Episode 62 Malin Orebäck – Circular Design at McKinsey

Episode 62 Malin Orebäck Circular Design at McKinsey

Catherine Weetman talks to Malin Orebäck, who leads McKinsey Design’s work in sustainability and circular economy. McKinsey Design is one of the world’s leading design agencies, and Malin shares a wide range of insights and gives us a masterclass introduction to circular design for products and services. Malin explains how she helps her clients get started with circular, and overcome linear ‘lock-in’.

Podcast host Catherine Weetman is a circular economy business advisor, workshop facilitator, speaker and writer.  Her award-winning book: A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business includes lots of practical examples and tips on getting started.  Catherine founded Rethink Global in 2013, to help businesses use circular, sustainable approaches to build a better business (and a better world).

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About Malin Orebäck

Episode 62 Malin Orebäck Circular Design at McKinseyMalin Orebäck leads McKinsey Design’s work in sustainability and circular economy. Design strategist with 27+ years of consultancy experience leading global multidisciplinary teams. Member of McKinsey Design EMEA leadership team. Lecturer, keynote speaker and advisor to global brands on people driven innovation, design for sustainability and business model innovation.

McKinsey Design helps clients drive growth by delivering breakthrough products, services, customer experiences, and design-led innovation. We take a unique, multidisciplinary approach bringing top design talent from award-winning studios (like LUNAR, Veryday, and McKinsey Digital Labs) together with McKinsey & Company’s deep industry expertise. This combination of analytical rigor and breakthrough creativity helps clients across private, public, and social sectors innovate at scale and speed.

Interview Transcript

Provided by AI – add ~1:10 mins for the finished episode

Catherine Weetman  02:04

Malin, Welcome to the circular economy podcast.

Malin Orebäck  Thank you.

Catherine Weetman 

And first of all, I’d love to know more about your background while in and how you got into industrial design.

Malin Orebäck  02:26

So I have a long history in the design world. So I started out as a product designer almost 30 years ago, industrial designer, I have then moved through many different parts of the design world, and I’ve been working in design strategy, been working them as service design became a topic, then building after that capability when really in our studio, and bringing that as well lesson as an offered clients. And then moving on to work more with customer experience. And today, work fully on sustainability. And that have that as my my key topic. And a lot of that work that I do is connected to circular economy. So that’s really my, my focus.

Catherine Weetman  03:21

So Malin, that’s a really interesting background to how you got into design. And I’m curious to know more about what you do now these days at McKinsey.

Malin Orebäck  03:32

So having worked in my whole life as a design consultant, the last five years of my career has been within McKinsey. McKinsey being a management consultant, global management consultancy. And while many people may know about McKinsey, most people still don’t know that McKinsey is today also one of the world’s largest design agencies. So we have around 450 designers have multiple capabilities and profiles across the world in 17, different hubs and locations. So the way we are working now approaching this challenges around sustainability is that we’re combining, you know, analytics and this this rigour with innovation and creativity. And it’s really that mix that is needed to address these challenges, because we need to envision the future and we need to be able to build a really rigorous and solid, this this path towards that future in order to realise it. So I think for me, this is an incredibly exciting time to be at McKinsey and also leading design within and sustainability within McKinsey Design. So it’s amazing how much energy and effort is put into this space and the sustainability practice of McKinsey today is the fastest growing practice across our entire firm. And there is massive investment in knowledge build up and really to, to accelerate the impact that we can create, together with our clients across the world in this topic,

Catherine Weetman  05:26

that’s really encouraging to know. And, yeah, hopefully, it’s just going to go from strength to strength, as more companies realise that sustainability needs to be at the heart of your business strategy. It’s not an add on, it should inform everything that you do right along the value chain, obviously, the design of products and services, but also, you know, your financial model, how you do sales and marketing, absolutely everything, I think it’s going to be as transformational, in a circular economy particularly is going to be as transformation as digital was touching every part of the business. And so it’s not just not just a bolt on, is it?

Malin Orebäck  06:04

No, I completely agree. And I also think that companies today who are not looking into these dimensions are at risk, and will very soon be at risk, because of the big changes that are happening, the changes that are happening in legislation changes that are happening in, in the customer, consumer finance customers as themselves. So unless companies take this seriously, they are at risk.

