Season 3 Episode 2 with Radim Malinic is now available. Listen now.
Jan. 19, 2023

End of year reflections and being aware of the self and the system you're part of with Andi Mignolo

Designer, executive coach and the President of the Interaction Design Association, Andrea Mignolo kicks of Season 3 with her insights and advice on being aware of the self as a designer and also the the larger system you’re part of.


#028 - Welcome to Season 3! As designers, we are good at thinking and doing. But what about being? How does that look and feel like? In this first episode of Season 3, I spoke with Andrea (Andi) Mignolo, designer, executive coach and the President of the Interaction Design Association. Andi talks about self-awareness but also awareness of the system the self is part of.

In this episode:

  • Ontology: a way of being
  • Centering yourself
  • How self-awareness makes you a better designer
  • Embracing resistance as part of the creative process
  • Uncoupling design and capitalism
  • and much more!


Shownotes

Andrea on LinkedIn

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mignolo/

Method and Matter

https://methodandmatter.com/

The Interaction Design Association

https://www.ixda.org/

P N T S . U S: an ontological design studio

https://pnts.us/

Wordpress theme Andi designed

https://wordpress.com/blog/2010/08/16/new-theme-oulipo/

Andi writes a monthly newsletter about leadership, business, and being human, called Kitchen Party.

https://methodandmatter.com/kitchen-party/



Show credits

Illustrations by Isa Vicente

https://www.instagram.com/isadezgz/

Music by Brad Porter

https://prtr.co/

Episode edited by Niall Mackay

https://sevenmillionbikes.com/

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Andi Mignolo: Who are you in this moment? Who is sitting down to write these reflections? Because even yesterday, me and today me are going to be connecting to something different. And so if I don't know who the person is, who's sitting down to write the reflections, if I'm not bringing awareness to that, then next year when I look back, , there's a big piece of information missing in terms of what was important to me in that moment.

[00:00:23] Nirish Shakya: That's Andi Mignolo who's kicking off season three of the Design Feeling Podcast. Andi is a designer, executive coach, and the president of the Interaction Design Association, also known as I X D A.

[00:00:38] In this episode, Andi talks about being aware of yourself as a designer and also if the system that you're part. We also explore ontology a way of being and how it can help you be who you are and embrace the resistance that you might be facing. Andi's such a deep thinker when he comes to our existence as designers, so this conversation will surely take you places that you haven't been as you kick off your new year.

[00:01:06] And keep listening for a simple centering exercise that Andi guides me through to uncover our need in the moment.

[00:01:13] Shivaun: This is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya. 

[00:01:23] Nirish Shakya: Hello. My name is Nirish Shakya and I'm a human-centered designer, educator and coach. And this is a podcast for well, human-centered designers and innovators and problem solvers who tend to forget the human within the. The conversations you'll hear will help you increase your self-awareness and creative confidence so that you can make the impact that gives you the joy and meaning that you seek.

[00:01:56] Let's get started. 

[00:01:59] Andy Min, welcome to Design Feeling.

[00:02:04] Andi Mignolo: Thank you. I'm so excited to be here.

[00:02:06] Nirish Shakya: I'm really excited to have you, and especially to kick off season three. So you're our first guest of season three. and I came to know about you through my good friend Jason Masu, who is a local leader for I X D A, the Interaction Design Association for London. and he's told me a lot of great things about you, so I'm like really excited to learn more and deep dive into some of the things you've been working on and all the things you care about, so that we can help our listener kick off their new year, with a great start.

[00:02:39] Andi Mignolo: sounds good. Let's dig in.

[00:02:40] Nirish Shakya: Awesome. So Andy, you are an exec executive coach. you're also the 

[00:02:45] president of theI X T A, which is the Interaction Design Association. Um, you have a very diverse and eclectic career as well, what you call a winding career path. you have tested video games. You've taught business English in Japan at the Japanese, self in a defense air force.

[00:03:04] you have also,you, we both share the practice and the love for meditation and kung fu, which we can definitely talk more about a bit later. But imagine if they made a movie about you. How and where would that movie.

[00:03:22] Andi Mignolo: Oh gosh. what a great question. I think it might

[00:03:27] morning if it would start with

[00:03:30] a scene in my dad's office, and this is in Michigan at the time, and it must have been maybe the late eighties. He's a university professor, so he had access to the internet before it, became a bigger thing. And he had this old Zenith computer, orange text, black screen, that was it.

[00:03:54] But we had access to Gopher and like bulletin boards and I think it would probably start there. I was young enough that I didn't. everything. But there were some kind of humorous texts and other things that I had access to. And I think it would probably start there in, in terms of both the experience of the computer and the experience of the internet, but also, I don't know, being in this, home library.

[00:04:26] And also, I dunno, there just, and having this kind of woods outside, all those layers are part of things that are very interesting to me. But that was the first moment of really connecting to computers and the internet and just feeling like something was there. Iit was so young that I probably didn't know exactly what it was, but also old enough that, I could put a few pieces together.

[00:04:48] Yeah. I think that would start there. That's a great question.

[00:04:52] Nirish Shakya: Oh, thank you. what I'm here for, And,

[00:04:57] Andi Mignolo: would yours be?

[00:04:58] you mean like where would my movie start? 

[00:04:59] Nirish Shakya: my, my movie would start in, Katmandu in Nepal. That's where I was born. and, um, I guess it would also start with, you know, a sceneat my, grandparents place because I actually grew up with my grandparents, because my mom and dad were working in another.

[00:05:15] and for some reason, apparently I didn't want to go with them. I wanted, cuz I love my grandparents, I stayed with them. so yeah, that's where I would probably start, with my, I guess my first pet, which was a dog named Jackie . and how I grew up and yeah, I also have a little bit of a computer story.

[00:05:29] Nirish Shakya: Like my uncle,he was, he's a, an electronics engineer and he once brought a, this massive computer home. And I remember like him, it was like one of those old, terminal base Emma system. And she, he opened up like the game of chess on it. And I remember like when he was away, I wanted to play chess on it, but I didn't know how to start it up because he was like, a door space system.

[00:05:52] I didn't know what commands to type to start up chess, . So I kept typing chess on the terminal, but it just said ban bad command or file name or something. And I think that was my first memory of, using a computer as a kid and not knowing what to do with it. And now, looking at the computers that we have access to now, like you don't need to know any commands, To operate it. it's so intuitive. You can just look at things and, use it without having any technical knowledge. So it's, it's great to see like how long, how far we've, we've come.

