Dr. Andy Walshe:


040 – Democratising Elite Performance Tools with Dr. Andy Walshe of Red Bull Stratos

040-Democratising elite performance tools with Dr. Andy Walshe Red Bull Innovation Ecosystem

Dr. Andy Walshe:


040 – Democratising Elite Performance Tools with Dr. Andy Walshe of Red Bull Stratos

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In today’s podcast, Andy and Mark sit down to discuss the intricacies of human potential and how certain qualities of elite performers resonate across sectors, industries and arenas; how companies can evolve to enable more talented employees to excel and his project Human 2.0 which looks at how new technologies especially in the arena of Artificial Intelligence encourage us to explore our own potential at a much higher level.

[4:40] What kind of work does Andy do for Red Bull?
[8:50] Our identities can be very tied up with our achievements. What has Andy found when he’s pulled back the curtain on these high-achievers?
[14:05] Ultimately, the process of achieving our goals will take care of itself. Focus on the process.
[19:45] What advice does Andy have for a leader looking to develop their talent?
[24:00] Andy likes that there is a ‘fail fast’ mentality, but believes people aren’t being trained on how to fail.
[28:45] Look at how many experiments you’ve conducted over the last year. Based on that number, you can tell whether you’ve created a company culture that supports innovation.
[30:30] Andy is working towards a method to teach the next generation these important tactics and skillsets.
[40:10] What has Andy changed his mind about recently?
[41:45] What does Andy do to remain creative and innovative?
[43:10] What does Andy attribute his success to in life?

Summary

In today’s podcast, Andy and Mark sit down to discuss the intricacies of human potential and how certain qualities of elite performers resonate across sectors, industries and arenas; how companies can evolve to enable more talented employees to excel and his project Human 2.0 which looks at how new technologies especially in the arena of Artificial Intelligence encourage us to explore our own potential at a much higher level.

Dr. Andy Walshe

Currently leading Human Performance for Red Bull, Andy works with hundreds of international athletes and business leaders to develop and implement elite performance models. In 2012 he lead the performance plan for Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking jump to Earth from the stratosphere. Andy also founded “Glimpses”,  the annual Human Potential Red Ball gathering, a highly-interactive two-day conference bringing together world-class talent.

What Was Covered

[4:40] What kind of work does Andy do for Red Bull?
[8:50] Our identities can be very tied up with our achievements. What has Andy found when he’s pulled back the curtain on these high-achievers?
[14:05] Ultimately, the process of achieving our goals will take care of itself. Focus on the process.
[19:45] What advice does Andy have for a leader looking to develop their talent?
[24:00] Andy likes that there is a ‘fail fast’ mentality, but believes people aren’t being trained on how to fail.
[28:45] Look at how many experiments you’ve conducted over the last year. Based on that number, you can tell whether you’ve created a company culture that supports innovation.
[30:30] Andy is working towards a method to teach the next generation these important tactics and skillsets.
[40:10] What has Andy changed his mind about recently?
[41:45] What does Andy do to remain creative and innovative?
[43:10] What does Andy attribute his success to in life?

Welcome to the show, this is Mark Bidwell of Innovation Ecosystem. With me today is Dr. Andrew Walshe who is a globally recognized leader and expert in the field of elite human performance. Ultimately, his goal is to hack performance and  to help those individuals and groups working on our greatest challenges succeed using the techniques that we’ve mastered in the elite training environment. Amongst other things he is currently elite human performance head for Red Bull, and it was in this role that Andy was appointed performance director for Red Bull Stratos leading the performance plan for Felix Baumgartner’s record breaking jump to earth from the stratosphere in 2012. That’s a long intro but welcome to the show Andy.

Yeah. Thanks for having me Mark. I’m really excited to talk today.

Super. So, what do you do at Red Bull? I mean  you’ve got lots of other interest as well but I mean the 9-5 job, what do you do at Red Bull?