Catherine Weetman  06:34

I agree, I agree. Does your career map across to how designers evolved generally over the over that time, from designing products to more more about services and experience and now into designing systems?

Malin Orebäck  06:50

So, yes, it does. I mean, when I started, it was very much focused on a much more narrow scope. So you were looking at the particular product, you were looking at a particular specific part of a system. And we would always work very closely with users to understand the user needs, and then design a solution that matched and met those user needs. That’s the foundation for everything. And it actually is the foundation still today of what you know, basically what designers are doing, we’re looking at the problem, we’re looking at what you know, the customer and the user needs. We’re working within the constraints of that given context. And we’re trying to come up with as many possible solutions to that problem as we can. That’s the process of design, and it still applies. And this applies equally well in circular economy today. So that’s the same. What has changed over time is that, as I was beginning to say, in the Initially, it was more about that isolated product. Today, it’s about designing the entire ecosystem. So we move from product design, to adding more abstract aspects or services, experiences to that, and sort of add the design thinking, theories and methodologies worked with that for a long time. But today, in order to address the challenges, we have to work with systems thinking, we need to look at the entire ecosystem, and how the product or the service or the experience actually fits into that system, we need to understand value chains, we need to understand business models, we need to understand a much, much, much more complex picture and define for that whole picture and be part of it. And that obviously requires multidisciplinary teamwork. And we can maybe come back to that later.

Catherine Weetman  08:56

Yeah, because I guess user experiences and different perceptions of you know, what constitutes a rewarding experience or a convenience experience are different. It’s just reminded me of, I think I was doing my usual presentation, and going through some circular economy examples, and you know, waving my Fairphone2 in the air, and then talking about how easy it is to repair that. And there was a question later from the audience. That kind of implied that having to repair it myself, wasn’t as good as being able to send it back to Apple. And yet, I’d seen that as a big plus that I can just order, order the part. It’s here in a couple of days. And, you know, I’ll watch a quick video online and in five minutes with one screwdriver, I’ve swapped out the module out of the Fairphone and you know, and my phone’s working again. I find that much more convenient than having to post the whole phone away and beware, be without the phone while it goes off to Apple. And yet somebody else’s perception was that was kind of like a sort of, you know, a low budget less, less, less or lower quality experience. So I guess it’s, you know, trying to get under the skin of what people will really find convenient and erm, and functional for their lifestyles isn’t as simple as, as it first appears.

Malin Orebäck  10:26

I think it’s always sometimes changing behaviours, those faster than many people think. So we had a ban of plastic bags just a couple of years ago, how many weeks did it take for people to get used to that just a few weeks, and then it’s a norm is the new norm because it happens everywhere. And then suddenly, it becomes unthinkable, you know, wasting so much plastic bags, you know, that’s strange. You know, it’s like wearing a bike helmet. For example, I think it’s just a very interesting thing. In Sweden, everybody wears bike helmets. If you go to Amsterdam, nobody wears a bike helmet. It’s just a matter of introducing it as a habit. And then, you know, gradually you change, and suddenly it becomes a norm that everybody accepts. And it’s unthinkable to do the other thing. So I think some changing some of these behaviours are actually easier than then some people think. And we can get used to a lot of things where people are adaptable.

Catherine Weetman  11:28

Yeah, that reminds me of a story I heard a number of years ago about trying to encourage the nominated driver in, for groups having a night out. So the nominated driver that’s not drinking alcohol. And in America, they were really struggling to normalise that. And so what they did was encouraged the script writers of Friends and another soap at the time to just write it into their scripts as normal behaviour. And sure enough, very quickly, it just became a normal thing to do. So there are different ways to nudge nudge behaviour aren’t there.

Malin Orebäck  12:03

And I think this repair thing, it’s also it’s the same line of thinking is just needs to be reduced, introduced, and it needs to be packaged as a as a good customer experience, then it’s going to be like introducing Uber was a very, very weird thing in the beginning, first few months, and then people realise this is a, you know, this worked really well. And it was thanks to the user experience that was packaged in actually sometimes a better way than regular calling a regular taxi, then people embrace it so that thinking can be applied to so many dimensions.