[00:06:25] Andi Mignolo: So did you ever get the right command to make chess work?

[00:06:28] after I learned some, commands at school, I did, but not, not when II was like seven or eight or something. 

[00:06:36] Nirish Shakya: Andy, you are an executive coach. what does that entail?

Becoming an executive coach

[00:06:41] Andi Mignolo: I became an executive coach because of my experience with my first executive coach. So years ago in my first executive role, number one, when I stepped into it, I remember people being like, are you sure you wanna do this? There's a lot of, clearly people saw or weren't seeing something in me. In terms of a leadership role that I was feeling like I was capable of doing. And I stepped into the room and largely I've been involved with startups and so in the tech world, and there's a certain archetype of leadership that you see, and that's what I saw. And I tried to emulate it and it did not work at all.

[00:07:19] And my team was unhappy. the other executives were unhappy. I just wasn't e executing in the ways that I needed to. and luckily, instead of firing me, the company suggested getting an executive coach and they were willing to pay for it as well. and so I reached out to Jerry Colonna, who's a very well-known executive coach.

[00:07:36] He has a network called Reboot. I let him know what was going on and he paired me with this woman, Miriam, MIMA, and I may not be pronouncing her last name right. But, we started to work together and I thought that I was gonna, share, Hey, I'm having these problems, or Here's what I'm trying to achieve.

[00:07:50] And she would gimme some models and some frameworks, and I would follow those steps in . And what we started to do instead is we started to do all this inner work. I was like, what? What is this? What? What are we doing? Where is this going? And through that inner work, all the things that I wanted to achieve and all the blockers that were in my way and the obstacles those melted away.

[00:08:13] But not just by cognitively understanding a framework and taking some new steps by fundamentally transforming my awareness, my understanding of myself, my understanding of what kind of leader I was and how to bring that forward. And I thought, oh my God. Like you can take the challenges at work, which are great challenges to begin with, but you can also, if you are willing to step into it, use that as this transformational material for personal growth.

[00:08:42] really incredible. and I worked with Miriam for a number of years across a number of roles. I also worked with a couple other reboot coaches and, at some point I realized, you know what? I wanna be able to provide this for my team. if this supported me to become a great leader, then I wanna be able to just do this for the teams that I'm running.

[00:08:59] So I enrolled in a year long, I just jumped off the deep end it, enrolled in a year long coaching certification program. And in the first month, you learn, oh, ethically you can't coach your direct reports because there's power dynamics there. So you can't engage in that, like a, you mentioned that you have a coach and there's a, aa level of trust and vulnerability that happens there, and,

[00:09:20] Nirish Shakya: but in a way like, you are in a way, man, like coaching your direct reports, right? In some conversations.

[00:09:28] Andi Mignolo: Yeah. And those are, and I would say the difference there. and I've been thinking about the difference a lot because I'm teaching a course, called Beat as Coach, and it's this idea of having coach conversations, but you're not necessarily going into the depth of like inner work that might happen sometimes in that long-term trusting relationship with the coach.

[00:09:49] And so I think it's really important to understand that there are power dynamics and that there are ethical lines,

[00:09:54] relationship is not fully neutral.

[00:09:57] Andi Mignolo: Exactly. Yeah. but like you said, I was able to take a lot of the learnings, from the coach training. And again, just experience with the executive coach and having this transf transformational experience through my challenges at work, the program itself was transformational.

[00:10:13] I was showing up again as a different leader, and I was able to have these coach-like conversations with my reports. What happened in the program is you also have to have practice clients, and you do a full coaching engagement with them. the program that I attended was New Ventures West and they teach this methodology, we can do this six month engagement, and there's an arc to it.

[00:10:32] and so was working with people for six months and I fell in love with the one-on-one work in a way that I didn't think that I would. And so at that time I started to think,maybe there's a path here for me. Like maybe this could be something that,I end up doing at some point in my life.

[00:10:46] Andi Mignolo: And then the pandemic hit and it was just a really hard transition to, to move. uh, into fully online work at a startup. And we were going through a lot of growth and other challenges and it felt like, mid 2020 felt like the right time to give it a shot, which is maybe a,a strange time to step into trying to run your own business and change your career, but everything else was falling apart.

[00:11:11] So I figured out , why not

[00:11:15] Nirish Shakya: What's the worst that could happen? Eh,

[00:11:16] Andi Mignolo: Exactly.

[00:11:18] Nirish Shakya: The worst has already happened.

[00:11:20] Andi Mignolo: Pretty much, yeah. A hundred percent.

[00:11:23] Nirish Shakya: And uh, what was the biggest challenge for you then?

[00:11:26] Andi Mignolo: That's a good question. I think I'm still in the transition period now. I think there, there was this really interesting, especially in the first week, it was acutely obvious where I had closed down my work, laptop, shipped off. , but I've been working in organizations for my career, so I'm very used to showing up every morning and getting the day.

[00:11:56] You know, there's a certainthere's a certain way in which you structure your life and you conduct your life when you are working

[00:12:03] Nirish Shakya: The routine.

[00:12:04] Andi Mignolo: the routine. And so that first day where I didn't have that, I sat down at my desk, I had my computer open, and I was like, what am I doing? And so I think that it was this big opening of like, oh my God, I don't even knowhow to structure a day. Like when I, and it's this interesting meta question too, right? Because coaching is about, or the type of coaching that I'm interested in or was trained in is very ontologically.

[00:12:29] Your way of being in the world. And I, my way of being was very shaped by being in organizations and working for a company and understanding myself in that way. and work was, and to a degree still is a very big part of my identity. And so I didn't know how to shape myself

[00:12:46] just for the benefit of, our listener, Andy, if you could just maybe, quickly define what ontology means.

What is ontology?

[00:12:55] Andi Mignolo: Yes. ontology is, basically the study or the understanding of a way of being in the world as opposed to epistemology, which is how we, it's a way of thinking. I actually get into a lot of arguments with Walter around ontology versus epistemology. We've come to a place where, they both are two sides of the same coin in a way, but there was something for me that was very,

[00:13:19] sometimes in life you just hear a phrase or you hear a word and it just has us a light, but there's something in it and you're like, Ooh, there's something deep. Like it's not just a word. There's, it's pointing to something. And for me, like way of being captured, something that, that I have been going down a rabbit hole in.

