FoossaPod: Andrew Benedict-Nelson on Norms and Innovation

Foossa's Lee-Sean Huang talks to Andrew Benedict-Nelson about social norms as a key to innovation. We discuss ways to rethink responses to homelessness and make sense of movements like LGBTQ equality and #MeToo. 

Andrew Benedict-Nelson is a social change practitioner, historian, and author of See Think Solve: A Simple Way to Tackle Tough Problems. He is also a lecturer at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.   

Podcast Transcript

Note: Edited for clarity.

I believe that the social, social norms, human behavior, is a gigantic missing element in almost everything that we're doing.

Whether it is a corporate design project, whether it's a government policy, whether it's an awareness campaign, I think that we're relying on a really limited set of tools, that were basically just designed to move individual widgets.

And I think that if we look at group behavior, if we look at social behavior, we can achieve a lot of the things that we haven't been able to figure out otherwise.

Lee-Sean: You’re listening to FoossaPod, a podcast about creativity, community, and the things that matter. I’m Lee-Sean Huang.

It’s not you. It’s us. 

We are talking about social norms, the unspoken and often invisible rules that govern how we think about and act in our world. 

Innovation is about shifting the ways that we behave, but social norms reinforce the status quo. 

Whether you are in business or activism, learning how to identify, understand, and rewrite social norms is the key to making change. 

Now back to our guest:

Andrew:  Hi, I'm Andrew Benedict Nelson. I am, with my colleague Jeff Leitner, and Lee-Sean here, one of the folks who put together this book, "See Think Solve: A Simple Way to Tackle Tough Problems." We created this book essentially out of our efforts to teach social change in a new and fundamentally different way.

Andrew: I'll explain this from my perch. I'm a lecturer at USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, in the doctorate in social work program. In that capacity, we're essentially helping folks put together plans and concepts to tackle some of society's biggest problems.

This approach exists to help them really have a strategy in doing that. Not just to be processing more clients or raising more funds, but really to take a look at our society, and address something like "how could we actually end homelessness?" Not just address more homeless clients, but how could we really eliminate this as a category? 

I recently met with a student who's working on anti-recidivism issues, and looking at how that would apply to the category of sex offenders. Essentially, how do we even think about the problem of keeping somebody with a sex offender designation out of prison, when that will follow them the rest of their lives. Those kinds of really core social problems.

What this book is, and what our work represents more generally, is really a strategic approach to taking that on. It differs from most else what is out there in a couple of respects:

The main thing is that the target of the method is social norms, the kind of unwritten rules of human behavior. We really look to change one or more of those norms that are holding a tough problem in place. That is something that is beyond activism, something that's beyond awareness. We're really talking about, in a way, rewriting the code of society. So how do you do that?

Well, the first thing you need to do is understand the norms that are holding the problem in place, and then the second step is cultivating some kind of deviance from those norms. Either inventing one or finding one that exists, and using that to eventually subvert and replace the norm that is out there.

Our view would be that all social progress that has ever happened followed some version of that process where there was a norm like "it is okay for children to be working in factories," which was a completely acceptable in say the 19th century, to now when it's not. And it's not just because of laws, it's not just because of changing economic incentives. Really there is a consensus view in our society that children should not be working in factories. That is what we attempt to create and cultivate and engineer through this method.

Lee-Sean: It's interesting that the subtitle of the book is, "A Simple Way To Tackle Tough Problems." What you're talking about is actually, I mean, it's hard, it's not easy, but it is "simple" in terms of understanding what a norm is and then figuring out ways to change it, right? Can you help us understand what you guys meant by "the simple way?"

Andrew: I mean look, any great strategy is pretty simple at its core, because you're trying to hold onto one concept through a vast thicket of information and signals and things you're trying to manage. Any great strategy is as simple as "capture the enemy capital," or "win 50% plus 1." It's a very simple goal.

Lee-Sean: Right. "Collect underpants, and then profit."

Andrew: Is this a strategy?

Lee-Sean: It's a South Park reference.