Catherine Weetman  12:38

So in thinking about your circular, you know, whether it’s a product or service that you’re going to introduce, it’s really important to think about the user experience and how that’s going to work. And I guess not, not just thinking about the how does it work in normal circumstances when everything goes right, but how does it work? If something goes wrong? You know, does everything still continue that the feeling that you want from the user experience? Exactly. And maybe you could talk about what what kind of things are happening now with your, your clients, and kind of, you know, common, common things, trends that are happening across the design? world.

Malin Orebäck  13:21

So if we talk more specifically around the circular economy topic, I think one very common theme that we see among clients is that, you know, many companies struggle to see where to start, because they are very locked into this linear paradigm. And moving towards circular is actually a massive change. It’s the scale of change that many companies are pondering, you know, creating a new business unit or setting up the start up to build the new business model in a separate unit, because it’s so different from the original business model. So and of course, these are big decisions, it involves economies of scale, etc. So many companies are hesitating to move to circular models. So I think that’s, that’s where experimentation and prototyping and sort of building solutions fast that are not so expensive, to try things out. is a viable methodology to to move forward faster.

Catherine Weetman  14:26

Yeah. And are you able to give any examples of those maybe not naming companies necessarily, but you know, kind of creating creative ways of prototyping and coming up with a minimum viable product. I interviewed somebody from the Olio food sharing app a while ago, and they started with a little Whatsapp group to test you know, would people actually go to their neighbours to to swap food? So it was it was that minimal? You know, just just a handful of people on our Whatsapp group was was their MVP. So were there any, any good examples that you could share around that?

Malin Orebäck  15:09

Yeah, I mean, this is what we do all the time. So whether it’s a digital experience, or it’s a, you know, a retail experience, or if it’s a product experience, we can, you know, build that up in, in cardboard in just a couple of weeks, and we can put it in front of users, and then they can try to interact with it. So for example, we were trying out the service for for tires, you know, building that digital service, put again, in front of users getting feedback in just a few weeks. And then by doing that, we can calculate the value for the company of moving to such sort of service model instead of that purchase model. So I think it’s a very, very powerful and fast way to de risk the move towards circularity or services models.

Catherine Weetman  16:02

And I guess, with those kinds of things, it’s relatively easy for the company then to test out that new service with a nice group of their customers. And kind of really bed down, how’s this gonna work when we when we scale it up?

Malin Orebäck  16:19


Catherine Weetman  16:20

Yeah. And you’ve talked about, I mean, I’m guessing on the tires, there was some kind of sensor technology to keep track of the wear on the tires on when things need replacing, and so on. And is Tech help, helping in other ways, in terms of moving design forward and moving circular services forward?

Malin Orebäck  16:40

So there’s, there’s other you know, big developments happening really fast when it comes to tracking materials that are super exciting. So when you think about reusing, and you think about recycling, when you think about taking products back and reusing materials from from from used products of any kind, it becomes key to be able to track the materials. And that technology is developing rapidly. So both how you can tag materials tag packaging materials, for example, with with invisible tagging, that programme can build and so on. Sorting equipment that can sort high numbers of different types of materials for for reuse or recycling. Also how the sort of new material markets are evolving how you can then trade and buy and sell used materials of certain quantities and certain qualities, also enables circularity in new ways. So there’s there’s a lot of technology development that’s happening in many aspects here that will make this a lot easier.

Catherine Weetman  17:58

And does that include material passports as well?

Malin Orebäck  18:01

Exactly. So using things like blockchain to keep track of exactly what that material history has been, so you could basically know what this fragment of plastic have been in a previous life and keep track of it, which is super mind boggling technology that is developing rapidly.

Catherine Weetman  18:22

But really important when we think about all the additives that might be applied to packaging, depending on what what it was first used for.

Malin Orebäck  18:31

Exactly. And then you can know if that material faction is suitable for making products for children, for example. It’s so you can you can know the history of, of materials.

Catherine Weetman  18:44

Yeah, yeah, that’s obviously really, really important, isn’t it And particularly, as research and science evolves, so that things that we didn’t realise were harmful 10 years ago, we now know are toxic or their endocrine disruptors or whatever. So there’s, there’s lots of lots of things out there that weren’t considered harmless at the time, but but now are very much so. So thinking about the, I always like to talk about three key circular economy strategies. So designing for durability, so we extend the lifetime of products, and they have some resale value when you finish using them. And then designing for sharing and paper use so that we get more productivity out of the same thing like Car Share systems and so on. And for both of those two strategies, then designing to close the loop and recover and regenerate materials for the next batch of products. Maybe you could share some examples of you know, the the approaches for designing for those, those different strategies. So maybe we start with designing for durability and extending lifetime.

