store, in a mall, wherever. That’s one a hell of a responsibility actually.

Dan Harden 24:40
You bet.

James Wallman 24:40
Especially the more successful you are, the more people you reach, the more that your product scales, you have a responsibility to those people, I think. But you have an opportunity, you can help them live a better life. Or you can waste their time and drain it away in a negative way. And then you can wake up the next day thinking I sell cigarettes, or I do something that’s good for people.

Dan Harden 27:33
Do you have advice for designers on on how they can absolutely make sure that they are imbuing these qualities of time in their solution? In other words, should designers build in affordances in a design that make people aware that they are consuming their time on something of value? Or should a product have more of an ambient presence so that you can think more about just the general experience and the product? The thing, the materiality, it’s just there. I wrote something called the Disappearing Act of Good Design. Because sometimes, you know, like, well, I’m sitting on an Aeron chair, when I look at the chair, it’s a very beautiful thing, right? Well, it’s not beautiful. I don’t think it’s beautiful. But it there’s a function.

James Wallman 28:27
Functionally it’s amazing.

Dan Harden 28:28
Yeah, it is. But when I’m using it, I’m not thinking about it, because it’s supporting me, and it’s doing its job. But when I step away from it, I look at it, then I start to appreciate it for what it is. But during the consumption, it’s ambient. So that’s related to my question. So how should designers design in this element of time, in your opinion. Because we all need to be a little bit more consciously aware, especially when I see kids like on video games, now there’s something that’s design presenting something to them. They’re enjoying it, they’re engrossed in it. But how does that apply to more everyday consumer products?

James Wallman 29:14
Such a deep and interesting question, I want to come back to what you’re saying about affordances. And whether a product is good or bad for you, I’m going to wander a little bit, if you don’t mind. First, though, is the difference between a service and there’s a distinction between a service and an experience as an economic offering, but also as a thing. And what I mean by that is in terms of, there are certain things that should be seamless and get out of your way. Like booking an airline ticket, like going through an airport, or you know, if you’re flying commercial rather than flying private, right? You want it to be as smooth and you don’t want to notice it. Or managing your taxes. Guy on the call yesterday from Sweden, but a British guy, actually. Brilliant UX designer. You come across some guy called Joe McLeod. He’s written this wonderful cool stuff on engineering about the design of the endings of things. Super interesting.

Dan Harden 30:05
Yes. I’ve heard of him.

James Wallman 30:07
Okay. He was saying that so taxes. I don’t know how painful taxes are for you in the in the US, but taxes in the UK are a real pain, right?

Dan Harden 30:17
I can guarantee you there. They’re more painful here.

James Wallman 30:20
Okay. So you know, there are companies that have come in to try and make it easier for us because we all have our, you know, yeah, we have accountants to help us, etc. But apparently, in Sweden, it’s a joyful experience. I don’t even understand what that means yet, okay, I’ll be absolutely honest. But we get to investigate it. And one of my writers is going to speak to him, we’re going to get a piece together on this, although he’s a great writer, too. That said, of course, in during the pandemic, because we had the NHS, I feel very happy to pay my taxes, because it kept us all alive, lovely people.

Dan Harden 30:54
Paying taxes can be joyful, that gives me hope that many things in this world can be solved.

James Wallman 31:01
And that’s where great design count. And it’s a really good example, you know, I think good design is really good design, you often don’t notice it, because it’s so damn good. Right? As you say, you mentioned your chair, you just don’t don’t, I mean, that’s the point of that chair.

James Wallman 31:14
But then an experience is different in that you should notice it because a service should be intangible, and seamless and simple. But experience. Now there’s a difference between every day. But you know, big experiences should be noticeable because they should be memorable, meaningful and possibly transformational. So there are different moments in the journey of a person might have with a product or with a service or with an experience that has different. And I’m borrowing it from a guy called Mike Lai, who is run something called Tango, Tango, UX or something. I should know that in Shanghai, but he’s like an American Chinese guy. And he was talking about the journey of any kind of experience through something and there are different moments where you want it to be perfectly smooth or really good service, and you want the product to work. And there are other moments where you need it to be a really amazing experience that is meaningful for you.

Dan Harden 32:15
That’s an interesting point. In some ways I want I want my service to be minimal. And my experience to be maximal.

James Wallman 32:23
Yeah, okay, thank you, I’ll borrow that.

Dan Harden 32:27
But I don’t even know if maximal was a word.

James Wallman 32:30
Oh, no it is. Yeah, yeah. We, you know, we talked about omega Mart. Omega Mart, the new thing from Weow Wolf that’s just opened in Vegas. And those guys come from Santa Fe. And they talk about maximalism and being maximalist because they want their stuff to be noticed in a world that has been homogenized. A world that’s been commoditized. And but everyone’s like, artists be minimal, which is all about exactly what you said. Maximum. Welcome back. Man. maximalism in the right place.