Andrew: Oh okay. I'm not caught up on my South Park. First couple of seasons I'll be all right.

South Park: Underpants Gnomes Strategy

South Park: Underpants Gnomes Strategy

Understanding Innovation Dynamics through the example of homelessness

Andrew: But anyway, that's why it's simple, is because really what you're trying to do, you should be able to boil down to a couple of lines. Now, figuring out what those lines are is pretty difficult. This is where the method of this comes into play, because the real difficulty with social norms is you really can't see them, especially when you are a part of them.

It's also very difficult to imagine a world where they don't exist. Something like imagining a world where say, well, let's just use homelessness, where homelessness is not a category, where it is impossible to imagine someone becoming homeless, is very different from saying, "Oh, we reduced the amount of homeless, the number of people who are experiencing homelessness, by 20%"

So how would we possibly get there? Well, you have to ask what are the norms that allow homelessness to continue to exist and how might we change them? What we provide in the book is essentially a way to see the pieces of a norm that you don't know is there. We have six of those. I could walk you through them if you want?

Lee-Sean: Yeah, that'd be great.

Innovation Dynamics meet Design Thinking

Andrew: Okay. The six things that we encourage people to look for are: we call them actors, history, limits, future, configuration, and parthood. Each one of these things is a clue to the norms that are going on in any situation. Each one of those things can also be changed to open up possibilities of deviance.

All of the things that make a norm, there are all sorts of different factors that influence what people believe and how they behave, but these six particular things are useful because of the possibilities for change that they allow.

That's why we encourage people to focus on these six particular things, because they're kind of like six switches that you can turn on and off, and mess with in different ways, and see what results you produce.

That's why I guess I should say we also teach this in conjunction with design thinking, because when you have the knowledge of these dynamics, you can go into a design thinking mode, and play around and say, "What would our organization or our city or our state or our country be like if we changed the actors, or if we changed the limits of the situation?"

Lee-Sean: That's interesting. The way that you dovetail it with design thinking. I teach design thinking as well, and one of the keys to design thinking is understanding your users, your stakeholders, using human empathy, to understand what their needs are, and how you can serve those needs, whether you're developing a commercial product or service, or a social service.

Since we're using the example of homelessness, with design thinking for example, we could redesign homelessness services. How do you get people into shelters or how do you feed people who are experiencing homelessness? Whatever that is, maybe in a more compelling way, more efficient way, more humane way. It seems like the way that it complements this innovation dynamics framework that you have is you're thinking about more of a systems change about how do we think about homelessness in general, and how do we change the norms? Not just of homeless people and how they act and behave and those norms, but how do people who are not homeless deal with that? Is that on the right track?

Andrew: Yeah. I mean, what I would say, so let's continue to use the example. I think that anyone could use that basic course of empathy with a homeless person and what their lives are like.

I would of course encourage people to look into sub-populations and personas within a broad category like "homeless." For example, the lives of homeless families are very different from the lives of homeless people who are essentially on their own.

But let's say we've got the user research on the population of the homeless. I think that where innovation dynamics would come in is you would ask what social norms are shaping and affecting the conditions that those people are facing? For example, some of the ones that are right off the bat are: there's a huge amount of stigma and avoidance connected to the condition of being homeless.

One of the things, I mean, just to use this particular problem, is when you dig beneath the surface, you find out that actually a huge amount of homelessness is due to the problem of social isolation and people essentially running out of social capital. Because if you or I faced a significant economic and personal setback, we'd still have a huge network of people where we would basically crash with them.

In most cases of homelessness, and I should say I learned this through the Center for Social Innovation in Massachusetts, through some work with them. Basically, folks have reached the end of their rope in terms of their social network. One of the things that we would look at is what different social norms allow for that to happen, and what social norms can we change to prevent that from happening, so that no one would ever run out of people that they could rely on.

Lee-Sean: In some ways, identifying that norm of "homelessness is not just about not having a place to stay or not having money to pay rent, it's about running out of social capital." In some ways that's a reframe. For example, yeah, I've been in between apartments before, both in terms of Hurricane Sandy, or just my lease running out and having to wait a few days to move into my place.