[00:13:40] And so it's how do we understand ourselves to be in the world and how are we interpreting the world that supports that way of being or doesn't support that way of being? A lot of people come to coaching when, they're, they have something that happens in their life that suddenly they realize, that makes them aware that they have a way of being right.

[00:13:59] Because when things are flowing, it just feels like it's all natural. Like this is the way the world is. But when something stops working and we realize, oh, wait a minute, we suddenly have an awareness and attention. That, that we do have a way of being and maybe that way of being isn't serving us in the way that we wanted to anymore.

[00:14:19] Nirish Shakya: I am going to ask a really stupid question here.

[00:14:22] What like way of being what or.

[00:14:27] Andi Mignolo: A good question. How would I answer that? It's a way of being you. It's the way that you understand yourself and your relationship with the world and who you are in it. So

[00:14:51] my way of being, when I was an executive, there were certain ways in which I saw the world. There were certain ways in which I shaped myself in response to how I saw the world. How I connected with people, how I presented myself, how I held my body, and when I was no longer an executive, a lot of that, those thoughts and beliefs and way of being in my body and being in the world and relating to people that was gone.

[00:15:23] So suddenly my way of being was very exposed. And now if I'm cultivating and deepening my way of being as an executive coach, how am I really tending to and structuring my days in support of that when I was an executive, my way of being, my structure, the way I organized myself, was in service of being effective and driving outcomes and getting things done, and being in the business world.

[00:15:51] Andi Mignolo: But as a coach, my way of being. The executive way of being isn't supportive of that. So it's been this question of how do I transition and build my days in service of the way of being that supports this world, I'm inviting forward and in service of my clients, so that I can build that presence, I can build that connection, I can build that ability to see in this new way of being

[00:16:17] Nirish Shakya: Is that like living in alignment with your identity in some way? Or your values? I don't know.

[00:16:24] Andi Mignolo: As humans, were in constant process, right? So it's very hard for me to know and I think I can get caught up. , what is my true identity? Who am I truly versus what am I connected to in this moment? And I think there's a, we can let ourselves off the hook when we do that.

[00:16:47] We can get really caught up sometimes in, in wanting to know who we truly are, and I think who we truly are changes. that's one of the reasons we had bookmarked, talking about the end of year reflections. And one of the things that I do in that is the first piece is what's the balance sheet of you?

[00:17:02] who are you in this moment? Who is sitting down to write these reflections? Because even yesterday, me and today me or are going to be connecting to something different. And so if I don't know who the person is, who's sitting down to write the reflections, if I'm not bringing awareness to that, then next year when I like look back, or next three months when I look back, there's a big piece of information missing in terms of what was important to me in that moment, what I was really feeling drawn to, what was alive, and also maybe some of the things that weren't present for me as well.

[00:17:40] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. and they're also not missing on the data of the transformation that took place.

[00:17:45] ? Yeah.

[00:17:47] Nirish Shakya: So I actually did that, exercise that you recommended, in your Medium article.

[00:17:51] the first one actually, because that was the one that, I sounded most fascinating to me cause I had never heard of that in terms of like just taking a, doing a little audit of who you are.

[00:18:00] I remember, like, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and I was trying to answer some of your questions around, who you are, what do you care about? And a lot of my answers were basically, based on my imagination of like different versions of. Mainly my one more versions was the version that others have told me I should be, or I am

[00:18:21] so for example, I'm a UX designer, or I'm a son or brother. but then there's also a version that came up, which is a version that I wanted to be an ideal self, right? Which is always perfect and does things perfectly, but what I find difficult was to answer the question like, who I am in this moment.

[00:18:40] so h how would you, suggest people connect to that? momentary, being there.

Centering yourself in the moment

[00:18:48] Andi Mignolo: That's a good question. do you wanna try it right now?

[00:18:51] Nirish Shakya: Let's do it.

[00:18:53] Andi Mignolo: Okay. Cause I think what you're pointing to is all these different versions of us, which are true, and there's a sense of what's maybe coming through underneath that. So one of the things I teach a lot to people I work with and I do myself, is constantly dropping in and centering, right?

[00:19:11] Which is a super easy thing to do. You can just start right now by feeling your feet on the floor, feeling yourself in your chair, feeling you know your weight dropping down, and the chair supporting you. Just taking a breath in, feeling your spine. Get tall, top of your head, reach towards the ceiling. As you breathe out, think of something that makes you smile. Breathe in again, and just feel the length of your spine. Breathe out. Just allow yourself to feel a little bit more ease, maybe five to 10% more ease. And as you do that, you start to settle into your body a little bit more. You can let go of whatever happened this morning or today,

[00:20:09] and allow yourself to drop from your head into your heart

[00:20:16] and then from your heart into your belly.

[00:20:24] And as you do that, what are you noticing right now?

[00:20:33] Nirish Shakya: I am definitely noticing a better sense of presence. I'm noticing the sensations, the physical sensations in different parts of my body, upper body, my heart, my lower body.

[00:20:45] Andi Mignolo: And if I were to ask you the question, what do you want? What would you say?

[00:20:52] Nirish Shakya: right now.

[00:20:53] I think my, right now, my need is for learning and my need for curiosity to be met so that I can then use that learning to make myself more in touch with who I am truly inside of me.

[00:21:11] Andi Mignolo: And what do you really want?

[00:21:17] Nirish Shakya: Wow. that's a deep question.

[00:21:19] Mm-hmm.I think I, I want, peace in knowing that I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to be doing and going exactly where I need to be going.

[00:21:34] Andi Mignolo: Beautiful. And that's how you do it,

[00:21:37] Nirish Shakya: Wow. That, that was certainly powerful actually. I don't know if it was your voice or your guidance, but, um, , , but it definitely helped me center and I think one of the things that definitely helped me do is just be present rather than being caught up in memories and imagination some memories of the past and fishing imagination.

[00:22:01] And I think it definitely helped me. Be more in connection with, I guess a deeper self. I'm sure there's like deeper layers of that, but the self I was able to access.