Red Bull is sort of — the role here is very unique. It’s something that was started as a part of talked about almost ten years ago now. Very simply, it was wow, we have this extraordinary portfolio of talent across the board, music, culture, the arts. We are sort of interested in supporting them and giving them assets or programs that will allow them to live and fulfill the dreams that they are trying to achieve. And can we set up sort of a formalized process to sort of help them along that journey. It can be very tactical in terms of new equipment designs or pioneering some new technology that helps them perform at a higher level. It might be something very much – hey, we will help you sort of dig a bit deeper into yourself, understand where your values are and what you stand for through that sort of spiritual life skills approach to support their drive, or their sort of journey towards that dream.

It sounds like it’s tailored for the individual but are there some fundamental sort of foundational knowledge or techniques or habits that you try and instill to everyone irrespective of whether it is for a snowboarder or surfer or a mountain biker. I mean,  that was some fundamental things that start the journey, if you’d like.

Yeah, I think there — As you said, it’s interesting that the technical side of what they all do is very unique obviously. Again, across the board business culture but the reality in terms of sort of understanding how to explore your potential as a human really starts with some simple paradigms, the first ones that’s really important to ask is to sort of get a great sense of self, to help establish in that individual – who is already usually at the top of their game in one form or another. What are you here for? What do you stand for? The sort of conversation centers around getting better at who you are. It leads to sort of better at what you do, and so we spend a lot of time with these elite performers just sort of asking them to sort of consider that framework. In our training evolutions, we create a lot of scenarios where we actually explore that edge with them. We push them a little. We challenge them in sort of unexpected or obtuse ways. The meaning of most of that is to sort of (1) show them how they respond when the stakes are higher and give that insight, and through that sort of self-reflection and that moment of sort of saying hey, this is how I react in this particular situation, that’s really an opportunity to say is that appropriate? Is that what you wanted or is that something you’d like to improve and move on? And sort of that old idea that when it’s going well everyone does great, when it gets full it goes sideways. That’s when you really know what people stand for both yourself and your team. So, it sounds very esoteric but the reality is for an elite performer or someone who’s really at the top of their game, they have mastered so many elements of what it takes to be successful that it usually is about us helping them see things a little differently or showing them a different perspective or creating a training environment that explores their boundaries and their edges and their challenges and their understanding of who they are improved. It’s through that sort of broadening of perspective, they then adapt and modify their training or their preparation in ways that we would never really recognize. It’s just we kind of give them kickstart and then they be the experts they are. Take it to that next level.

So, i’m curious because if someone comes in who’s at the top of their game, they probably relate their sense of self to their performance, their sport.  I would imagine you have some quite difficult — Well, some quite interesting conversations with people who look at you and say well, I know who I am. I’m at the top of my game. Let’s move on to something else. In the corporate world, people often, their identities are so tied up with what they’ve achieved. That could be very disconnected from actually the true sense of self once you peel that away. Do you find that in some of these conversations with these people?

Oh absolutely. It’s not this wonderful idyllic utopian world where we’re all sitting in a circle holding hands considering the sort of better version of ourselves, but that idea that if you are deeply connected to what you do, for us becomes challenging in a number of ways. Probably the most obvious is that yes, it’s part of your identity. It’s how you probably, this is being part of who you’ve been for your entire life, your career but if that relationship is not a supportive one and it’s becoming a little one-sided then we know that an early conversation we’ll have with you at some point, you’re going to get bitten. You’re going to not be in this sort of top of the world sort of best in class category. If you’re too tightly connected to that result and your identity is too tightly wound up in that outcome, when that outcome goes away then we face potentially some other issues. At a very baseline conversation, it’s about just say hey you are obviously extraordinary at this and that’s fantastic. Yeah, you get a lot of satisfaction and a lot of reward. That’s all wonderful and part of that gig, but they can be a different conversation to be had about really why you’re doing it and what the dream and vision you have for it. If that’s just even considered not a surprise to you then that’s a stepping stone for us. Again, it’s hard to teach people who are the best of the world how do you come in and say I’m going to make you better because you’re talking to the person who’s probably redefining that whole category by doing things that have never been done before to come in and say “Well, hang on. This is what you should be doing. That’s kind of ridiculous. It’s the cart before the horse. What we have to do is to sort of say look we’ve seen all these other hard performers usually use models and techniques to get to the place that they, you know master their craft. If we can kind of start with you understanding who you are and get you a good sense of that, whatever it might be, it’s not like there is a right or wrong there but just have that conversation. That allows us then to say all right if you do stand for – this is where your value system is, that allows us to bring coaching in a different way, it may allow us to bring in sort of perspective differently. Then of course, you know there is a real tactic or part of it as well, new technologies and just new ideas and innovation in your field, all that stuff. But we’re really trying to make sure that the person is well grounded. Again, just to be an elite performer you’ve got to keep the whole thing together. If your life’s skills aren’t up to par and things fall apart off the field then you are not going to be able to perform on the field. So, that analogy sort of broaden across that sort of framework I’ve been discussing.