I guess technically I was temporarily homeless, but not in the sense of sleeping on the streets, because I had sofas to crash on and family to fall back on if I needed to. That reframe from homelessness from lack of money or lack of lodging to lack of social capital already helps us look at the problem in a different way, which seems like a way of opening up the space for innovation.

Andrew: Yeah, so I'll use one of our dynamics to dig in on this. One of the dynamics we use is called "configuration," and configuration is essentially the categories that you would use to sort information about something.

There's a pretty stark configuration connected to homelessness, which is that it's an either/or category. In the way that we respond to this phenomenon, you are either homeless or not in the way that you're either pregnant or not.

When in fact there's probably a spectrum of homelessness, but we shape our social norms of how we treat and respond to the homeless as if there is absolutely drop off. In some ways, that prevents us from having empathy with folks, but it certainly makes it hard to see this social isolation problem. I mean, people imagine all sorts of things, like that somebody made a decision to become homeless, when in fact no such thing ever occurs, right? It's just when you reach the end of your rope.

Something like configuration, looking at the categories that we use to sort information, that helps us see, "Okay, what are the underlying, unwritten rules of this situation, the unwritten assumptions that we bring to this situation, and how could they be different?" Is the main thing that we try to ask with this.

Lee-Sean: So with configurations, is that sort of like a taxonomy of how we label things will determine how we act around those?

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. It's funny. Taxonomy was one of the names that we auditioned for configuration, but the reason why we picked this one in the end is that it draws attention to the arbitrary nature of these categories, and how easily we reshuffle them. In fact, we do it all the time, right? You go from one grocery store to another, and things are sorted in a different way.

When I work with students, I try to emphasize that all of these categories were created by someone at some point for some purpose, and we could use different ones and get different results.

Lee-Sean: Right. It's sort of like if you go to Hawai'i, the soy sauce is not in the "ethnic foods" section, because everybody there uses it, right? And so thinking about what is a default and what is othered, and how those things get placed into categories.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. When I do the lecture on configuration in our course, I say, "Let's be real. Racism is configuration gone bad." I mean, that's all it is, is. We've found ways to sort other people and then we took them way too seriously.

NYC Pride: Protest, Commerce, or Both? 

NYC Pride: Protest, Commerce, or Both? 

Stonewall, Pride, shifting norms, and the stories we tell

Lee-Sean: That's a good transition to another example that we can look at, a timely one. In New York, and I guess across the country, and the world, we recently celebrated Pride, which coincides with the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, when LGBT patrons at the Stonewall bar decided that they're just not going to take police harassment anymore. And fast forward 50 years later, and now we have this what some people criticize as this corporatized parade, where politicians, regardless of their orientation, make a showing. The police force is there as well to march in the parade, not to harass the people marching.

In some ways you can consider this a win in terms of the shift of social norms. Other people think about it as cultural appropriation or corporatization, but I think it's an interesting story of how norms shift, right? And how there can be the mainstreaming of something, in 50 years, which is both a long time and not a lot of time.

Andrew: Yeah. I mean, the change in norms around LGBT issues is probably exhibit A for the fact that norms can change and have changed in our lifetimes, and are in the process of changing. I would say that Pride going from a fringe event where you would have questions about would a mainstream person participate in it was probably when I was a kid, to now people are all falling over each other to get into Pride and participate, and have that label.

Lee-Sean: Yeah, when your retail bank and fast food restaurant turn their logo into a rainbow for a month, you know that there's a certain mainstream change of norms, right?

Andrew: Let me talk about Stonewall for a minute, because I think that that's actually a great example of the history dynamic. I think it was during the Obama administration, just as a unit of time, I think that people came to shift to see Stonewall as a part of American civil rights history. That is an example of, "Okay, is this part of something that belongs to the history of this country, the story of our own norms and what we can take pride in?"