Dan Harden 32:59
Yeah, but the service what I mean by service thing minimal is, you know, something like Amazon, for example, comes to mind, you know, five years ago, when you bought something on Amazon’s Oh my God, I gotta get my credit card out. And though they didn’t remember me from the last time dot dot dot. Now I just load things in my cart, and I press buy now, and it’s all automated. Right? That’s a service that works well, for me. Then even receiving it lands on my porch. It’s minimal.

James Wallman 33:28
That’s a great example of a service. I would describe that as a service, not an experience. Would you mind if I come back to that affordances point you’re asking them? It’s very interesting, I think, from the point of view of the designer, is, you know, the starting point is the end of what’s the impact this is going to have on a person’s existence and their time. And I’m going to borrow here from a guy called Michael Brown, Gardner Brown, who’s the guy who came up with the concept of the circle to circle and the circular economy. Michael Brown Gaught the chemist. And I remember talking, we were both giving talks at some conference in Belgium or Luxembourg or something, he talks about how everyone talks about the idea of reducing their carbon footprint, reducing their footprint. And he said, let’s just flip that around, why not increase your footprint, but have a positive footprint instead? So instead of thinking about your products, let’s say I mean, you know, you can think about what Tristan Harris has done here in terms of technology. And, you know, the ethical point of view that lots of these things are designed to keep us on our phone and you know, they talk about TOD, time on device, which is obviously where they can make money and this is what’s happening in Vegas with the slot machines, etc. And that’s what these things have become their skinner boxes, of course for people, right, they’re designed to keep us there again and again and again. And of course, when you’re doing that, you know that you have a negative Human footprint, you’re having a negative footprint on that person’s existence. So if you look at the product you’re making and you recognize that it has that you have to maybe look at yourself in the mirror and think okay, am I basically a tobacco seller? Am I one of these people and can I go to bed and I feel okay, that’s what I’m doing to people in which case you go ahead. You know, mine the planet, destroy the place and see if you can look your children in the face and be happy with what you do. Or, maybe if you recognize that this is fun, but only so much fun. Let’s take alcohol is a great example. Right? There’s a difference use and abuse. It’s exactly the same technology, the addiction stuff, if you look at Adam Outers, you know, Adam Outers of NYU, with it, fantastic. He’s work he’s done most recent book Irresistible, and he compares addiction to devices exactly like addiction to drugs like alcohol. You know, having a drink is great. Using alcohol is fantastic. There’s data that shows that a bit of alcohol makes you happy. Who doesn’t love a beer on a Friday afternoon. Who doesn’t enjoy that first glass of champagne or, you know, or mojito on a beach or whatever. But there is a point of diminishing returns, you know, it’s go back to Jeremy Bentham, when he talks about his first cup of coffee in the morning gave him this much pleasure. And then the next less pleasure, etc. It’s the same with so many things, right? So if your product. If the diminishing returns kicks in soon, and it ends up being really negative for a person. Gambling, drinking, maybe you know certain games on your phone or whatever, maybe the responsible thing to do is go Okay, fine. Let’s try and figure out a way to make money. Because this is addictive and well done to us ensure these people have a good time, but do it in a way that supports them to like. You know, let’s drink some beer and some champagne. But let’s not do it for taste and taste fine, because that’s bad for us. And then if you flip that around, so instead of being concerned that your product or service or whatever thing you produce, has a has the potential to have a negative human footprint, if it has a positive human footprint. Let’s take running as a great example. Let’s take the, you know the Spartan Race or something like this, if you know it’s got a positive for people, go for it. Get them hooked. Think about sports, sports is fantastic. Whether people are playing sports or watching sports, the positives that are associated with sport. Why not turn those people into sports addicts? They’re called fans, which fans is another word for consumers. But it’s a word for consumers who love it so much. They keep coming back, you know?

Dan Harden 37:47
Yeah, I love the idea of building in these mechanisms within a product solution, a design solution where it can be responsive. So if there is a waning of the experience, if the experience is falling off, if that third cup of coffee isn’t doing it for you anymore, you know, as an analogy to a product to have something in that product, and some software does this, where the where the product begins to adjust itself for a changing condition. There’s something interesting there.

James Wallman 38:21
That’s so awesome. Are you designing something like that at the moment? Is that something you’re working on? Or is it just I love it?