I think one of the most interesting and I suppose real examples, in this sense of a lot of people will be aware of it is the example of the Project Stratos where I think you took Felix through this process and ultimately asked him to address the question how do you want to be remembered, which is think somebody asked because I read talks about that and I heard you talking along those lines. Maybe you can just tell us a little bit about that context because that happened quite close to the jump, didn’t it? I mean there’s quite a lot of stuff that they are up to but it felt like that was a crystallization of his whole sort of self image, which enabled him to go on and succeed the way he did. Is that a fair assessment?

Yeah. And to be very honest this is a wonderful part about our sort of industry. That was something I’ve learned of coaches years and years before the job. It was a phrase that I’ve heard across many elite sports programs, and not just that, also the military community that we’ve been engaged with. Then it was this idea for him as we talked about of really resetting the purpose for which he was participating, and to be very honest it was yes Felix had his own challenges but everybody in that program had challenges in their own way. The support teams, the communication teams, technology teams, the flight systems teams. Obviously Felix is the ordinary person he was. He was able to achieve and do the job but the reality was that became the mantra for many of us across the entire team. It was exactly as you say. It was this notion that we are good at being up against things. We’re trying to do something that’s never been done before. Of course, we’re going to make mistakes. To the early conversation we had Mark, the idea that you’re tied to the outcome here and now is great but if that doesn’t work out what’s left? So, let’s reframe our commitment to this project in a context of that legacy then you get out of the process sort of focus and you get into — Sorry, you get out of that sort of outcome of the day to day focus program. You get into the idea that ultimately the process will take care of itself and we’ll be successful. Let’s just  focus on everyday reflecting on that bigger idea and bigger value system and that allows you to get through those things we’re going to face. It was just one of many but it was one that I think is — It’s just a nice powerful little way to start that sort of conversation. As I said, I wish I had come up with it but I got to make sure that I recognize that this is something I’ve heard many times over many years and we just adapted it for this program.

Yup. You worked as you said in the — when we first started talking but I didn’t mention in intro. You work for a number of Fortune 500 companies. You worked with DARPA, you do a number of other things. How does this translate into boardroom and into the executive suites of companies? These kind of conversations, how do you — I mean a lot of our audience would be listening and scratching their heads thinking okay what does this mean for me sitting in my organization trying to make change, trying to drive innovation, trying to lead a transformation. What kind of big messages read across that you are able to bring from Red Bull into the corporate world, if you’d like Andy?