Malin Orebäck  19:51

So think designing for durability for long life. It’s something that designers have been working with for a long time. I mean, he We used to talk about designing for ageing with grace. So sort of choosing materials that actually age beautifully and to make your product desirable, even if it’s 10 years old, so that it can have, have a longer life. Obviously, that also is about, it leads into the next topic, because designing for sharing or for reuse, let’s say that we would design a washing machine and say, we don’t want to buy washing machines anyway, we just want to use them. And when they break down, we want somebody to come in and fix it. So quickly, if we could use have washing machines as a service as well. Then if you don’t have the buy and sell model, you have the rental model, and then you would maybe build washing machines in a different way, you build them more doable, you build a modular, you build a much more robust so that they can last for much longer. So so many people may not think about the huge difference of designing for reuse models versus designing for six months, it’s not the same products. It goes for any type of household product, if you have low on a mower or or a power tool or whatever, if you’re if you’re designing that for a service small, but it needs to be much more robust than modular repairable. And you can make it you can spend more money on choosing really good materials and choosing high quality engines and components, because you’re going to own it for a long time, and you’re going to lose it to the customer. But for designers, it means a completely different thing. And we all know about you know, vacuum cleaners who you know, the vacuum cleaners that my parents bought when I was a kid, they’re still working, you know, only 50 years later. Whereas the vacuum cleaners that I bought myself 10 years ago was broken. And that’s because nowadays we build products to optimise for a certain length of life.

Catherine Weetman  22:00

Yeah, but Well, it’s

Malin Orebäck  22:01

We need to roll that backwards and think differently.

Catherine Weetman  22:04

Exactly. It’s, it’s so, I find it really frustrating that, you know, we used to, we used to design things that lasted much longer, I’ve just just failed to extend the life of my parents’ 1983 fridge, which needed a new seal, and was starting to leak because so much air was getting in. And I even found a company that did bespoke fridge seals, so I could order the seal. But the problem was, it turned out that the seal had been glued into the gap between the the outer of the metal on the outside of the door and the insulation panel. So that was it. I was, you know, I was I was stumped then. But yeah, so from 1983. So it hadn’t done too badly. But, you know, we know how to design these things. And they don’t cost that much more. But I think particularly for the designing for sharing and pay per use, you know, making things easy to use, because nobody who shares a washing machine. I know in Switzerland in blocks of flats, you’re not allowed to have your own washing machine, there are shared ones and you have your particular time of the week, Monday mornings or whatever to do your washing and, and your company even allows you to not go into the office on that particular day, because it’s just part of, you know, the way of life. But nobody’s going to get the instruction book out every time to work out how to, you know, get the right cycle, it’s got to be intuitive, it’s got to be easy to use, and I suppose if something’s wearing out or needs maintaining, that needs to flag itself up, like when I interviewed Homie pay-per-use appliances on the podcast quite early on. So there they’d put their own sensors into the washing machine, it was a standard washing machine, they put their own sensor technology and people paid for every wash and you paid less if it was a low temperature wash and you know a kind of short cycle and so on. But because cleaning the washing machines out is also important they built into the programme that every month he could have a free 60 degree wash to flush all the powder and so on through so those kinds of things would need building in don’t need to these these paper use models, how do we keep things in good levels of of maintenance or repair? So I can imagine that the designing for sharing and paper use is more complicated than designing for durability and repair ability

Malin Orebäck  24:42

that is actually happening right now you know, with being more transparent with what it means. So for washing machines, for example, you know being what is eco? What does it mean? You know, do I save energy do I save water so spelling that out for consumers that you can make a choice If you do this, that it has this consequence, so So lots of products I think can be, can help us the much more knowledgeable about what our choices mean, and how we can influence our energies usage or water usage or any other sorts of use.