[00:22:15] Andi Mignolo: Yeah. And there's the deeper we go, right? Then we're living more aligned with,

[00:22:21] truth might be a word to use or potentially its values, but it's that connection to that being and what's truly important, what we're longing for, what we're calling in.

[00:22:31] Thank you. Thanks 

[00:22:33] Nirish Shakya: Andy. 

[00:22:33] Andi Mignolo: You're.

[00:22:35] Nirish Shakya: I think this is actually, a good segue for us to,talk a bit about, some of your end of year reflections that you've written about. 

[00:22:43] would you be able to maybe talk through. So in terms of especially, how can, designers, innovators, change makers, how can they use this particular time, in the year to, reflect back on the year that's passed?

[00:22:57] some of us might have done it. some of us might be on the fence. Some of us, might be about to start it, but it'd be great kind of, get,your take on. What would be the most beneficial for people to do around this time, the year, looking back and looking forward.

[00:23:12] Andi Mignolo: Yeah. it's a, it's such an interesting question because it's so personal, right? Some people, or love stepping into this type of reflection. Other people don't wanna do it. And I think it's really important to understand yourself and to honor what feels in alignment with you or not. the reason that I started to share mine is that, a lot of folks are sharing their end of year reflection processes, which I think is wonderful, but a lot of them are highly structured.

[00:23:38] go through your calendar, look at all your photos, go month by month, then look at all these areas of your lives, reflect in this way, set these goals. And I've never been, a goal oriented person. I don't set goals in my life and what's called a direction oriented planner. And so for me, that means that I know what I'm interested in.

[00:23:57] Andi Mignolo: I know, where, what gives me energy. And I'm just constantly, my antennas are out and I'm paying attention to that. I can navigate that way. . Um, at the same time, I think reflection is really important. whether it's the end of the Gregorian calendar or any cycle that's ending, if you want me to do a quarterly check in, et cetera.

[00:24:13] you were talking a lot about learning and curiosi as you were dropping in and connecting to yourself, and I really think that's what these reflections are, is that reminder to just get curious and pause and check in. So reflections can be five minutes if you want them to be, or you can take a day, you can take two days.

[00:24:31] Andi Mignolo: Some of these reflections that people put out there, it's like, Hey, you need a week to do this. You really wanna do it. I know exactly who I am and what I'm gonna wanna be checking in with and what's gonna feel like your end reflection should be. , they shouldn't feel like an assignment or like a, oh, I, I have to use all my willpower to sit down and do this.

[00:24:54] It should be something that feels very, inviting and nourishing for you. And that will change for me. At the same time, I do need some guidance, some structure. And so the way that I, I tend to approach it is what I've kind of shared this year is, who are you, who's sitting down to, to do this? Let's check in with that.

[00:25:12] and who you are is what you're aware of and what's present. Also what you're resisting. You have to bring in that part of you. Uh, then there's a sense of like,Hey, let's look at the last year and reflect on it. And you can do that in many ways. And so I offer areas of life that you might wanna reflect on some questions.

[00:25:29] Andi Mignolo: And then the last part, which is my favorite and where it all comes together, is just to write a letter to your future self and to say, Hey, here's what happened this year. and. to me it's just a kind of poetic way of connecting with what you're trying to call in. And it's really fun the next year to, reflect on your letter.

[00:25:47] And it turns out that a lot of times you do achieve a lot of those things in your letter without, necessarily realizing it at the time.

[00:25:57] Nirish Shakya: I've actually got a funny story there actually. on I think the 29th of December, I received a letter from my past self that I had written to myself this time last year, . And it's funny reading that letter cuz I had written something like, and this was when I was just about to launch this podcast.

[00:26:12] And I think one of the first lines that I wrote, wrote there was,hi, nourish of the future. I know it's been a tough year and you ha you haven't had as many downloads with your podcast as you anticipated. but now,when I actually reflect back on the year, I've had some great downloads.

[00:26:27] people have listened to what I was publishing. and I've definitely exceeded that expectation that I had when I was writing that letter a year ago. and it made me feel as if, maybe it's my own lack of, I guess self-efficacy or self-confidence that made me write those words that just kind of, hey, tone down your expectations, so that, maybe if I, even if I had to if I had to aim low, then I would still reach it and be happier.

[00:26:52] Andi Mignolo: Yeah. Yeah. And I'd be curious to know, that's where the snapshot of yourself becomes really interesting is, hey, the person who's sitting down to write this is feeling a lot of, fear or feeling a lot of stress. like what's, what is coming forward is in the person who's writing that letter.

[00:27:08] So you check in on both of those. here's what that person was saying and here's who that person, a snapshot of that person at that 

[00:27:14] time, but so interesting.

[00:27:16] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And you just, yeah. Made me realize, that the power of doing that, because when I received that email, I was like, I read it, I found it funny, I laughed, and then I just forgot about it. But the way you framed it, I can definitely reread it and analyze pretty much each sentence and assess the feeling or the emotion driving those words, which can be really powerful.

[00:27:40] Andi Mignolo: Yeah, a hundred percent. 

[00:27:41] And that actually comes from in, in business school, our leadership track, you did leading self leading teams, leading organizations, leading society, and in leading self, you learn this theory called intentional change theory. And the idea is that when you have a vision of yourself that's so compelling, you don't have to do a lot of, How can I say this?

[00:28:04] the movement towards that is easy because it's so compelling, right? It's like plants are heliotropic and they orient towards the sun and they just naturally do that. So your image of kinda who you want be is like the sun and you just kinda towards it. But in that, you end up writing a very similar thing.

[00:28:21] it's more of an essay, less of a letter, but it's describing that ideal self and invariably people, whether it's, within the course of the program or five years later or 10 years later, you revisit what you wrote and you go, oh my God. all of that has come true. And it's not like you have this specific plan that you're saying every day and like manifesting it, but because it lives inside of you in this super connected way.

[00:28:47] Andi Mignolo: Like it's not just an idea. It's this feeling that suddenly you're moving towards that even unconsciously. and I think the letter is for me an expression of that same kind of idea.

[00:28:59] Amazing. there, there's, so much that,we don't know about in terms of our own self that we never really bother to uncover. it's a lot of times we assume that we know ourselves, based on, I guess surface level things like a job title or who you are and whatnot.

[00:29:13] but there's so much deeper than that.