I'm just another cisgender white dude, but I would say that the shift in tolerance and acceptance and integration of LGBT communities has become a part of my American story over time, of what it means to be a part of this country and have the values that we have here. And in fact, what makes us different from some other places, right? That's also a configuration issue.

But part of the way that you can see that happening is folks understanding, "Okay yeah, Stonewall is a part of American history" and things like the pink scare at the CIA in the '50s of essentially outing employees, are dark episodes in our history, that I would say 10 or 15 years ago people would be unaware of at all.

You can tell where the norms are going and how they work by what we incorporate into our own stories.

Lee-Sean: One of the things that stood out to me reading about how you guys talk about history as one of the innovation dynamics, is that yes, facts matter, of what actually happened, but you're also interested in essentially the stories that people tell, right? Because things like talking about Stonewall as part of the canon of civil rights and all of these sort of things are about in some ways configuration as well. Like, what you put in, what you take out, and how you tell those stories, or how people interpret those stories. Can you help us understand and unpack a little bit more about that?

Andrew: The whole reason why we have history as the dynamic is because people bring the past to their understanding of the present.

William Faulkner said, "The past didn't go anywhere. It isn't even past." So, when we figure out what are we doing in this room? What are we doing in this office, in this city? We bring a backstory of how we came to be here and what this is all about.

Now, in turns out that almost no one's backstories are the same, and they add different events, they remember different things, they remember the same things differently. So, when you ask someone something as simple as, "Hey, how did we come to be here?" Or, "What series of events led you to the situation that you're in now?" Essentially clues to the norms that are shaping their behavior just come spilling out.

If somebody says something like, like Ron Swanson on Parks and Rec says, "History began in 1776 and nothing else matters." Well, you can see they have a certain take on the world, and if you don't view 1776 as the most important date that ever happened, then you have a different take on the world. Just asking people, "What led us here?" will bring all that stuff to the fore.

Now, what we know through our work is that actually histories can be changed and can be consciously changed. Stonewall is actually a great example of that. I think that you could put this to Obama himself. At some point he said, "We're going to talk about this as part of the legacy of this country." Simply by making those choices, by doing that, you effect a shift in the norms around an issue.

Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation): " History began July 4, 1776. Anything before that was a mistake."

Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation): "History began July 4, 1776. Anything before that was a mistake."

The relationship between norms and deviance

Lee-Sean: So we've talked about homelessness, we've talked about LGBTQ equality, and how history changes or how people think about things change, and then norms change. Another key in your framework is this idea of deviance, right? So, deviance sometimes sounds like a bad word, but we also have positive deviance, and so help us understand deviance and how that relates to norms and these other dynamics?

Andrew: Norms are shaping everything we do. Social norms shaping everything we do. We're shaped by hundreds or thousands of them in any given moment. Cues from the people around us in society, but they're not laws of nature, right? They're just human decisions.

In fact, departures from the norm are happening all the time, and some of them just happen randomly. Sometimes you're wearing the wrong color t-shirt and you look funny in your group and people make fun of you, but it isn't intentional, right? And then other times people are breaking norms because they don't agree with the values or whatever it would be.

This concept of deviance is behavior that departs from the norm, that actually has the potential to undermine it, and you can see that through the structure that we lay out, of these six dynamics. You can see, "All right, this has the potential to change the actors who make up this norm" or the history that people bring to why they behave the way that they do.

The key is it's almost always better to find a naturally occurring deviance, simply because it's an organic system. Synthesizing something new is really hard work, but if you already see, okay, look, to take the same example, there are people who are getting together every year and commemorating something like Stonewall, you can say, "All right, that is unusual and you didn't read about that in your American history class. What if we did? What if we took these commemorations that are already happening and incorporated them in the mainstream?" And actually, that's how you get Pride, isn't it? It's by people saying, "What if we amped up this thing that is already naturally occurring?"

I don't know anything about the commemoration of Stonewall. I mean, I'm assuming five years after it probably wasn't a huge deal. It was probably a group of people who just remembered that this happened. But you can imagine going back in time and saying, "If we took this naturally occurring deviance and made it the center of a gigantic event, how that would change society."