Dan Harden 38:28
No, it’s just more of a thought picking up on what you just said. And certainly in software, you know, we tried to do that, you know, good, good UX design does that automatically. But in product, it’s harder to do, because so many things are, you know, these tangible, material requirements and functionalities, you know, it’s like you can’t expect your drill to change. And for the contractor that has carpal tunnel syndrome.

Dan Harden 38:59
I also want to come back to this thing you said, about the starting point is the end. And I think more industrial designers need to think about that. First of all, as an industrial designer, you are automatically a futurist, because you’re trying to do is think about, okay, I’m drawing something now I’m CADing something now. But what you need to do is project out into the future, and place your product in the hands and minds of that end user. And will it have the desired effect a year from now or two or five years from now when this finally hits the market? That I think it should have now when you’re designing it? And too many designers are designing for the now like they make themselves feel good. They sometimes even feed their ego by creating some something that is satisfying to them. Without thinking about that endpoint. That endpoint is so far in the future sometimes, and the future keeps changing. By the time your design hits the market, it might be irrelevant. It might be like, Oh my gosh. And some designers are often surprised, like, Well, I didn’t expect it to be received like that. And it could be either negative or positive. You know, sometimes you just get it right by luck. But the starting point, being the end, there’s something there’s something really fascinating there.

James Wallman 40:22
As a trend forecaster and futurist this is the moment I try and pitch my services. Well telling the future, to figure out what’s going to happen is, of course, it’s the great unknown. There are things you can do. You know, if you think about Schumpeter, the idea of destroying, you know, creative destruction, or you think about the magic of the marketplace means that all sorts of people create all sorts of things, and some of those things flop and fail terribly, and some of them fly and take off. And, and who knew and, you know, it’s not when something’s created, when someone’s created a business model around it that makes it work, you know, innovation is, you know, I guess it gets taught nowadays, and people get it, it’s not just having a great idea. It’s everything that comes with it. And you know, sometimes people just miss that point so badly. You think about flight is a wonderful example. It wasn’t until 1903 that flying literally took off. It was the 80s that has started to reach the masses. You know, it took a long time to affect war, you know. First of all, but wasn’t particularly impacted by flying. But of course, the Second World War was crucially around flying. So, I mean, when I try and advise people on doing this, so the way that the way that I work in terms of thinking about what the future is going to look like, it’s using this diffusion of innovations. So it’s looking at what the actually the structure that I use, it’s about the seed in the soil. And the seed is the innovations that I see happening around and the soil is the macro environmental factors that exist. And I mentioned diffusion of innovations, I base my work around Everett Rogers his work, but also using what the RAND Corporation came up with in the 60s and stuff that I’ve added to this over time. But one of the things that’s really interesting, I think is here is that if you look at Everett Rogers would look at five different things to figure out if a innovation was likely to take off.

James Wallman 42:22
And you can remember there’s because BECOS, and the B is for is it better? And better, just to be really clear, is a really moot point. Better could be functionally better, it could be economically better. You need to understand the target market very well.

James Wallman 42:41
The E though, is it easy to understand? Because things that are complex, just throw people overseas. Is it compatible with how we do things now? So you can think about the ideas that people have for new versions of transport back in the 80s, there was something in the UK called the Sinclair c five, which is this sort of like cross between us a go kart and a car, and it made all sorts of sense for the city. But it was so far removed from what people thought about, it just didn’t make any sense.

Dan Harden 43:11
The segway is a good example. But it was supposed to change our lives. It wasn’t compatible with sidewalks.

James Wallman 43:18
Okay. I mean, it also makes you look like an absolute idiot, which is the O. The O is it observable Now, the thing about the Segway, what’s kind of interesting actually is observable because we’ve all seen tourists looking like idiots on Segway. So segway found the nice, but observable a really good example. Is those city bikes or you have lime scooters where you are presumably

Dan Harden 43:41
Yes, yeah.

James Wallman 43:42
Okay. So we don’t, we don’t really have them so much around here, because they’re illegal in the UK. I used when I was in Bordeaux awhile back. The reason that scooters are taken off for adults. I mean, I’m old enough to think that it makes people look silly, but still, is they sold the last mile problem so well. I know last mile is in terms of delivery, but they sold that kind of, you know, if you live in a city, you want to get a short distance away. But you see other people on it, you see that it’s convenient way to get about it looks kind of handy and easy.