Catherine Weetman  25:17

Yeah. Because Homie found that by encour…, and this was mainly students who were using these washing machines, so they’re already, you know, probably not wanting to spend much money on washing their clothes, because you’ve got other things they’d rather spend the money on. But once they saw the comparative costs of every wash, and saw that when they turn the temperature down, or went for a shorter wash, they saved a few, a few cents. Within a month or so they were spending 30% less on energy and water use than they were before they got the washing machines. So this visibility of the choice that you’re about to make, at every at every point in the use of something could be transformational, couldn’t it and encouraging people to just think about, you know, how much, maybe it’s, maybe it’s not just the cost, but the carbon impact, or the water use or whatever. And maybe tracking how much you’ve saved over the year versus, you know, a kind of typical user could be really motivational for people.

Malin Orebäck  26:19

Yes, it’s so it’s about transparency, that and that can really help change behaviours dramatically and reduce numbers quickly and dramatically, just by letting people know, I just want to mention also, just because it is to be a bit naive about this and say, Oh, it was better in the olden days, when things were built more robust. And actually, today in the you know, the, it’s not desirable to roll the clock backwards, 30 years, 40 years, we also need to think today, we’re we’re having a much faster innovation cycles. And that’s actually a good thing. We’re investing much more energy efficient products. So by just by owning things for longer, it doesn’t necessarily save the planet. But we need to think much more creatively how we upgrade products, how we build. So coming into your third point here on on closing the loop and regenerative materials, how do we build products for reusing the materials for taking them apart for modular enable using parts that can be reused, replacing with the latest technology for certain components that are actually improving the person that or reducing the resource use or energy use or, or, or other dimensions, so So thinking about the the the return of the products, and this again, it comes back to the to the business model. So we’ve spent the 100 years to build business models for the linear world where we were bringing products, goods and services to people one way. Now we need to spend the next 10 years because we’re kind of in a hurry to build all the reverse models that actually take this product back and reuse all the materials that are there that are valuable materials, valuable resources that we could reuse instead of throwing it in the landfill. Because otherwise, what’s gonna happen in the future is that our landfills, it’s going to be the minds of the future where we go to to find material, and that’s going to be a mess. So let’s, you know, think this system’s smarter from the beginning.

Catherine Weetman  28:31

Yeah, I agree. And I guess that reminds me, again, of the Fairphone, which is designed on a modular basis. And so there are, you know, you can upgrade the camera lens, if you decide you, you really like taking photos, you can upgrade the camera lens. And because it’s a module, again, you can just change that yourself. And thinking back to my days at DHL, Technical Services Division had a contract repairing cashpoint machines. And so, you know, our engineers weren’t, weren’t really, you know, trained engineers, they were logistics people. But they had a script, and they could, you know, work out what was wrong. And because the machines were designed on a fairly modular basis, they could swap out one pattern and replace with another. And I think, photocopier machines and printing machines for commercial premises are often designed on the same basis. So there are lots of ways that we can avoid having to take the whole thing back. And yet, as you say, when something more that’s, you know, a more energy efficient way of doing things comes along, we can just swap out that particular module and get the new one in. And I think, you know, making things making it easy for people to do that can be a big part of the of the future solution whereby, you know, it’s either a local repairman comes out or you can do it yourself, and really, really helping that to happen, I think is the is one of the fundamental building blocks of the of the circular economy. So, yeah, so I think it’s it’s great that, you know, lots lots is happening. And I agree we don’t don’t necessarily want to go back. But it does. You know, it does reminders that we used to be able to build things to last without a problem. So, longevity in itself shouldn’t be a design challenge, should it!.

Malin Orebäck  30:24

No, exactly! We’re setting the rules, right, we can do this. We’ve done it before. We can do it again, we can make things repairable again. Yeah, absolutely possible.

Catherine Weetman  30:34


Malin Orebäck  30:35

And also, you know, this also obviously leads towards creating models for growth for companies that are disconnected from resource use, we’re resource depletion. So the capitalist growth from resource depletion, I think that’s the whole thing. where, you know, today, growth has been connected to selling as many products as possible. And then that obviously, connects back to using more resources. It’s just we need to really make that model and create other forms of growth.

Catherine Weetman  31:09

Yeah, yeah. I agree.