[00:29:16] Andi Mignolo: so much deeper. Yeah. Never ends,

[00:29:20] Nirish Shakya: Absolutely. And, I guess because you are, a designer yourself and you work with designers, design leaders, executives, how does all this knowledge help you become a better designer 

How self-knowledge helps you become a better designer

[00:29:32] Andi Mignolo: Fundamentally, I think all this knowledge helps you become a better designer, a better creative, a better leader, a better executive, because you are going to, that depth means that you are starting to examine the ways in which your ego structure, your personality has been constructed, right? And that's what had started to happen when I worked with my first executive coach, is we have these experiences at various points in our lives. A lot of times when we're very young, something happens and there's a feeling that we don't wanna feel.

[00:30:05] And so we create a strategy to never feel that way again. And these can be really small things, right? This isn't trauma with a big tea, but it's something that overwhelms our nervous system. And we start to feel, oh, never again. And we build these strategies so we never feel that way again. And they're effective and they keep us.

[00:30:24] and then we grow up and we go to work and we keep, the strategy that gets put in place to protect us. From one thing, we might start to realize, oh, that's a good strategy to use for this other thing too. And so we've, we create these kind of restrictive bands around ourselves and we can't fully move because we're just stuck in these groups.

[00:30:49] So if we can start to bring that awareness, if we can start to see what's deeper or how we do that, what we end up doing is we open and expand our range of being able to feel, of being able to sense and being able to respond. And so as a creative, as a designer, that's gonna be an incredibly useful skill to have because you're tapping into something at a much deeper level as a leader, as an executive, then you can also be in the discomfort more mean.

[00:31:20] organizations are complex and things are always going sideways, and they're never the way you want them to be. And you can either keep grasping onto that and being upset because they're not, or you can learn to be in it. And so I think the, this type of going deeper can help you in all of these.

[00:31:38] This, reminds me of a chat I was having with a friend, last night who's a head of, ux, at a company in London. And, she was basically, venting a frustration of not being able to,know, get a lot of traction in terms of, design buy-in and maturity in her organization. And she was super frustrated.

[00:31:56] and, it made me think of what you just said around,how do you as a self fit into that bigger system and what impact that has on you. and I think one of the things that is part of your research is around understanding not just the self, but also how do you fit into the bigger system and what are the interactions between the self and the system.

[00:32:20] I would love to know more about that actually.

Seeing yourself as part of the bigger system

[00:32:22] Andi Mignolo: Yeah. I mean there's a model that, I've heard many coaches talk about. It's the I we it model, right? So first is the I bringing awareness of self. how do I understand things? How do I respond to things, which things cause me to contract or to react, right? There's a. Conversation around, fight, flight, freeze, appease.

[00:32:43] I just have to say that very slowly cause I'll mangle those

[00:32:46] Nirish Shakya: like a tongue twister,

[00:32:47] Andi Mignolo: Totally. but the idea is that, and I think this is fairly common knowledge now, is our brains evolved for survival on the Savannah, and we did the lion and the mouth to warm up for this. But in the Savannah, we see a lion, we have some response, and then we can be safe.

[00:33:04] And then in the office, our brain is still responding to those things even though it's not an actual lion. And so we're constantly putting our body through these, stress moments and going into these default responses. So we have to understand the I and how we are, how we respond. Then there's the we, which is.

[00:33:25] the relationality of being in the organization. What, who are we, how do we relate to each other? What are we up to together? That then you have to understand that and then there's it, that it is the work, that it is the systems and the things that are in place to understand the we and what we're up to together or to support it.

[00:33:44] And so you have to be able to have awareness of all of those things to be effective. Or another way to put it is, that Miriam used to talk about my executive coach is there is, authenticity, which is the inner work and being fully aligned with what you're truly feeling and able to lead better. And then there's effectiveness.

[00:34:04] What are you aware of out in the world to be able to get the work done? And you have to have the ability to understand each of those things to actually be effective. And if we're not understanding the, I, we're trying to get something done in the it. , but we're constantly frustrated. Then we need to bring deeper awareness to what's happening there in order to find the optionality or the creative path forward instead of reusing those same grooves and feeling more and more frustrated and not having a path forward with it.

[00:34:34] And that is super fascinating stuff cuz you know, I've been in scenarios where I've tried to, pretty much push water up the hill, trying to make change in an organization, thinking that, hey, I'm the designer. I'm the designer leader. you should listen to me. here's a new methodology, let's do it. And you hear crickets like no one listens to you. And that can be really frustrating. and a lot of times, I did blame other people for not listening to me saying, oh, they don't know. You know what I know. In that they might, they only care about money and profits and not rather real humans and users.

[00:35:06] Nirish Shakya: And you just make up these kind of, excuses in your head as to why it's not working and why it's not your fault. but I guess what you're saying here is, I guess you gotta also understand where that's coming from, and how does that work in relation to, how other people guess, feel about the system that's part of, plus connecting that with actual work and the processes that you're trying to, make happen.

[00:35:30] . Yeah. Yeah. Another interesting way to flip it. For, especially folks who are design leaders or executives, is this idea of first team, right? And as designers, we're always advocating for design and we, when we're individual contributors, design is our world. But when we join a leadership team and we join an executive team that is not your first team.

[00:35:51] Andi Mignolo: So we usually think about it as I am the functional head representing design to the executive team. It's actually the opposite. You are the executive representative sharing, the executive strategy and everything that's happening in the executive team to your functional department. And I think when you make that mental switch, things start to become very.

[00:36:14] Nirish Shakya: Wow. I had never actually thought about that, cuz I thought you had to, be the voice of the design team, be the voice of the user and the customers. and I think that has made me, think of us versus them . and, they're not on our side. They're only care about other things.

[00:36:32] But the way you framed it is you make it part, make yourself part of that system so that you understand the system goals, are, and are better able to connect those internal goals with the goals of the team you're leading.

[00:36:49]

[00:36:49] Andi Mignolo: Yeah. And I think it's interesting because, . The voice of the customer. The voice of the user. That's now, especially in companies that have B2B SaaS companies that have big account management teams and CX teams. There's, there can be this sense of like division and ownership of no, but we have the voice.

[00:37:06] No, we have the voice. But really you want the whole organization to be customer centric. That's a what a wonderful sentiment. And so when you're the design department or you're the, CX department, then there can be that sense of oh, but it's ours. But when you are the first team, when you're the execs and you're running the company, that switch becomes very different.