James Wallman 44:13
Okay, we’re coming to the S actually I got the E and the S are quite simple. The E is easy to try. And the S is simple to understand. So forgive me, the S is simple to understand the E is easy to try, is it right there. And then if you think about Lime, for example, is you put your credit card in and you can take it you can have a go. It’s a really easy way to try things. Where this is kind of interesting, I think so Everett Rogers identified these factors. Back in the 60s. And a guy called BJ Fogg at Stanford. He may come across, he’s the guy who’s known for his tiny habits. He set up the behavioral design practice at Stanford. He’s fairly famous for one of his classes that became known as I think the Facebook class because from about 2006 or 7 or something a bunch of people that were in his class used everything he was teaching they about behavioral psychology, and they went on to become, you know, like the growth marketing person at LinkedIn and, and the head of this at Facebook and the head of that, and one of the people in his class set up Instagram, you know. So basically, they took all his tools on how to design behavior, and they used it on humans. It turns out, you can create very addictive products and BJ likes to distance himself from that work as well. And if you’ve come across Neil’s work so Neil studied with him, you know, the guy who wrote Hooked. If you look at PJ focusing, which is B equals M A T, so behavior equals motivation, plus or times ability, and the tears triggers and the A about ability as he talks about the six simplicity factors. So, you know, motivation, we all know what that means. But simplicity factors are the stuff that makes it either easy or hard for you to do something and the six map almost precisely with the BECOS stuff that Everett Rogers figures for ideas that take off.

James Wallman 46:12
And the six simplicity factors, if I remember them are one is what’s the cost, and the cost can be the, the the actual price cost. But it could also be the physical effort involved, or the mental effort involved. He talks about I’ll be non deviant, which is like compatible. So for the sake of argument, there was a time when sending somebody a message on LinkedIn or set or looking somebody up on LinkedIn was considered a weird, but now it’s fine to do that. He talks about are they simple to understand? Are they easy to train and all these things that might get between you and actually trying this thing? A non routine is one thing that he talks about as well. So if we are not in the habit of doing something you may not do again? Is it better? So you know, is it easy to try? Is it simple to understand? Is it compatible? Is it observable? Do you see what I mean? You can, you can look at the thing that you are creating, and you can run it through this mill. And you can compare it to like I say, this is the seed. So we’re analyzing the innovation, the product, the thing that you’re making, and you compare that with the soil. I talk about the seed in the soil, because if you can imagine, I don’t know how much gardening you do Dan. But if you put a sunflower seed

Dan Harden 47:31
I’m a terrible gardener

James Wallman 47:32
Okay, most of us are nowadays right? We buy plants, we buy seeds. But imagine in those old days you’d buy a sunflower seed, you’d want to get a decent sunflower seed that wasn’t dried out and cracked and you know, a week saved from poor stock or whatever. And then you want to put it in to rich alluvial soil, you know, decent compost and then you’ve watered well etc. And it’s exactly the same with any innovation. So any innovation needs to be a decent seed in the first place, but the soil it lands and needs to be appropriate for it as well. So instead of it being dry desert like soil it needs to be rich alluvial soil. And so the way I remember this is BECOS. And the structure here is das steeple is I remember it because there’s a dust boat, the German movie, there’s a fantastic movie. But DAS is kind of my addition steepness standards. UYou may have come across Pest or Pestle or Steeple, classic at business schools. You probably come across you know, this is about socio cultural trends and economic trends and technology and environment, politics, legal. So you can think about the takeoff of marijuana here. Or you can think about actually what’s going to happen with the takeoff of psychedelics in the States. You can see that the innovators, you can see is it better? Maybe I’ll come back to this. And that is demographics, aesthetics, and science, which I think have been overlooked in the in the classic Pest Vessel Steeple way of thinking about things. Science is a great example. Until 1964, the consumption of cigarettes in the United States. You can see the graphs, it’s amazing. We went up and up and up and up and up and up and up. In 1964, the US Surgeon General made the very clear statement that smoking leads to cancer and then what’s happened is smoking is going down and down and down and down.

James Wallman 49:18
And you can see this in marijuana. It turns out that people that smoke marijuana Do not turn into murderous crazies they just sit around and end up eating a lot of food or whatever right. You can see this is psychedelic so I’m a real believer in that psychedelics will follow a similar path to marijuana. Even though it st seems really weird for people that have never, you know, taken LSD or DMT or whatever and you know, they are quite weird things to take. But if you look at the BECOS side of this. So are they better? Well, they’re really good for post traumatic stress disorder. Research in the UK and the States. In the UK, a guy called Robin Carhartt Harris has found that for people with really bad depression, it’s really hard to solve people with depression, particularly people with basically on their way to dying. It turns out that this has an impact. It’s like 85%, successful, insane numbers. If they could put this in the water. They would you know, it’s incredible. So is it better? Is it easy to try? I mean, he’s gonna take, yeah, it’s scary. It’s scary for people, which is holding people back. But yes, it’s easy. But it’s not that difficult. And it’s, you know, there are ways, you know, obviously, it’s illegal at the moment too. Is it compatible with how we do things now? Well, we take drugs. Drugs are a thing that people take to make them better, both legal ones and illegal ones. There’s the O, is it observable? What’s really interesting here, is once you know, somebody who has, I’ve got a very good friend of mine who used psychedelics to go from having major alcohol and cocaine issues and being a really depressive person. And he, through somebody else, I can’t remember who he, he ended up taking it, and he’s become happy. Wow, this stuff, you know, it’s amazing.

