15 November 2016

Several years ago I took a client to see Andy Thomas, an Australian who travelled into space with NASA, who reflected on his incredible experiences in orbit and on spacewalks. Both my client and myself left that session inspired. I promised myself at that time that I wanted to be inspired on a regular basis.

12 Months ago today I was at Oxford University in the UK, undertaking the Oxford Strategic Leadership Program being inspired by both the lecturers and participants. The Oxford approach of metaphor based learning saw activities including conducting choirs, falconry, reading Plato and assessing Shakespeare.

The addition of concepts around complexity & chaos, the butterfly effect, change state indicators and the leadership zone, saw the mind challenged equally as much as the imagination.

Today I attended BBC’s World Changing Idea Summit in Sydney, being inspired by some of the smartest people in the world. BBC’s future has a mission to make people smarter every day. Such a great mission.

I started the day with a visit to the international space station in virtual reality. Starting in the station, leaving the airlock and going for a spacewalk. One of the most incredible things I have ever done, I had goosebumps for two hours after.

Some of the great sessions included;

  • Ron Garan, former NASA astronaut shared his thoughts on how space travel has the power to change humanity for the better. “From space the world humbles you and when you get back you wish to make it a better place”. Ron is now focusing on World View Enterprises which is looking to provide low orbit commercial and tourism services.
  • Emma Johnston, Pro Vice-Chancellor UNSW – discussed how our cities have changed the ocean ecosystems and how the ocean is fighting back. “Blue Engineering” is creating ocean compatible marine engineering solutions, to work with and not against, the power of the water.
  • Sir David Attenborough (The Bro) via video link says solar energy is the answer to much of our future.
  • Kevin Corti (Uber), on how they are analysing driving behaviour of their drivers through monitoring their mobiles.  The aim is the reduction of road fatalities, which remains as one of the world’s leading killers.
  • Dr Heather Hendrickson (Massey Uni NZ) discussing her radical and counter-intuitive solution to the ‘antibiotic apocalypse’, infecting patients with special viruses that could save people’s lives once the antibiotics stop working.
  • Australia’s Rosemary Stanton and BBC’s Michael Mosley talking food and exercise. Best diet being the Mediterranean one, high fat, low calorie. We don’t eat enough plant but eat way too much meat. Exercise warm up is a waste of time, most effective exercise is in the first 20 mins and after that only resistance works. Exercise does not help lose weight, only less food.
  • Prof Jeffrey Rosenfeld, Neurosurgeon and Director of Monash Institute of Medical Engineering on his work on bionic eyes that should be able to be tested in around 12 months’ time. They will only be suitable for people with recent sight loss.
  • Susann Keohane, IBM, who works on using technology to improve the life of the elderly. They are looking to develop a concept of personalised care via a range of sensors and monitoring to identify deviations to normal behaviour.
  • Michael Smart, University of Queensland discussing an Australian designed ScamJet. With a reusable propulsion system, which will lower the cost of operations.

So completing a circle it was great to listen again to Andy Thomas, discussing his views of the future of space travel. Both Andy and Ron spent time in a question and answer session, telling us that the virtual reality graphics was better than those used for training at NASA. All that was missing was the feel of space.

I aim to attend something inspiring at least annually. What inspired your last?