And we probably have things like that that are occurring now.

To take one example, the child separation that is going on right now on the Southern border, strikes me and many people as an unconscionable thing that is occurring. The equivalent of what Stonewall was at the time, but if we look at where could this go, how could we talk about this differently in the future, how might we commemorate and help people connect with these kinds of events? You could imagine changing the norms around this to the point where we could say, "You know what? This is actually completely unacceptable for the American government to do."

Lee-Sean: It's interesting to see there, too, the contention of history, right? When you have some people who say, "Well, this is not the America that we know that separates children from their families" but then you also have people who push back and be like, "Well, slavery and residential schools for native peoples" and all of these other things, and how these things are contended. I guess I'm curious from your perspective, as a historian but also as the co-author of See Think Solve, how do you see these contentions in history as maybe clues or things that can help us move forward with changing norms?

History, storytelling, and identity

Andrew: Yeah, so this is one of the reasons why with the history dynamic, we put so much emphasis on storytelling. I'll give you an example. Juneteenth, I grew up not even knowing what Juneteenth was, right? I learned as an adult what it is. A day to commemorate the end of slavery. Well, you can factually know what that is, but whether that is a part of your story of what America is, the essential elements of the story, really changes your perspective, whether you consider it a core element or not.

And I think that one of the things that is happening is that a lot of people are really, maybe I should say white people, are coming to realize what a multiracial, multicultural history of America looks like, that in say 1880 there were all sorts of different things going on for different groups in different points of their development, and figuring out what that means.

It's one thing to know that factually. It's another thing to make that a conscious part of your history and incorporate it into the way you behave, and the way you treat other people, and the way you process information. I think that basically what's going on right now is a shift in which people understand, "Okay yeah, the border has been a dangerous place for families of color for a long time. We're processing that in new ways, we're making sense of it in new ways, but it's a new phenomenon."

I think that actually there is more to be learned from the fact that so many people outside of the Hispanic community are shocked by it, than the phenomenon itself, if that makes sense. We're in a time where it actually is possible for the white suburban housewife to say, "You know what? That's not okay with me," that that would be happening. Now, not everybody is, lots of people aren't, but I would say in the Operation Wetback era of the Eisenhower administration, that would not even be on the radar of something someone could possibly be concerned about.

You see a shift in norms there of like, "Okay, what belongs to me and my orbit of concern?" So, people are coming to learn, "Okay yeah, that's a part of my history, too.

Innovation Dynamics origin story

Lee-Sean: Since we're talking about histories, maybe we can shift the history part to how these Innovation Dynamics came about.

Andrew: I would say that there are basically three phases of the history. The first was the thing that we did from 2010 to 2014 called Insight Labs. Insight Labs was a non-profit organization that basically existed to help non-profit and government bodies when they were stuck. When they had basically run out of strategy, and run out of experts to talk to who could possibly help them with strategy, who were really facing core existential concerns.

What we would do in this group is we'd put together 12 to 15 interesting creative individuals, along with us, the co-founders of the group, put everybody in a room for half a day and just say, "We're going to solve this." Most of those sessions yielded really interesting things. A couple of them didn't go anywhere, but I would say 90% were pretty successful.

Eventually we started looking over the body of work and saying, "What were the common principles of all this?" Other than just getting a bunch of smart people together. And we began to notice some patterns in where the conversation would go, and how we would generate solutions. But we were really just using it internally. One of us might lean to the other and say, "Oh, this is just like the time we worked with NASA, even though it's a problem of art museums, or whatever."

Lee-Sean: So in some ways it's a design project, right? How do you design these conversations? How do you harness the collective intelligence of these experts and stakeholders that you bring into a room for a few hours?

Andrew: That is generous to us. It's generous to us because we didn't really know what we were doing. We noticed this after the fact.

Then, the second phase of development was trying to teach these things to others, for several years, and really just trying to come up with a system to convey what we were doing in these rooms to other people.