James Wallman 51:16
And you know, so you guys got the problems of fentanyl in the States. Yeah, that stuff is really bad. So this stuff is actually positive. And then is it simple to understand. Well here’s how it works, you take it, in a controlled environment. Michael Pollan’s written that fantastic book, how to change your mind about this as well. So you can see how the viewing on this is changing, and why it makes sense. And a few counties in the states are kind of legalizing to make it possible. There are countries that do it too, anyway. And then you can compare and think about, so I mentioned, it was a science that was talking about. So you can take this kind of BECOS structure and the star steeple competitor and think, is my product service experience likely to be relevant in the future? Yes, especially if you use the diffusion of innovations curve, to look at what the innovators are doing today. And maybe even the early adopters, and you can point the ways to the future.

Dan Harden 52:12
You know, you just said in the last 10 minutes, so many fascinating things that I didn’t want to interrupt you. But this BECOS, seed to soil, your notions of simplicity, dos. You know, so many designers, innovators, entrepreneurs, etc, we’re looking for, we’re looking for tools of understanding, I think, you know, and how do how can we ensure that we’re going to create something successful and meaningful and impactful to society and individuals and sustainable. All these values that we always try to instill in our creations?

Dan Harden 52:16
In foretelling the future, do use something like the BECOS better, easy, compatible, observable, simple as kind of a filter to know whether or not something is more likely to either take hold, like, like your analysis of psychedelic drugs, for example.

James Wallman 53:17

Dan Harden 53:22
I love that. And so many things like seed the soil, you know, to designer, the seed would be, you know, the innovation itself, and the soil would be the consumption model. And like, in our case, you know, the construct of capitalism and consumerism, that’s our soil, right? So we don’t necessarily think see the soil, but it’s happening. It’s a really great way to think about it.

Dan Harden 53:48
And simplicity, and your descriptions of simplicity, and breaking it down into cost and effort and being non deviant and non routine. Simplicity to designers is, it’s kind of like one of our, our doctrines. You know, we strive for it, it’s hard to achieve. Sometimes it’s it’s so elusive, because the harder you try as a creator, sometimes you’re adding complexity, not simplicity. It’s so hard to get back to the root of what’s really good and really meaningful. And sometimes it is something just utterly simple. And the simplicity. Why is simplicity so beautiful? I don’t know what is that? What is that? What’s going on psychologically about simplicity? Do humans crave simplicity? Why is something simple beautiful?

James Wallman 54:02
Wow, I wish I knew the answer to that. I’ll be honest, I don’t. My wife will quote to me, I’m trying to think of the British philosopher who’d said that beauty always has something strange within it, which I think has a truth in it, because then you remember thinking about that idea of experience versus service. But in terms of simplicity, I think about the Coco Chanel thing about when just before you go out, you take one thing off, you know. What can you remove? But there’s research conducted by is it Joseph Goodman, that’s shown that people want their stuff. And there’s actually a guy called David Robson. He’s a science writer and a friend of mine. And he’s written something for the BBC the other day about innovators and the great innovators. What you’re saying, though, is interesting is the ones that keep going. That we believe that after while going through brainstorming or coming up with ideas that after all, our ideas will tail off. And actually, the research shows the opposite is true. I think about a quote, I used to use talking about this kind of stuff from Johnny Ive about how hard it is to create simplicity. And I think that Dan, I can’t. I don’t know how many people have you interviewed for jobs with your firm through the years, which is, insane.

Dan Harden 55:11
Oh god, hundreds, probably thousands you know

James Wallman 56:04
And how many try to impress you with designs, and you just feel Oh, my God, it’s too much. And it’s only going to be those who can boil it. Think about Jacques Rometty, you know, the, you know, the artist. How he takes away everything that it isn’t. And I think maybe that’s one of the things we should do with life. And maybe that’s one of the problems with consumerism is because all these all this noise, you know, all this incoming noise. With ideas, and this stuff that people are trying to sell us and trying to be this, be that, be the other thing. Maybe that’s why Zen Buddhism, and that kind of approach to things and simplicity and minimalism appeals to people. But just to be really clear, I’m not a minimalist at all. Because if you’re a maximalist. And this is from a design point, I’m going to borrow what you said there about I want my services to be minimal. And I want my experiences to be maximal. I think we want our lives to be maximal, but in the right ways.