I think the fundamental notion is based on the idea that at the top of the game and in business or sport or defense, there is this absolute passion and drive to obviously outperform the competition. There is this very clear goals and targets you may have that allow you to sort of measure how well you’re doing. So, whether or not the skill is kicking a football or running a boardroom, the notion of innovation, of adapting to change, of being ahead of the competition of leading the leam well, of creating a culture that sort of manifest itself around these ideas of loyalty and courage and creativity, I think all those things are actually very, very similar. So, the answer to your question is usually very obvious. We don’t treat any of those communities very differently at all. We’ve learned obviously across all three or four of those domains that there is a thousand ways to do this. To be very clear, yes pay attention to what others are doing. Watch and just learn but make sure that you define your own relationship in this environment, what you stand for. In doing so, yeah take the initiative to do things according to your vision and your values and what’s important to you and your community. That way you will set yourself up, I think, to be successful. Many cases we see people trying to copy other successful organizations and copy them very directly. Unfortunately, that’s great to get you on the top group but to lead that top group competitively if you’re following someone else is just by default you’re always going to be behind. So, we try to always instill this notion that yes it’s important to be aware and understand and learn from all these related groups but at the end of the day you’ve got to take all that on board and then make it your own and by making it your own you give yourself the best competitive advantage.

I think in some of your materials, you talked about the kind of the game changing, the leaders I guess that really made the big difference of things that can’t be measured like life skills, creativity, spirituality, those kind of things which are — Yeah, the rest of these stuff I guess is table stakes that gets you to the top 1% but to really outperform the top 0.1% you need to reconnect with these other unmeasurable characteristics.

Yeah. I think we won’t recognize that the technical side of what you do to achieve success in your field, there is obviously a lot of work and effort and attention that has to be paid there. At the end of the day, then you are left with these other opportunities with respect to creating that environment that is attuned to what you are driving and has that thing such as courage and loyalty, empathy and resilience and creativity. Those things are hard to measure. They are written everywhere. People put them up as value statements as sort of mantras for their organizations. I think we recognize them very clearly when we see them. It’s hard to actually say how you would actually measure and/or improve it, so I think for us it sort of reminds one of those areas that equally as if not more important at the very top because that’s the space, that’s the hardest to measure. Hence, it’s the least known about it. In that regard, we see how important it is and how much we need to do to sort of make sure we’re paying attention to that. It may catch us for an elite programs that come a lot down the selection. You try and identify that early what’s important and build your team or your community around those values.

That’s a great segue to my next question.  You talk a lot about hacking creativity, hacking talent, so for a leader for instance, so let’s say a leader building a team in a larger organization wanting to innovate or wanting to push forward a new project in a different way perhaps in an organization under threat from regulation or changing competitive environment whatever. What kind of advice would you give to that leader around selection or developing their talent in order to be equipped to do this kind of work.

Yeah. Well, obviously, not knowing specifics, the generalities that we look for is that the emphasis on selection at the top of the game is critical. I mean you need to know what you are trying to achieve, and then you need to be fairly rigorous and astute about how you select for it. I think that’s what we see as a characteristic again of great organization to great teams, they have to develop their culture where within there is a very clear notion of what they stand for, and why they are doing what they are doing. So, their values are typically aligned. You need to then once you characterized that end game where you are now where you want to be, you then need to select against that because everyone brings something different to the table and certain communities and certain groups you know people are obviously by design kind of fit a measurement more closely to that and they are all — some part they are not going to be as supportive. It’s not about picking a team of identical robust you know. It’s absolutely  about diversity across that portfolio in terms of what they bring to the table but their underlying value system should be closely aligned. Some of the best programs in the world spending enormous amount of time on selection because if you get that right, the rest is a lot easier. If you mess that up, then its just as problematic and ultimately is a lot of resources wasted trying to correct it. Now, of course you are never going to get a hundred percent selection and everybody knows that but you make that piece well, you sort that piece out then it leads to easier transition to the rest. Again, I think again in the sporting world, an interesting analogy compared to business is that sporting selection is never ending or military is very similar as well. When you get to these elite communities, yes you’ve earned the right to be there but you have to keep earning the right to be there. If you don’t perform very quickly the sort of people start looking over and sort of showing you the door. I see in the business world that there is tendency for people that once they get there to be able to stay there without an ongoing sort of selection sort of criteria. Now, that’s a little harsh but I hope you get the point.

I get it. Yeah.