At first, we were trying to teach them literally how to do the same thing of, "Here's how to bring together a group of smart and interesting people." Eventually we realized that that group of people was just a hack to get to different interesting points of view that could be arrived at through this method. Essentially what we've published now, lots of people do that whole kind of method sitting by themselves in a room if they ask the right questions, which is what I love about it so much.

The third phase that we're in right now is, I would say all of the philosophical foundations of the method are sound. We have a good reason to believe that this let's you tap into social norms and how they work, and essentially I spend all my time thinking about how to more effectively teach this and convey this to people, which is really how we got to this book. Because we realized that there was a challenge in just getting people to see the norms around them, and so that's why the book is called See Think Solve, because that is its intent, is that people can see, "Oh okay, my whole world is shaped by social norms and they could be different." So let's talk about how to do that."

I believe that the social, social norms, human behavior, is a gigantic missing element in almost everything that we're doing.

Whether it is a corporate design project, whether it's a government policy, whether it's an awareness campaign, I think that we're relying on a really limited set of tools, that were basically just designed to move individual widgets.

And I think that if we look at group behavior, if we look at social behavior, we can achieve a lot of the things that we haven't been able to figure out otherwise.

"It's not me, it's us"

Andrew: So that is what I view of the future of this book, is trying to get this set of ideas into almost everything. I think that the reason we started where we did is that people's lives and the things that they try to do are really powerfully shaped by these social factors.

But many of them are not even aware that it is happening. They don't get that these are group or cultural decisions that are completely shaping their lives, and looking at the six things that we describe in this book simply gives them the knowledge, the perspective to see that that is going on. That alone I think provides a huge amount of really cognitive relief to see, "Oh okay, the reason I can't get ahead on my job or the reason why people won't listen to my message isn't because I did anything wrong. It's that there are these unwritten social rules that are affecting my world."

I think we give people an opportunity to see and ultimately change those, but it starts with just being aware of them.

Lee-Sean: So the Twitter version is, "It's not me, it's us?"

Andrew: [Laughter] Yeah, and a lot of times, I like that you say it's us, because we often participate in the norms that are holding us back in ways that we have no idea. Through the way that we choose to interact with people, through our feeling of what we think is appropriate.

Lessons from #MeToo

Andrew: I think that actually #MeToo is one of the greatest examples of disrupting that norm, because certainly, I mean I know probably dozens of folks at this point who have spoken out in a #MeToo fashion.

I think that some of those folks would have said, "You know what? I would not have considered it appropriate for me to tell this story in the past." But they made a conscious decision to shift the norms by saying, "This is something I'm going to talk about as a part of my public identity." We're still seeing all the consequences of that.

If you look at that, if you look at the beauty of that movement, it really is in its collective impact. It's not that one person had an interview and we all became aware. It really was everybody moving on it all at once, and a norm fell away in probably about a week. It was really an amazing thing to watch.

Lee-Sean: In a week and 10 years, right? Because there was the woman who had started it 10 years ago, and it took the high profile case of women who had been abused by Harvey Weinstein to turn it into a thing, plus some amplifiers, which I think is the interesting thing about some of these sleeper norms and how it seems like it's overnight, but it's really a decade or more in the making.

Andrew: Yeah, I totally agree with that, and I think that what we're doing and teaching in our program like ours, I would encourage folks to recognize deviants that are out there, like #MeToo was. It was almost like a rare species just waiting to be found by the right genetic engineer and say, "Okay, this very special gene, we could use to change the entire world."

If I think about what we're trying to do with the book, it really is to cut off those 10 years and say, "Okay, there are people out there behaving the way we want everyone to behave, how can we understand what that behavior is and accelerate it?"

Emerging norms: "manels," pronouns, and political shunning

Lee-Sean: So a couple more shifting norms that I've been noticing. One is the backlash against what people have dubbed manels, the all male panels at conferences. And then another one is people declaring their pronouns, as a way of including and solidarity with trans people, rather than assuming what somebody's gender is, regardless if you're cis or trans, you can say if you want to be called he or they or whatever you'd like.