James Wallman 57:08
So I want complex, interesting conversations with sophisticated interesting people. Yeah, you know, I was looking at hiring someone the other day, and it ended up being really complicated. And it was that moment, I said, Oh, this is a red flag. I sent a really nice, as nice of an email as I could to say, Let’s leave this. But I want complex, challenging. You’ve made me think of so many things that I haven’t pulled out of the back of my mind for ages. So thank you for that.

James Wallman 57:35
But I think he may maximalism in our, you know, in our weekends, in our vacations, in our products. But only the stuff that’s really good. If you think about a meal, really simple food cooked really well, is good. I think about some of the best restaurants, the most successful restaurants don’t do the fancy food, they don’t do the El Bulli kind of you know, crazy stuff. There’s a restaurant in London called Jay Shiki. That just does simple food really well.

Dan Harden 58:14
I think there’s a lot to be said about essence. Essence of experience. Essence of expression. You know, it reminds me of Roi Ku, you know, just like so few words. So few intonations so much meaning. And in today’s society, it just seems like so many people are distracted with so much stuff. People sometimes lose sight of the fact that some of these simple essential things that life has to offer, they’re there for the taking. But it’s it’s almost like it’s so ever present these opportunities to experience the goodness of life. And yet you can’t see it. It’s almost like radio waves passing through us right now. I can’t see it. But there’s so much of it coming through us right now even as we speak. Why is that? Maybe there’s just so much offered. And it’s hard to get the attention of people to really understand Hey, you know what, it’s okay to experience the essence. It might be a simple meal. It might be taking 10 minutes to look at a single painting where you start to feel something after not not 10 seconds because everybody wants that that instant, like Hey, where is it? Where’s the punch line? You know, like a Rothko. It does not connect with you until you’re sitting in a dark room with a Rothko, in a dim light. And after about 10 minutes, all of a sudden you realize oh my god, I’m feeling something. This almost like a deep vibration and understanding of visual vibration. turns into an intellectual vibration. All of a sudden, so much more is offered to you. That’s what I find, to be the real meaning of essence. And it’s so hard for people to absorb, to first see the essence. And to truly feel it and benefit from it.

James Wallman 1:00:21
I like what you said. I agree with you. I think that we are essentially tick box travelers. And there are many people who are tick box travelers through life. Who just want to get that thing. And they’ve done it. You know, if you talk to those people that do a two week, I guess you probably get to do a two week vacation in Europe. And they kind of go to Spain, Italy, Greece. And they’re like, yeah, I think the other people that went into our country, they say I did that.

Dan Harden 1:00:47
Yeah, well, they step out of the tour bus. They take the pictures they get back on the tour bus. It’s not the picture, it’s experience.

James Wallman 1:00:57
Yeah, yeah. And maybe it’s not their fault. It’s definitely not their fault. But the problem is, if you watch too much TV, and you spend too much time online, and you’re one of those people who’s like, you think about a pinball machine. I think lots of people live their lives like they’re in a pinball machine. And they’re getting knocked here and pushed there. And, you know, maybe this is about like being on the ocean and pushed by the waves. Yeah, let’s go to surfing as a way of thinking. You know, those people just get pushed around, they’ll just go wherever. And then there are those people that would fighting against maybe the wave to get out. And then they’ll get in there, right? The thing and maybe that’s the… I’m warming to this idea of surfing as a metaphor for life. And I’m going to play here. You know, you know, the guys…

Dan Harden 1:01:07
Play with that for a minute.

James Wallman 1:01:43
Yeah, because maybe those people haven’t learned that if you stop. The way you describe that Rothko picture. And obviously, you have a few in your home, Dan, who doesn’t, right?

Dan Harden 1:01:59
Um, not real Rothko’s. Those are all like 40 million a piece

James Wallman 1:02:04
Yeah, but too many people just want to see something and have been there done that tick the box. They think that’s life. But the problem with that approach is because you’ve not paused long enough to appreciate something. And realize…

Dan Harden 1:02:22
I got to interrupt you because I love this idea of surfing because a surfer knows that that wave is here for about 20 seconds, you know. The good part of the wave. They appreciate that and they see it coming. They nail it. They ride it. The joy is, they know, it’s very temporary. And if more people would view life like that, that it is very temporary. There is impermanence everywhere. Certainly in a wave. And every condition around it. You don’t know if you’re going to hit a rock. You don’t know if you’re going to be bitten by a shark. Yeah, life is the same way.