You get it. If you don’t win on the weekend and you don’t win on the next week and you don’t win on the weekend after, and you’re not performing then the coach is going to maybe ask you to sit down for a couple of games on the bench. You don’t quite see that so often in the sort of other than that because they are performing all the time so there is this sort of notion that you sort of our cap is going to get the job done. I think that to me is – I think in terms of the creativity and innovation, if that is an area where you want to be strong and bring that set of competencies to the organization then I think once you have those things on those value structures you can then start to look away in ways you challenge them. Fundamentally for us through the character creativity work we’ve seen as in most elite programs the ability for them to take chances and risk and push the edge culturally needs to be supported, and if that’s not supported they are not allowed to make mistakes, they are not allowed to fail in training or whatever relation or version of that it is you host. You will very quickly crush that ideation in you as sort of innovation piece of the culture and that’s I think where a lot of organization struggle and that’s what I get asked a lot.

Specifically, how do you create a culture of innovation? How do you position failure in the innovation? I mean what is the specific question that you get asked around that?

Both actually obviously. People nowadays, I think the pace of change people clearly identified, and you hear people always say too you got a fail fast mentality. I think those two are intrinsically tied but fundamentally, I think what a lot of the conversation avoids is the true training for failure scenario where you actually walk people through the process of being on their edge, getting out of their comfort zone and when they are what tools can they lean on to bring themselves back to a sense of stability or control. Also, when they do make a mistake what’s that look like in terms of ramifications? I think you have to pay a lot of attention to that because it’s easy to say yeah when you ought to fail and take chances but it’s the culture on the systems don’t support that it doesn’t work. So a lot of the conversations I had to retrain the group to understand the risk-taking and pushing the edge and comfort zone and out of it feel horrible and you are going to feel insecure and there’s going to be this anxiety and tension around that space. Okay. But recognize that’s normal so let’s train to that. Let’s do some things that put you in that space so you can kind of get the sort of called stress inoculation as one of terms you hear. You get used to being there but at the same time supportive so they are not left hanging out there because eventually that will crush them. You’ve got to bring them back in. if they do take a big chance then has that celebrated in the organization. Do you celebrate the idea that they took a chance? Which I think is the notion we’re looking for. Do you celebrate the fact that they messed up? Yeah. Within reason. And you create space where that’s more firm than others. In sport, that’s what training is for. You train above and beyond and push the edge in as many ways as you can to be prepared for whatever the competition throws at you. On game day, you want them to be comfortable for the game to get pushed to that space but you also want them to have explored so well that they’re comfortable across that portfolio of scenarios they are going to face. Then on game, day you want them to actually perform at that next level and because you’ve trained above and beyond that then you essentially manifest itself in success, but even then it doesn’t always work.

So, if I understand it correctly, its helping execs understand what it will feel like when the inevitable happens, when things don’t go according to plan, what their response would be given them the inoculation for the inevitable but also I guess it’s also another piece around a premortem. What could go wrong? Let’s call it before it becomes our reality. Let’s figure out how we resolve these kind of issues so there is no shock there, there is no emotional shocks and there is also no intellectual shocks if you like about the inevitable failures that will come with this kind of work.

Yeah, and then this is for a group who you are trying to drive to push the boundaries within your business. It may not be, as I’ve said many times, it’s probably not your accountants. They are not running down putting all the earning on black in Vegas. You want to balance it across your portfolio. To be very clear, if you are pushing the edge and if you are challenging status quo and redefining that space or genre. The idea that you are going to  prepare for everything is wrong. You’ve got to be able to prepare them for the unprepared and the idea that if they will get to that point where they feel like things are out of control or that they are in a state of sort of rodam looking at the precipice if you’d like, but having done that multiple times beforehand it’s the idea that they are more capable of handling that versus that happening for the first time and the whole thing just reacting inappropriate way and that really crushing everybody sort of drive moving forward.

Yeah. You can’t go back to the well for many years. People have long memories in that situation that is for sure.