Malin Orebäck  31:11

More value creation, if you’re talking about

Catherine Weetman  31:12

Yeah. And and, you know, looking at the trends on that, it’s, it’s quite scary. I was doing a webinar this week and, I was looking at material use with some figures from the World Bank and United Nations, I think it was. And that’s our use of materials. So fossil fuels, metals, non metallic minerals, and biomass has gone up 70% faster than population growth over the last 50 years. So we really need to do need to kind of decouple and, and bend that curve, then wait. So thinking about the design process, I guess you’re starting with, you know, sketches and descriptions, and that kind of thing, how do you then move on to, you know, making it a bit more real for the client, you know, in terms of prototyping and coming up with a minimum viable product and that kind of thing, maybe you could describe a few of the things that you do there.

Malin Orebäck  32:09

So usually, I talk about sort of three dimensions of the definers toolkit that are really useful. And that could be applied and used by basically any practitioner actually, because it’s, it’s more methodologies and ways of think about it. So first of all, it’s about visualising the future. So drawing out what it is that you’re aiming for, what does that future look like? And I think that’s, again, addressing that challenge, we started out talking about where to start, because if you’re not really knowing what the circular economy reality looks like, you’re not you don’t know what you need to build. And you know, don’t know where you’re going. So really trying to just visualise what that future could look like. In scenarios could be alternative scenarios, what could it be? What is it that we’re aiming for, it’s a great way to align different turns towards, you know, the same direction. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is, then once you have that vision, prototype it build up really quickly build a mock up, try it tested with a few people, building cardboard, as we say, it’s not too late to change things in cardboard, then, you know, once you build something for it, so twice, and that way, you can de risk any initiative, it’s a fast way to also choose the ideas that actually didn’t work, you know, you can then know that pretty quickly. And the third one is, is really thinking about the finding solutions that have the user experience and the behaviour of users in mind. Because it is I mean, we already talked about this, it is a really, really powerful and oftentimes unused dimension of change, that we actually can orchestrate if we do the number one and the number two.

Catherine Weetman  34:07

And so how do you do that? from a practical point of view? Do you do focus groups? Do you? You know, how do you make sure that you’ve not just imagined with a hopeful?

Malin Orebäck  34:23

We do ethnographic type studies where we spend longer times with users we spend half a day with individual people to understand more deeply, what is important to them. Why do they make the choices that they make? How do they think about things? How do they interpret information, oftentimes very different from you and me. And then obviously, you need to talk about the real people who are actually your target group for a certain product or service, not people down the hallway in your office. You need to go out and talk to you know, if you’re if you’re building solutions for, you know, people who bike then you need to talk to bikers, if you’re building something for farmers, you need to talk to farmers, like, you really have to talk to the right people and spend time with them and understand their, their, their challenges, their needs, their pain points, etc. And then also take these ideas and prototypes to them, and let them use them. Also, over time, not only just have a look for 15 minutes and give a few comments, but actually maybe trying it for a week or two, ask them to write the diary about what happened and what went wrong and what went well, and how they work. And actually would like to have this fixtures that I didn’t have, or whatever it is that you need to add or remove or change. And that way you learn and then you activate, then you improve. And then you take it to the users again, and then you improve on and on and on. So really, really very, very cool co creation, together with new services, that is the most effective way. And this works for you know, regular product design. But it also works really well for this visionary new type of scenarios. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be a product that we know existed. It could also be a new ecosystem for reuse, for example, of things that people haven’t been reusing before. So not knowing how it works.

Catherine Weetman  36:24

Yeah, sure. And I’m wondering whether you come up against this problem of that. I think some psychologists have called it the action intention, gap. So where people say, they’ll do one thing, but when it comes to it, they stick with their old habits. Is that something that’s, you know, how do you overcome the risk of that?

Malin Orebäck  36:47

That’s exactly why you shouldn’t spend time with people a little bit longer. So it’s a classic example from back in the days when we were working with designing hammers. We were working with assigning wrenches. And we were studying how people will use wrenches in in a workshop. And and then when we ask people about, you know, how they use wrenches, and so on, nobody you would ask them, would you ever use this sort of smash your as a hammer to smash the things that you’re working on? And everybody would say, No, no, I don’t, you know, then I would go and fetch a hammer. But if we just did around in the workshop for long enough observing what they do, everybody used the wrench as a hammer. And then of course, you need to define the wrench. So it can, you know, be strong in the right point. So it actually can work as a hammer for when you smash up so it doesn’t break down. So actually, that led to a reshaping of the goods in the in the wrench. So it will be sturdy enough for that type of treatment. But if people don’t do what they say they do, people, that’s what you need to observe over a longer time. Because also, there’s a lot of this tacit knowledge, people don’t even know what they’re doing, and can’t even describe some of these dimensions, they just do it without thinking about it.