James Wallman 1:03:05
Yeah, there’s a guy that taught me to surf. I was in Byron Bay, Australia, writing a piece for a magazine. I think it was not GQ, Esquire magazine. And he taught Elle Macpherson on the same board I was learning on for Elle, I have been in the same place not at the same time, regrettably, but laying down and then standing up. And I remember he said, When a wave would come in, and I am a pretty poor surfer. He was like, right, you know, I caught the first wave. He was like Oh, wow, okay, you’re, you’re British. And yet, you can actually do this a little. Big surprise. And I jumped off the wave, because I caught the good venues. Like, hold on, that wave has come all the way from the middle of the Pacific. Where was I? Oh, yeah. So that’s the Atlantic. Come from the middle of the ocean, you ride it till you can’t ride it anymore. And I thought that was a really interesting idea. But I’m totally with you.

James Wallman 1:04:02
When I give talks about this, this book time and how to spend it, I’ll often start by by pointing out. I used to say, I can’t think how many seconds it is now. I think it’s only 64,000. Whatever it is, there’s this idea of the time bank through a French guy. And if somebody gave you $64,000 every day, and at the end of the day, your bank account went to zero. What would you do is the question and the numbers not exactly that. And the answer, then I don’t want to jump in is you;d spend as much as you could. Because otherwise, the money’s gone. And that’s what life is like. You get these 24 hours every day and it’s gone. So how you spend it. It’s not just about… I guess it’s not just about the quantity of that time, but it’s the quality of that time. And I think what you’re talking about there is about focusing. And you know, Joseph Campbell, who wrote the book, The hero with 1000 faces about the hero’s journey, really. He moved From the hero’s journey, I think much more into this idea of being the vitality and a bit of feeling alive. And I think way too many people is that what is that wonderful zombie movie from like, late like late 70s, early 80s about that kind of that uses zombies as a kind of as a metaphor for consumerism. Dawn of the living dead, I think it is.

Dan Harden 1:05:24
Right, right.

James Wallman 1:05:26
And, you know, too many people are basically living their lives as they’ve been, you know, turn on the TV, go to work, drink coffee, come home…buy the things you’re supposed to buy, you get your better time off. And we, of course, we are alive in moments, but we’re too often asleep. And the key is to use our short window that we have to do something and to think about what we’re doing.

Dan Harden 1:05:51

James Wallman 1:05:52
And that involves stopping in enjoying those moments, rather than moving on to the next moment.

Dan Harden 1:05:57
James, we’ve just come out of probably, well, definitely in the last 100 years, one of the strangest periods of time. With this pandemic, and all the fear and uncertainty in our society. And all this discussion about the future and maybe rethinking the ways that we consume things. Deeper definitions about what true satisfaction means. How do we bring all this together? And how do you feel about the word hope moving forward in the future? Like, you know, especially with what we’ve all been through in the last year, I mean, are we going to come out of this better?

James Wallman 1:06:39
Isn’t hope, a small town in Kansas is one of your politicians used to say? A politician another time for.

Dan Harden 1:06:49
It’s remarkable how much trivia and names that you remember, I gotta say. You’re like a walking encyclopedia, man.

James Wallman 1:06:56
That was his life, right. Wasn’t it hope is a place in Kansas or Alabama or wherever.

James Wallman 1:07:04
I’m an optimist. I’m really optimistic. This has been a really surreal, deeply unpleasant time. But I didn’t have to go to war. My ancestors had to fight and they got blown up. One of my granddad’s was blown up on the beach of Dunkirk three times in spent nine months in an iron lung. And luckily, he died at nine. So, you know, it was okay for him, ultimately, but that probably wasn’t too much fun. And, you know, the awful time we’ve had through the pandemic, we were like, you got to stay at home and watch Netflix. Yeah, it’s boring. But it’s not that bad. You know, so I feel very optimistic about what humans achieve. I think we solve the problem of scarcity. Lucky us because of consumerism, because of, you know, the Industrial Revolution. We don’t live next to our animals unless they’re clean animals because they’re pets.

Dan Harden 1:07:58
And because of all this technology, we we’ve been able to do this, we’re still connected.

James Wallman 1:08:03
Oh, well, the pandemic would have been like, pre zoom, and pre, you know, video calling

Dan Harden 1:08:12
Yeah. Pre internet. I mean, even 20 years ago, we would all I mean, talk about depths of depression. I mean, we couldn’t do anything.

James Wallman 1:08:21
When I was a kid, if it snowed a lot, we couldn’t get to school. There’d be all these headlines in the papers that ah you know, it’s terrible. The schools are closed. We would go sledding, right? It was great. Nowadays, the poor kids have to work because they can connect with their teachers. I really feel sorry for them.