[00:37:28] And we can say, oh, great. We're all collecting data about the customer. Let's figure out how we're all gonna start to use that together versus you need to join our system and do it our way. You need to join our system and do it this way. Becomes a very different, different way of seeing it, a different way of finding potential ways forward it in terms of connecting it and using that really valuable information to share with the entire organization.

[00:37:48] That being said, organizations are also political, so that will always be a component of

[00:37:53] And one of the things that I find fascinating in your writing is how you say, embracing the wholeness of your being, including the part that resists, and then we do experience a lot of resistance, either internally or externally. how would you recommend people embrace that resistance?

How to embrace the resistance

[00:38:09] I think the biggest key to embracing the resistance is to become aware of it and to, there's this concept that came forward in this research that I'm doing on resistance in organizations, and it's this, Power resistance matrix. And the idea being that aware power is being able to get what you want from the environment.

[00:38:30] Andi Mignolo: Resistance is being able to not get what you don't want from the environment, if that makes sense. So resistance and power are both actually very healthy, but it has to be aware. If you are not aware of the resistance, it tends to leak out in ways of complaining without taking action or, just staying in that mode of feeling powerless or frustrated or whatever, but without realizing what the path is forward.

[00:38:55] So both for individuals and for organizations, the first step is just to bring awareness to it because aware resistance has a purpose. And if we can understand that purpose and start to appreciate that purpose, just that awareness of it starts to change it. this is the,through line in all personal development work.

[00:39:15] As you start to bring awareness to something, you don't have to do anything. Your awareness changes it. You don't have to put in a lot of effort. And so with resistance, that's a really important part of bringing awareness to it and being able to voice it in a way that is very clear. Similarly, people in power need to be very clear if there's a decision or a change that's happening, to be incredibly clear about it.

[00:39:37] So unaware resistance often is a response unaware power. and both kind of need to be working together and coherent ways. But I think the first separately is to bring awareness to it and go, oh, there's resistance here. What's that about? What's it doing? Let's appreciate what it's trying to do.

[00:39:55] Cause it's about keeping a system in homeostasis. If something, if there was no resistance, imagine being in an organization and every idea that somebody brought everyone, yeah, let's do it. How chaotic that would be. mean, it could be really fun, but you'd also just never know exactly what, which way was up.

[00:40:13] And so resistance can help things stay stable, which is really important. And so it's that constant interplay of bringing that resistance into awareness and bringing in what it's in response to. And appreciating both of those, that things will naturally start to change.

[00:40:31] Nirish Shakya: So what's, what you're essentially saying is resistance is part of the creative process and it's necessary for creation and innovation.

Resistance is part of the creative process and it's necessary for creation and innovation.

[00:40:40] Andi Mignolo: Yes. Even for the creation of yourself or your kind of ongoing changing of self. Yeah.

[00:40:45] Nirish Shakya: Nice. I love that reframe. cuz a lot of times we do tend to ignore or push away, things that, brings us dis discomfort thinking that, oh, it's bad for us, but I guess it's not bad for us, actually part of us.

[00:40:58] , it's so good for you.

[00:40:59] Nirish Shakya: Hmm. 

[00:40:59] Andi Mignolo: if you can. When you bring it and you go, oh, wow, look at how much I'm resisting that. Wow, it's this is really protecting me from, I have a lot of, procrastination sometimes because it's very scary to share things. It's very scary to step out there and be seen.

[00:41:14] And so if I can procrastinate, that resistance is keeping me smaller, but that's a safe place to be because I'm not putting stuff out in the world and people can make a judgment on it or judge me. And so the resistance can, it's really wants the best for us.

[00:41:31] So the next time I'm procrastinating, I shouldn't really feel bad about it.

[00:41:34] I would turn towards what's, what the resistance is and get curious and make friends with it. But yeah, don't feel bad about it.

[00:41:40] I'm gonna ask you a question that we ask our users in a lot of our user testing and research sessions. If you could wave a magic wand and change anything in the design industry, what's the first thing that you would change?

If you could wave a magic wand and change anything in the design industry, what's the first thing that you would change?

[00:41:54] Andi Mignolo: I would wanna open up, I want design to go into, How do I put this? I think my resistance is is it too big? How do I actually frame this? design education and design practice today largely is very tied to capitalism, and I would love to wave a magic wand and have a world where that is decoupled and that design, there's more education, there's more practitioners, there's more that's happening in terms of pushing on and critiquing and understanding the role of design in a world separated from capitalism.

[00:42:36] Nirish Shakya: Wow.

[00:42:37] Andi Mignolo: what my magic wand is doing.

[00:42:38] what is the role of design outside of capitalism?

What is the role of design outside of capitalism?

[00:42:42] Andi Mignolo: That's what I'm trying to figure out. because Design, we gave this word came into use a couple of centuries ago in a specific moment of time where we started to, build markets. We were industrializing things we needed to sell. There was scale. so design came forward as a activity or as a thing that needed to be named so closely tied to capitalism and and to technology.

[00:43:12] and so I don't think we have the tools yet to, and this is about that, going into those levels of awareness and to become super aware because all of us who are practicing design are shaped by this lineage. Design being tied to capitalism, to creating products that people will buy in the market.

[00:43:38] Andi Mignolo: You can blow all that away and say, design is just manifesting with a different future. And so we all design in that way, which is also true, but that kind of lets everything go and doesn't give us anything to hold onto either. and so I'm trying to really think about, and I can only critique this from within and as a western body.

[00:43:57] So there's all this work now of,like designs for the plural verse and, indigenous design and other practices of design, As western designers who come through this lineage and are shaped by it and are continuing to shape. We can start to understand the ways that Western design has tried to universalize and colonize what design is and how that happens.

[00:44:19] And we can make space for, and listen to design as it comes through other worlds or other world. But even then, to say, to look at another practice that looks like design that comes from a different cosmology, that's still putting too much of a Western gaze on it. I could look at it and say, oh, that's design.

[00:44:41] But from that body hood and from that world of somebody who comes from a very different cosmology, that may not be it at all. And so I think this is where the idea of the plural versus very interesting, but you cannot design for it.