Catherine Weetman  38:10

Yeah, that’s, that’s a, really kind of picturing the workshop. And you could see why people would say, they don’t do that, because they’re not supposed to do that. I’m also reminded of, there are some kind of, you know, house redesign programmes in the UK. And one of the clever things they do is, is set up cameras in people’s houses to see which rooms they use most. And often people really, you know, underestimate the time that they spend in the, in the kitchen, or the time they spend in, you know, wherever it is. And so that when they see this kind of analysis, they’re often quite shocked. So, you know, there there’s no kind of, you know, I shouldn’t be saying this, because I’m not supposed to be doing it, you know, people just don’t, don’t kind of have have the sorts of minds that track.

Malin Orebäck  39:03

No, exactly. We were working with the topic of understanding how people want to charge phones in their homes, if you think about you can have wireless charging, then that gives completely new opportunities. So actually, this client didn’t know where do you want to do wireless charging if you would just place your phone were charging anywhere in your home, where would it be where would be positioned our wireless devices or technology so we just equipped you know a number of families with stickers and we asked them to go around you know, use the stickers for a couple of weeks and just add the stickers to places in your home where you would like to charge your phone. And then you would see all sorts of different behaviours, everything from you know in the bathroom to across the kitchen table or you know at yourself Far or, you know, weird kind of places. So that is the simple way of enabling people to, to explore things as their daily life goes by.

Catherine Weetman  40:12

Yeah, fascinating. So, Malin, you’ve already given us lots of great tips there for people wanting to design products and, and systems and services. But thinking back of your, in terms of your lessons learned, and helping companies to go circular. With that, is there another top tip that you’d share with people wanting to take their business more circular?

Malin Orebäck  40:38

Yes, I think I started out with this. I mean, the first, the first thing to embrace is really, this is a multidisciplinary effort. because it requires rethinking such a big part of your business. So you need to look at the entire value chain, you need to look at how you source materials, how you use materials, how you design your products, how you take your products to market, how you talk to your customers, how you take those products back, how you provide them to customers, do you sell them or rent them, or how the whole, the whole business is included. So you need experts of all of these different dimensions of your business, otherwise, it’s very difficult. So that’s the first thing and that’s also I would say, the beauty of being part of a big consultancy like McKinsey, because, you know, having access to expertise in all those different fields makes it a completely different story. Because, you know, as a, as an individual designer, I can come up with all of these ideas, but if I can’t calculate the business case of making it happen, you know, it’s this idea how they end it is, is still gonna end up in a drawer. So that’s the first thing you know, being truly multidisciplinary about it. The second thing, you know, has been mentioned many times in podcasts like this, make sure you have leadership vision, and leadership commitment, because without it, it’s not going to happen. And you know, this is really happening. Now, there’s so many companies taking on very, very ambitious commitments, on circularity, and on emission reductions, etc, that the opportunity is huge, you know, to help all these leaders make their their commitments come true. And then, you know, the third point, I think, is more around be ready to work with your full staff, of employers to embrace change. Because there’s a lot of backs as well. So. And I think oftentimes, the employees in the company are forgotten in many organisations that think a little bit more top down. So you think that you can decide things on the top and then just implement it? Our design processes are more trying to build things bottom up, because then it implements itself. So thinking about how to bring people along on the journey towards the change, and bring them in early on, I think, would be the third point.

Catherine Weetman  43:24

Yeah, that’s really insightful. And it kind of links back to what you said about, it’s multidisciplinary, because by involving the entire staff, you getting all those different perspectives of, and some of these may be things that, you know, people have raised before, and sort of, you know, been ignored about this is, this is a slight problem. So, it gives you the opportunity to solve other problems at the same time, you know, things that have always been an issue with the company, like, you know, some component that always fails or whatever. And also to overcome any difficulties in terms of how a circular value chain will, will work differently, like, you know, have you remembered how to get the product back at the end of use? If the customer has no way of packaging it up? Well, the likelihood is, it’ll, it’ll come back and be unusable. So, so those kind of simple things, thank you. Thank you, those. Those are really insightful tips. And mallin. Thinking about from a, you know, more personal point of view. Which of your values do you think helps move us towards a better world one that’s more sustainable and fairer, and why do you think that value is important?