James Wallman 1:08:36
But I feel really positive about the 20s. What happens after a dip like this is often there’s a real bounce back. There’s some interesting data, the great guy called Randy Whites a company called Whites Hutchison. In somewhere in the Midwest, I think, who’s looked at some great data, particularly in the States on the bounce back that’s coming. But I’ve seen some other data. And it’s worth pointing out, you know, my stuff that my forecast, I would tout my ability. But I wrote that book certification about this move from materialism to experiences, and the reason I self published at first, Dan, was that nobody believed me that I was true. The publishers in New York and London said no, 75 of them said no, because there’s a nice idea James, but it isn’t true. But since that book came out, you know, lots of people have jumped on boards. Actually, this is happening. McKinsey and others.

Dan Harden 1:09:23
And I’m seeing the signs I feel I’ve seen signs in different industries. You know, the numbers of people booking for Meow Wolf in Vegas. There’s a company called the Institute of Competitive Socializing, who have this wonderful thing called swingers is swinging your thing Dan?

Dan Harden 1:09:43
Uh no, not yet, no. Tell me more.

James Wallman 1:09:46
This is indoor, crazy golf. what you guys think would call mini golf and they’ve been successful in London. They’re just opening I think this year in Chicago and New York. And you know, with it between the pandemics everyone’s coming back to real life experiences. I think people are going to be looking to spend money to kickstart the economy, we’re gonna have a really exciting time. I think we’re going to solve the problem with the climate, I feel really positive about that. I’m involved in accelerator started by a former professor of mine at the University of Cambridge called Carbon 13. And the big mission there is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And he’s got a bunch of whip smart people involved and people in this accelerator, and I’m sure that we will solve those problems.

Dan Harden 1:10:30
Do you think that the pandemic has hastened this this move because it’s like a wake up call? It’s like, hey, people, darn it.

James Wallman 1:10:42
Not for the climate. No, I think the pandemic has is accelerated many trends. Absolutely. Okay, maybe

Dan Harden 1:10:52
Could you even say that it’s been good for us? Because I think in a lot of ways it’s made us rethink a lot of things.

James Wallman 1:11:01
You know, the old line from Solon, the Athenian wise man from that book the Herodotus is history, so he says, never call a man happy till he’s dead. He was asked by the king of Libya, a guy called Cresis, who was the richest man in the known world at the time. Am I happy? He said, I can’t say. He said, so what do you mean? I’ve got a list. He ends up of course, he loses his kingdom, all his kids are killed, and he has a terrible end of his life, but he was very happy. So calling this good thing or a bad thing is really hard to know at this point, I feel the same way about Brexit for what it’s worth. And even Donald Trump, I feel that he was a blip. I think he was a an aberration for me, very, very funny. I really miss him, please, please bring him back. Because this guy, Joe Biden is sensible. He gets things done, he doesn’t make a fuss about it. And he’s not insane.

James Wallman 1:11:48
Humans solve problems. The hero’s journey as person problem solution. Kurt Vonnegut called it the man in whole story. And what we did was, when we had scarcities, we solved it. And now we have the problems of abundance. We’re solving those. And so yeah, I feel pretty optimistic about the future, we’re going to have better experiences that WXO that I founded with people like Joe Pyne, with brilliant people around the world, we’re about creating better experiences, which means that people will have better products, experiences, better brand experiences, better experiences of life. The shift from caring about GDP to caring about well being is important, we will live not only longer lives, but I think better, more meaningful, happier lives in the future as well. Thanks to great designers like you, Dan,

Dan Harden 1:12:37
Well, thank you. And your your statement just now just brought us back full circle to my first question about prosperity. And it rethinking about what it really means. And it is about creating wellborn meaningful lives and more fulfilled lives, happier individuals, and so forth. And certainly design is a part of that. And you can be sure that the audience that we just spoke to has that in mind about what can I do as a designer? What can I do as an architect or or UX designer to move that bar to raise it to move it forward?

Dan Harden 1:13:15
So James, I cannot thank you enough. I have so enjoyed this conversation. You and I could yammer on for another day I think. So keep up the amazing work that you’ve been doing. I so look forward to your third book, and more conversations, and I will see you at another bar in Las Vegas sometime soon, James.

James Wallman 1:13:40
Some time soon. Thanks Dan. Fantastic questions. Thanks.

Dan Harden 1:13:43
Thanks so much for everything. All right. Take care.

James Wallman 1:13:46

Dan Harden 1:13:47
Thank you for listening to PRISM. Follow us on, or your favorite streaming platform. And we’ll be back with more thought provoking episodes soon.

Outro 1:13:57
PRISM is hosted by Dan harden, Principal designer and CEO of Whipsaw, produced by Gabrielle Whelan and Isabella Glenn, mix and sound designed by Erik Buell.