Yeah, they do and that’s natural. In some business, again, we’ve been very generic here but in some businesses the tolerance for that kind of exposure is going to be much less but I always encourage the community just to gut check and see is that what they want. Is that really what you want to do because if you do you are going to have to create a way of making it happen. One of the simple metrics that’s being thrown around for many years by a lot of people is let’s look at the number of experiments as an organization you ran last year. If that number is low, then obviously the expectation for innovation around that is naturally going to be subsequent with that number. If you’ve only done five experiments, and/or tried five completely new things or pushed the edge in five different ways, guarantee that 89% of them might work, you might get one out of the five. If you tried 30 or 40 different things, again resources and all that being accounted for, then the expectation is that you’d receive a few more things pop through as successful. I think as a very simple metric as a sort of check and balance in your organization just ask that question of the different groups and that will reveal a lot about the culture. Did they do things differently? Did they take on a new way of being in terms of business? Did they push a new idea or innovation through? If the numbers coming back are very low, you probably expectation is knowing that most of those things are experiments. Most of them are just going to be lessons and learning. You are going to see the metric will probably give you some insight.

Yeah, absolutely. So Andy, maybe we can switch gears a little bit because when we spoke the other day, I mean you also talked about — I think the language was around there is a lot of … You’ve got energy around — a lot of the tools that you’re using with this athletes, and then the military and with the corporate world, you have energy I think around making them available for kids. So, I’m really interested in maybe you can say a little bit more about that. What was behind that? I mean is this the answer to the question, how do you want to be remembered?

I think for me that’s absolutely part of that mantra. For us, I always recognize the extraordinary opportunities, and the wonderful things that these elite performers teach you. Not only about what they do but also about yourself. That experience has, obviously, allowed us to have these extraordinary exchanges with these wonderful performers and hopefully learning for each other as sort of validated their game. Now, that to me is one piece of it. That sort of okay, okay that’s maybe the R&D program of what we do. So, let’s take out all of those things, the basic concepts that seem to be translatable across genre, across domain, and also down the development pathways. How do we get those things into the hands of that sort of next group? They for me come to the table with sort of already learning from all our lessons so they are better prepared to take that next step and face their own challenges. If one of our sort of frameworks that were trying to establish is how do we do that? How do we simplify this concept of talent? How do we – obviously through our understanding make it actionable and through our training evolutions principle cover off on certain ideas and  notions of performance that I have then been able to be shared in a broader community. In our test cases, it’s always been a resounding yes. Of course, the context and the stakes are always managed accordingly but the principle of what we’re trying to teach is not back to the notion of failure. That very cliche statement of pushing the edge and finding out what’s not working is really an opportunity to learn about how you can improve versus a mistake you should be punished for. That’s fundamental lesson you know. If you’re watch skateboarders, you watch action sports athletes, you watch in elite sort of R&D institutions where they are encouraged to just push and push and push. You see it manifest itself. It’s how do we get that into the hands of the youth so that I can use it and improve upon it obviously.

It’s basically democratizing these insights, these tools, these approaches  for people for the next generation essentially.

Yeah. We call it democratizing talent just for the simple notion of yes, it’s great if you’re extraordinary performer and getting paid well to be at the top of the game. There is no reason why the subset of that couldn’t be just shared openly and freely to the rest and then the whole system grows and evolves.

Is this an explicit program or is it still an idea in your mind that you are working on?