[00:44:55] Nirish Shakya: what what's coming up for me at the moment is, you know, Some of the work that I'm trying to do, in my home country in Nepal, around I guess bringing in more,design, education,entrepreneurship, education,Education are around, building more self-awareness and creative confidence and a sense of meaning into kids at school and the teachers.

[00:45:13] but I guess my fear is that I'm taking my western Eurocentric view of design into that world. And although I do come from that world, I'm still, I still feel like I'm enforcing something I've learned outside of that world and trying to bring it in. cause my question is around, in that particular context, how can you, can someone be respectful in terms of the,the knowledge,the methods and the tools that already exist, whilst also trying to, enhance that through, external influences.

how can you, can someone be respectful in terms of, of the, um, the, the knowledge, the, the, the methods and the tools that already exist, whilst also trying to, um, enhance that through, um, external influences.

[00:45:45] Hmm, that's a great question. What's, what's the Nepalese origin story? What's the cosmological kinda origin of man?

[00:45:54] it's a melting pot. there's a, there's like indigenous people within Nepal who've been there for, for ages. and there are also, people and groups of people who have migrated there from, India and more of the Arab world. definitely people who've moved from more of the Mongolian and Tibetan regions as well.

[00:46:10] Nirish Shakya: So it's like a melting pot of different 

[00:46:12] cultures. 

[00:46:13] Andi Mignolo: and, uh,is there a predominant religion, worldview? What's the relationship between like man and nature, man and the universe? What's that? Is there a common understanding of that?

[00:46:23] Yeah. I mean, the predominant, religion is Hinduism. and the second most, um, common religion is Buddhism. . and it's, um, very much connected with nature, in terms of, worshiping, you know,metaphors that connect with nature. For example, my grandmother and my mom always worships the son God in the morning

[00:46:40] there's also a festival dedicated just to books and knowledge, and there's a goddess that represents books and knowledge, which is the goddess. so swarthy, there's a goddess representing wealth and wellbeing as well. So Lakshmi. so yeah, it is a very much,of a connected, way of living to nature in the form of these deities that you worship.

[00:47:00] Andi Mignolo: Yeah. And I think, the reason I asked about the origin story is from a Western cosmology, it's very much man over nature, right? The ways in which we tell the story we come forward into the world with this idea that we can dominate nature that is ours to control.

[00:47:18] That is a resource. There's a really interesting philosopher named Qui, and he wrote this book about the origins of cosmos in China. It basically says that we can't have, we don't have technology in China in the same way as the West is because we don't have an understanding of ourselves as dominating nature, right?

[00:47:35] We're part of it. And so because of that understanding of ourselves in relationship to the universe, we have a very different way that all of this comes forward. and . I think there's something really interesting in that exploration of what is our fundamental relationship to nature, to the universe, to each other.

[00:47:54] that then can start to facilitate maybe design conversations and less about, I think there's something interesting too, saying, Hey, here's the skills you need to learn to actually just make some money with design. That's really important. And when I'm waving my magic wand, there is this other thing that's starting to happen of like, when we take design away from needing to solve some problem so that we can make money.

[00:48:20] I think this, the problem framing of design itself is problematic. Cause then we're just looking at, we're looking for problems, we're creating problems maybe where they don't exist. And then we have to create more products to solve the problems we created by creating some

[00:48:32] Nirish Shakya: It's a vicious cycle,

[00:48:33] Andi Mignolo: Endless cycle. But I do think that it's really important then also to create the space of saying like, how can we in our humanity, use design to foster that humanity and bring it forward more? There's this idea that technology, when it is lived and used for the values of technology, then we get into a really bad place because all we're doing is we're furthering the use of technology for technology's sake. And in that way, we're not understanding anything about what it means to be human. So for example, we have pushed technology to the point that we can sequence our dna.

[00:49:14] That's amazing. We can see our entire genetic sequence. But what does that teach us about being human, not a.

[00:49:21] Nirish Shakya: And why do we need to learn to be more? learn more about being a human.

Why do we need to learn to be more human?

[00:49:26] Andi Mignolo: Well, I think what we've been doing is,taking away our humanity and giving it away and this is, this also could be more of a problem in the western world, but understanding what it means to be human and being able to honor our humanity, to be in our dignity, I think is what keeps us healthy and connected and that, and gives us meaning in our lives. We have, I think through technology, tried to take away a lot of that.

[00:49:51] There's this idea. So in design, it's very closely tied to technology, but what is technology? Technology is what the application of something, it's craft in a way, but the essence of technology.

[00:50:02] There's this, really great philosopher named Andrew Fienberg. He has a meta theory of technology, but in something he calls primary instrument instrumentalization. He describes the essence of technology. The essence of technology is to see something in nature, but to see a function, right? So I look at a tree and I see round, and I say, I want that round.

[00:50:27] So I chopped down the tree and I take the tree for that round, and I remove it from this ecosystem. I remove all the other qualities of it. I remove its ability to provide shade. I remove its ability to, be part of the ecosystem to. put oxygen in the air and I just say, I want round. And so d world it.

[00:50:46] I take it out of the world and I say, okay, here's round. I'm gonna simplify it and then I'm gonna use it for myself and put it back into the system in a way that I've created it. So the essence of technology is us ding a lot of nature. And I think what has happened as technology has advanced is we've de world ourselves, right?

[00:51:10] So with digital technology, we look out there and we say, Ooh, relationships, let's take that out of it's organic context and let's make a social graph. And so suddenly, and what happens with this essence of technology is when we D world something, when we take that essence, that function, and then we put it back in, often what we're doing when we reinsert it in the system is we're disrupting feedback loops.

[00:51:38] we remove ourselves from the immediacy of what was happening. So in the case of physical objects, the hunter no longer has to like, catch and kill the rabbit just shoots the rabbit. So that feedback loop, we're removed from it and we keep removing ourselves from the world. And we keep taking, we keep extracting these things and trying to fuel technology with them.

[00:52:01] And I think that's why we all feel the way we do these days. So that's why I think it's really important that humanity comes kinda back into it or we're able to start to shift how we're relating in these ways so that it's not just about technology for technology's sake.

[00:52:17] Nirish Shakya: Love that. and that's what I've been doing throughout my design career in terms of abstracting reality and creating simpler versions of it so that people can access that reality or the rabbit without have ever having to touch the rabbit. Now you can just even don't have to shoot a gun.

[00:52:32] You can just go to the supermarket

[00:52:34] So , what is our role then moving forwards into the future as designers?