It's certainly an outlier and probably the progressive circles in New York City that I'm in, but it's interesting how the logic of that is to shift the norm about assumptions of gender. I guess the question part for me is are there other emergent norms that you'd like to point out?

Andrew: I'll give you one. This is happening in the news right now, which is political shunning. Is it acceptable to deny service to a public figure based on their political associations? I think that it makes sense to ask why it was not this way previously and how it could function in the future. I think that there are norms around spaces of commerce in the United States that have made them a public space, which the civil rights movement addressed very effectively.

If you look at a different arena, like who would you be happy about your kids dating, that's not considered a public arena. If you look at statistics on the question, "Would you be happy if your child were dating somebody from the opposite political party?" That has just cratered, right?

People's ideas of would it be acceptable for my son to date a Republican, my daughter to date a Democrat, whatever it is, has just completely fallen apart.

Lee-Sean: But somebody from a different race or ethnic group seems to be more acceptable in a lot of corridors, whereas the political divide seems to have increased.

Andrew: Much more than it was. Religion tends to be still pretty divisive in those categories. Actually, that to me, is an example of the future dynamic in action. Because we're talking about an imaginary future event and people's expectations around it. You have the same question around would you find a Muslim president acceptable? That kind of question. It's completely hypothetical future scenario, but the truth about people's attitudes comes out in a way that it might not before.

When we talk about the future dynamic, what we're really interested in is expectations. Future is actually my go-to dynamic, if I only have one weapon. I'll ask people, "Where do you see all this going?" Normally the truth about what they think about it comes tumbling out.

Anyway, to go back to your question about the emerging norm, we've got all sorts of norms changing around shunning and shame, mainly because the public visibility of the internet, and that's a limits change, in fact.

The fact that if someone is denied service at a fast food restaurant on the other side of the country, suddenly we can all have an opinion about it and register our like or dislike of that fast food restaurant. That was a completely meaningless, an absurd scenario, 20 years ago. I would say that that's contributing to whatever shift in norms is going on there.

How to learn more

Lee-Sean: So in terms of near futures, how can people learn more about See Think Solve and the Innovation Dynamics?

Andrew: Sure. Well, the easiest approach is just to get and read the book. It's on Kindle, you can get it through paperback, all on Amazon or through It is designed to be easily read and absorbed in one setting. It is a simple book. I would say that the advantage of reading it, what would result from reading it, is seeing these things around you.

I would say that for further steps, for folks who want to do more, the best thing to do would be to reach out to me or my co-author through the website. We believe that there are many particular applications of this way of thinking. In healthcare, in policy, in business, and design, and that's what we're really looking forward to exploring next, is seeing how can we take this set of ideas and apply it in different fields?

Right now the thing that I know the most about, through my faculty role at USC, is applying this to big social change efforts. Through I would say the lens of organizations and management, and strategy, because that's who we train, is people who are going to run big organizations. But I think that even if you're just a kid wondering how to make an impact on the world, seeing these kinds of things would open up new options for you. I hope everyone reads it.

Lee-Sean: So again, that's, and we'll post a link on the podcast page. Andrew, thank you so much for joining us today.

Andrew: Sure, and thanks for designing the book, Lee-Sean. Trying to convey this stuff visually is so important, because it's also abstract. So, even like the choice of colors that you guys made for the cover, I'm just in love with, so thank you so much.

Lee-Sean: And thank you for listening. You can find FoossaPod on Apple Podcasts, Android and at, where you will also find a transcript and links to things we referenced. Please leave us a review, we would love to hear from you.

FoossaPod is a production of Foossa, a creative consultancy that works for and with communities to tell stories, design services, and build new forms of shared value. 

Music this episode is a track called “Lightning Strikes” by Jared Reed. And to here to take us out, President Barack Obama in his second inaugural address, which Andrew mentioned in the episode. 

Once again, I’m Lee-Sean Huang. Until next time. 

President Barack Obama: We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forbearers to Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall, just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone, to hear a king proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.