Malin Orebäck  44:40

Yeah, I think I’m more thinking about it as purpose. So follow purpose has always been a key part of even why I became a designer in the in the first place. I want that already from the beginning to to solve problems to improve Something for people, you know, improve solutions that improve the world improve everyday life for people. That was the key motivator for me being a product designer, the process. And I still think that thing holds. So our our company or within McKinsey Design, our purpose statement is around designing change that matters. And for me, that is exactly what I’m doing. And then there is nothing that matters more now than then serving our planet for future generations. And that’s what we intend to do. And we’re, you know, putting all our creative minds that we have available towards this challenge, and there is no greater purpose than that. And that motivates me to go to work every day.

Catherine Weetman  45:48

Yeah, I can imagine it doesn’t I really like that, you know, designing change that matters. That’s great, sort of mission statement, isn’t it? And statements of purpose. So, yeah, I can I can see how that would get get the team into the office in or working from home? In, you know, in a highly motivated state. So Malin, is there anyone you’d recommend as a future guest for the programme? To help? You know, explain how the circular economies happening around the world?

Malin Orebäck  46:26

Yes, I was thinking about this question. And there is a guy,h is name is Tom Zsaky. I hope I pronounce his name right is the CEO of Terracycle. I’m sure you know, okay. Yeah, I think he would be a really cool person to have on the on the podcast. He’s also the founder of Loop, which has been for anyone who doesn’t know business model that provides reusable food packaging, and food containers, collaborating with a lot of big, big brands to make this happen. And I think the interesting thing, when, when him and we’ve learned is that they’re doing something putting in the market, something that many, many brands had said for a long time can’t be done. And they’re just doing it making it happen. And I think you also in the process, discovering additional value from this way of, of consuming products that people didn’t think about, just by making it happen and providing it. So I think that would be an interesting person to listen to.

Catherine Weetman  47:25

Yeah, thank you. And I follow what Terracycle and Loop do quite quite closely. And, yeah, I’m a big admirer of them. So I think he’d be great to have on the podcast. Thank you. And Malin, how can people find out more and get in touch with you and the McKinsey Design team?

Malin Orebäck  47:42

So you can find me on LinkedIn, just search for my name on LinkedIn. My case design has sort of sub page on mckinsey.com. If you look for business functions, you’ll find the sign under digital and there’s some more information about we did what we do and who we are. There’s also a LinkedIn page for McKinsey Design that you can follow if you want to know a little bit more about what we do. So those would be the main main places to find us.

Catherine Weetman  48:12

Great, thank you. And I’ll put those links in the show notes at circular economy podcast.com. So people can look you up and find out more about all the great stuff that you’re doing, and how you’re all designing change that matters. I love that phrase. So Malin, thank you very much for sharing all those insights. I you know, think it’s really exciting what you’re doing. And it’s also incredibly encouraging that big consultancies, like McKinsey are really getting on board with making this change happen. And, you know, we need more and more consultancies to be encouraging their clients to find circular ways of doing things instead of just continuing with take make waste and business as usual. And, you know, getting getting bigger and consuming more. We’ve got to break that link. And we’re between resource consumption and our massive ecological footprint and good standards of living for everybody. So thank you very much.

Malin Orebäck  49:08

Thank you so much for having me.

Want to find out more about the circular economy?

If you’d like to learn more about the circular economy and how it could help your business, why not listen to Episode 1, or read our guide: What is the Circular Economy

To go deeper, you could buy Catherine’s book, A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business. This comprehensive guide uses a bottom-up, practical approach, and includes hundreds of real examples from around the world, to help you really ‘get’ the circular economy.  Even better, you’ll be inspired with ideas to make your own business more competitive, resilient and sustainable. 

Please let us know what you think of the podcast – and we’d love it if you could leave us a review on iTunes, or wherever you find your podcasts.  Or send us an email

Podcast music

Thanks to Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, otherwise known as the brilliant, inventive and generous folk duo, O’Hooley & Tidow for allowing me to use the instrumentals from the live version of Summat’s Brewin’ as music for the podcast. You can find the whole track (inspired by the Copper Family song “Oh Good Ale”) on their album, also called Summat’s Brewin’.  Or, follow them on Twitter.

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