No. We actually have prototyped it across so we’ve been taking elite programs developed in one category isle that says sport, then we’ve obviously translated it across the business and others. Then we looked to see how well that shifts and vice versa. So we see that translation effect. We’ve recently done it even more broadly to elite group of sort of R&D scientist of a particular group who are working on really advanced technologies. We’re like let’s treat them like we would in an elite athlete and put them through a modified version of some of our training. Again, they are like holy hell this taught me a lot about myself. We have no idea how that’s going to manifest itself but the initial reaction because it’s only done a few weeks ago is “Wow. I’ve  learned so much about myself today. I learned so much about how I communicate and all these things that I can’t see not having a positive impact.” To be clear, we can’t come in and teach that group how to understand physics of the next generation computer chips any better because we have no… I say go to Harvard or MIT or wherever, Stanford – to learn that. They’ve done it for 40 years. We can’t add much value there. That’s where we want to go. We’ve also  obviously over the years had development program for children across different sports and things and we see the impact there. It’s just you know you always got to keep it a little bit more fun and light hearted but it’s not a big angle. I think it’s another wonderful approach to support people really being able to push their own potential and not just kind of doing it without the insight. We can say well, we’ve had a lot of people do that for many many years and this is what we’ve seen so if you’re going to do it, here’s some tools that may be helpful. I hopefully have given them a headstart.

Yeah. So I think you mentioned when we spoke earlier, I mean we are living almost in the star wars era. The potential for the exponential human being is within grasp essentially.

Oh yeah. I think you fully heard — I’m speaking to the idea of the evolution of evolution. The shift and the idea that evolutionary development as a broad construct has been organic. It’s been a case of the typical Darwinian model but now for the first time in history humans act together with tools in identifying techniques that are allowing us to modify that evolution. There is a whole philosophical existential conversation around how far and how much but that capacity is now becoming democratized, if we use that language. So what does that mean and can we take that evolutionary step in the way that it is going to be positive and contributive? If we do so, what will that all cost? So, we spent a lot of time focusing on that space now under sort of name of a human 2.0 project we call it. It’s literally, if we can allow people to explore their potential at a high level, if we can allow them to have a faster progression to whatever it is they are trying do, and can we allow them to sort of happier, if you like for a generic term, or at least feel comfortable when they do take on these bigger challenges. What would it mean if everyone had that ability to take that next step and feel supported in doing so. What would we achieve? A lot of questions. More questions than answers at this point but it’s coming. It’s coming very quickly. As sort of a passion of ours is how do we understand where we are now so that we can help shape that developmental pathway. I don’t know if it’s better to make everyone 50 IQ points better, smarter. If that capacity exists or could exists in the near future, is it something we actually want to do? I don’t know but if it is a capacity we’re developing through implantable chips or ubiquitous sensing and connectedness to the web, all these sorts of ideas that are coming through are sort of human machine. For instance, our relationship with artificial intelligence. All those things are now starting to be like okay, that’s definitely not like get the machine get too far ahead. What can we do as a human to develop our capacities more deeply? I think in that context, our directional sort of ideas are focused on sort of exploring more of the humanity so back to where we started. Empathy, grace, compassion, loyalty, courage, resilience, those characteristics that are truly human which we’re going to take — or an opportunity for us to explore even more deeply if say the machine is taking over all the mundane and more generic tasks.

Beginning to wrap this up while we’re on that subject, where can people get in touch with you and where can people get more background on some of these programs. I’d love to show them in the show notes but maybe there are a couple of places — Where can people find out more about this kind of projects? Is this still open?

Well, this is still open. I mean many of them are for the documentarist, the work of rebel through all our channels, media you can see those sort of videos and those clips. There are some of those talks that are then being supported over the years when we touch on this. One of our roles is to make this a little more even valuable now. How do we do that? We’re sort of exploring that today but we have established is we’re very open community here. I love the work we do as a result of all these other partnering groups. Anyone who comes through our lab here in LA is welcome to watch and check it out and reach out directly. As I said it’s a relatively small industry so once you kind of dig a little you’ll find these extraordinary people playing in very related fields. It’s not hard to connect with them all.

Specifically I mean,  I think you are on Twitter, you are on LinkedIn.

Yup. Yup

So we’ll put all those details in the show notes. This has been great Andy. The three questions I sent you earlier, maybe we can just pick those up before we wrap this up. Firstly, what have you changed your mind about recently?