What is our role moving forward in the future as designers?

[00:52:38] Andi Mignolo: I think,

[00:52:43] Nirish Shakya: That was a long sigh, by the way,

[00:52:45] Andi Mignolo: yeah. Well, cuz I don't have the answer right? Like, I wish I knew, I wish it were that clear. And that's, that's where a lot of these explorations are.or the reason a lot of this is top of mind for me is I'm just to really figure it out or to make some sense of it so that there is a way of saying, then how are we in this?

[00:53:04] Or what is our role in this? And I do think that designers are really good at shaping things. . But the question is how do we start to do that and what do we open up to? really listening and bringing people together and facilitating and being in the uncertainty, and doing that with humility as well. Without that hubris of needing people to understand design or to have design at the center, but to use the things that we're, that I think designers are really good at the core.

[00:53:38] there's this cur, when you talk to pe design designers, how'd you get into this? There's this curiosity in this desire to, there's a care for people, right? I've never met a designer who's like,Uh, screw everybody. I just wanna do, you know, whatever, whatever, like they, especially in, in like product design, et cetera, it's, there really is a care for people or care for wanting to make the world better.and so I think there's so much that designers can bring, but there's also a lot that designers need to let go of. And I don't know exactly, what that means for us in the future or the potential paths. I think there is tons of paths with design. but I don't have an answer.

[00:54:13] Nirish Shakya: But we have the right questions.

[00:54:16] Andi Mignolo: Yes. Some 

[00:54:17] Nirish Shakya: Awesome. 

[00:54:18] Andi Mignolo: That's really, I think that's the art of it, is asking the questions.

[00:54:22] absolutely. Andy, thank you so much for, first of all, blowing my mind and expanding it and rewinding it, and then putting it back together.

[00:54:31] Nirish Shakya: It, I'm still trying to put it back together now, but yeah,it's been a crazy hour talking to you. learn so much. we started with, ontology as a way of being and how you use that to help your clients, be themselves. and it feels like a lot of that starts with connecting with yourself in the moment. without the distractions of the past or the future. and I love that little centering exercise you did with me. and it's, it feels like it was something that, you know, I couldn't do e very easily by myself,my lunchtime or at the end of, at the end of the day or beginning of the day, something I'm definitely gonna try out.

[00:55:04] also found it really fascinating when you talked about the I we IT model. Not just being frustrated with all the external entities, which is possibly causing the frustration, in the workplace, but also how I respond to that in relationship with the we that we are working with to do the, it, the work that we're trying to do together.

[00:55:22] and also reframing yourself, as you are, if reframing your role in terms of your design exec role as you, you are representing the actual, company executives rather than you representing the department, the functional department. and that helps you connect those different, goals, and the objectives more closely. we talked about resistance, and one of the things that I find really fascinating was this concept of, using resistance, as something that has purpose, something that actually is there to help you, rather than trying to resist the resistance, which is what, I tend to do in a lot of cases.

[00:55:55] looking at it, being aware of it, can give you, a more power to then better manage it and then, deal with it as, and also, we went big in terms of talking about, the relationship between design and capitalism and how, that's probably one of the things that you would love to, decouple.

[00:56:11] not creating sake for the, for the sake of technology, but to he use technology to help us, broaden our understanding of what it means to be human. and definitely a lot more questions there than answers, but one of the things that, I'm certainly gonna take away from this is think more about, how am.

[00:56:30] how does my work and even my existence D world, some of,the, the natural systems that are already in place, and, remove some of that feedback loop. and I think there's so many examples of that. We can definitely, pull out maybe, the next time we meet up, in, in another episode.

[00:56:45] Nirish Shakya: But I, I loved how you ended with the, a very kind of empowered view of the world where designers we can, and we have the power to shape things. and I think it's, it is, up to us to use that power,in the right way. so thank you so much for that, Andy. mind blown is, would be an understatement here.

[00:57:01] but I would love to, I'm sure like, whoever's listening right now would love to have you back, for another deep dive on some of the topics that we explore today. Um, so. Andy, imagine it's your last day on Earth and someone came up to you with a tiny post-it and a Sharpie and said to you, write your Andy, please write your last few words to humanity on this piece of post-It.

[00:57:26] Nirish Shakya: What would you write on it?

[00:57:31] Andi Mignolo: Oh, you have the best questions. steak areas.

[00:57:35] Nirish Shakya: Love it. Love that. You've got the best answers,

[00:57:42] Andi Mignolo: thank you for everything. Thank you for that amazing summary. By the way, that was a pretty incredible recap of where our journey took us and we didn't even get to the martial arts yet, so

[00:57:50] Nirish Shakya: I know. We're gonna have to save a lot of those topics for our next, um, next time we catch up on, on design feeling. so how would, um, how would you like people to find you or follow you online after this?

[00:58:01] let's see. my website is Method and matter.com. usually I would say Twitter, but now I'm on ma on more often at PTs. Indie Web, social, or LinkedIn's always a great place.

[00:58:13] Nirish Shakya: Awesome. And, um, you also do have a monthly newsletter called Kitchen Party

[00:58:18] Andi Mignolo: yes. Yeah, 

[00:58:20] Nirish Shakya: where you talk about leadership, business, psychology, design being human, and lots of the things that we touched upon today. please do subscribe to that to get your mind blown and connect more to yourself. thank you Andy.

[00:58:33] hope you enjoyed that chat 

[00:58:35] Andi Mignolo: It was incredible. 

[00:58:38] Nirish Shakya: and, thank you so much. for kicking season three off in such a, an unexpected and in such an un mind-blowing direction that, um, it's, it's definitelyhelped me. See a better sense of direction to where I might be. I might wanna take some of the conversations forward with this podcast.

[00:58:57] So thank you so much for that.

[00:59:00] Andi Mignolo: Amazing. Thank you for being such a wonderful host and making me feel so comfortable.

[00:59:05] Nirish Shakya: Thank you. That's my job,

[00:59:07] Andi Mignolo: You do it very well,

[00:59:09] Thank you so much for listening in. If you have any suggestions or topics or people that you'd like to have on the show, please email me at nirish@designfeeling.co. I respond to every email. And see if you can share this podcast with one friend who wants to increase their self-awareness, creative confidence and meaning. See you next time.