That’s a great question obviously. I think changing my mind recently. Let’s pick a very – in many ways controversial topic. Some of the early conversations are artificial intelligence. At first, I was a little bit more on the conservative side where I was like “Look, I think we need to be very cautious about how this evolves and what it does.” Then I realized that it is going to be completely ubiquitous in the future. It’s going to be in the fridge. It’s going to be in the toaster. At some level, the home and all these things. So I was like alright, this sort of genie out of the bottle sort of speak. How do we sort of look at that narrative now and embrace it as it’s going to come very quickly. By no means leave it completely unconstrained but also what does it mean for us, what does it mean for the human in this equation? Can we use this as an opportunity as I said before to think about the human element and what all that means and what it means to be human and can this sort of tsunami of technology around this topic and many others. In the face of that, can we use that as an opportunity to explore humanity? So that was for me a very significant chip. I wouldn’t say completely change my mind but I just see that you better be in the conversation rather than opposing the conversation so to speak.

Yup, absolutely. Second questions, what do you do to remain creative and innovative?

For me that’s a really — the luck of the sort of role I found myself in is I just get to see throughout the different projects we faced, these different communities, these extraordinary individuals that are supporting these projects. And whether it’s the university system or the government system defense or it’s the sporting system, there is these amazing people across these domains that are really pushing the edge. For me, being connected to that community and they just drop in and say “Hey, guess what I’m working on?” We had this extraordinary response to us being  a very open source platform where you give to get kind of model. We share everything. What we’ve seen is people now actively come to us to share their work because they get something. Through that process of open source of sourcing and sharing model, we found that the sort of the sparks of ideas are just flowing through. In fact, probably beyond our capacity. I think that really is the essence of how I now am able to sort of see a very diverse perspective across many fields because of this brilliant community of individuals that support us.

Yeah. Wonderful. Wonderful. Compelling. Next time I’m in there I’ll look you up. The final question, to what do you attribute your success in life? I mean do you have any specific skills or habits or mindsets that you’ve mastered that have really made a big impact you think Andy?

You know I really have a classic statement the shoemaker’s son has no shoes. You know I have to attribute a lot of what I’ve learned in being successful and the lessons I’ve picked up from all these amazing people. I really to be honest there was — I was open early. I think if I think about outside of the technical sort of learnings and competencies, I was very open to new ideas and experiences. The job I originally got in the US as a performance director for the Olympics ski and snowboard program was a direct result of — I mean I’m just a trip I took and getting off in Denver Colorado a few years earlier and picking up a hitchhiker. It’s a long long story but I always reflect on that idea that I was just always ready to sort of move or try something different and just in many respects that sort of adventurous sort of idea, I think allowed me to sort of then meet and learn from all these extraordinary people. Then that sort of led to the next thing. I think that competency internally for me is one of sort of when I look back and reflect the things I never train for I didn’t know I had it I just found myself at a decision point and I definitely took a risk both professionally and also just from a family perspective. It has worked out a lot of time.

Yeah. Sure. We had a previous guest, Rob Wolcott, who says never leave serendipity to chance which I think kind of sums up quite nicely actually.

You’re far more eloquently than I just bumbled through, I must say but yeah I do. I think there’s if you want to explore your own edges you’ve got to be prepared to take a bit of a step. It’s easier said than done. It’s not by any means easy even when you do it but I just look back and say wow that ability to take a chance on myself and also be prepared to be open and look beyond my field very clearly for inspiration has really allowed us to learn a lot and then apply that in ways that were very unexpected to us.

Yeah. Wonderful. Wonderful. So Andy, it’s been great having you on the show. I’m really pleased that we managed to finally connect. I’m sure our audience will take a lot out of this because I mean i think there are some fantastic read across from what the kind of what you do into where a lot of our audience are doing. So many many thanks for your time and have a great day.

Yeah, thank you very much. Yeah, I hope that people learn some value and vice versa. We are very open to people coming by and learning from them so it’s a win-win.

Great. Thanks very much.

Cheers. Thanks guys.

Bye.

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