“Changing how we think about how we think”
Dr. Fiona Kerr is a prominent thought leader in the fields of cognitive neuroscience, human connectivity, and technological inter-mediation. She uses this multi-disciplinary approach to tackle large, wicked problems by distilling complex issues into useful, pragmatic ideas, and framing them in a way which entices people to get involved and help shape change.
Fiona is a public speaker and science communicator. Her keynotes cover the science of how humans interact, with each other and with technology, to explore the questions of how we shape each other, how technology shapes us, and how we should shape technology.
Dr Fiona Kerr combines her role as an Industry Professor (Neural and Systems Complexity) at the University of Adelaide with public speaking and consulting both here and overseas. She advises and presents on a range of topics regarding the neuroscience of both human-human and human-technology interaction.
To understand how humans shape each other, Fiona looks at the neurophysiology of face to face interaction, and how it results in outcomes such as neural synchronization, dynamic resonance and the facilitation of complex problem solving, long range thinking, system flourishment and even healing and neurogenesis. In examining how technology shapes us, Fiona’s work examines the multifaceted impacts of technological interaction and intermediation on human capacity in order to inform technological design and use.
At a global level, Fiona both researches and advises on what is involved in building quality AI-human partnerships going forward, to help shape a human centric future that can take advantage of both the unique benefits of direct human interaction and the incredible promise of new technologies.
Fiona’s unique scientific perspective on the power of human interaction, and her growing involvement in the impact of increasing technologization, is underpinned by qualifications in cognitive neuroscience, engineering, anthropology and psychology, and is informed by nearly 30 years’ experience working in a variety of sectors, roles and levels both in Australia and overseas. Her PhD combined cognitive neuroscience and complex systems engineering to investigate neural, social and systems complexity, and she currently works across three faculties (professions, engineering and health sciences). Fiona’s current international research uses this multidisciplinary approach to investigate the neurophysiological effects of interaction between humans and multiple technologies to assist in shaping beneficial partnerships and to inform on the advantageous use of people, technologies or both.
Fiona advises a range of companies both here and overseas on adaptability, leadership and flourishment, as well as the use of technology and AI, particularly the impacts of technological intermediation on interconnectivity and capacity building. In line with her multidisciplinary expertise, clients range from creative organisations such as Cirque du Soleil, across sectors including banking, finance, technology, education and defence. Fiona works with governments on building creative democracy, forecasting and technologization, and following two months speaking and collaborating in Finland, Germany, France and the UK, she was recently appointed to Finland’s steering group preparing the country’s artificial intelligence (AI) program for the future.
She is an international keynote speaker who makes regular national media appearances on programs such as SBS Insight, ABC TV’s Catalyst, Radio National’s Ockham’s Razor and gives specialist interviews.
Creativity is non-linear, while data is very much linear. When human beings get all together, they have lots of different ways of using their brains to interact.
Whilst actively working to create positive change in projects with governments and corporations, Fiona remains a scientist at heart. Her academic pursuits are helping to pave the way for a better understanding of human-systems interaction, with a focus on exploring ways to shape a future in which humans can connect both with each other and with technology to build quality partnerships in an environment of ever-increasing technologization.
After nearly thirty years of working in and with organisations, some of which were truly adaptive, Fiona returned to university and wrote a thesis on Creating and Leading Adaptive Organisations. She looked at organisations from a complex systems engineering perspective as well as a cognitive neuroscience perspective to generate a holistic picture of what made certain organisations adaptive from an individual, group, and organisational level.
“Emergent logic leaders build rich metacognitive skills over time which they can also engender in those they lead as long as there is an environment of trust, a shared understanding of purpose, and an infrastructure which allows people to discover, learn and lead, and to feel supported when they are nudged into new spaces”
Listen to Fiona on ABC’s Ockham’s Razor:
Neurogenesis: a force for creativity?
Fiona is currently working across three faculties at the University of Adelaide. In the Faculty of the Professions, she works on systems complexity and Neuroleadership, consults and presents to a small number of masterclasses for Executive Education, and sits on a number of interdisciplinary project teams.
In the Faculty of Health Sciences, Fiona is currently completing a scoping review on The neurophysiology of human touch and eye gaze and effects on therapeutic relationships and healing, in order to gain insight into those facets of human interaction which are more effective and efficient than technological intervention in therapeutic and care settings. This will assist in shaping a human-centric approach to the adoption of technologies such as the robot nurse and carer, not only by informing on the best use of direct human interaction, but also helping in the design of cutting edge interactive technologies.
Fiona has an advisory role and is a guest presenter in the Faculty of Engineering on Artificial Intelligence, especially around aspects of human neurophysiology (as they pertain to machine learning) and the iterative process of humans and technology shaping each other. She is currently part of an interdisciplinary engineering project group partnering with a Defence-funded CRC on trusted autonomous systems.
“Organisations are people and people are organisations”
Outside the University of Adelaide, Fiona works in collaboration with a number of research institutes and universities around the world on an eclectic range of subjects. Her current and planned collaborations include:
– Finland’s ministerial steering committee to design Finland’s AI program for a human-centric future.
– VTT (Finland) – agreed to review the major scientific technology research arms through the lens of the neurophysiological effects of technological interaction.
– Aberdeen University (Scotland) and Aston Brain Imaging Centre (Birmingham) – designing studies to investigate a number of aspects of direct human synchronization, both neural and physiological.
– Tampere University (Finland) – designing study for investigating the differences in neural response between live humans and technologically intermediated images (screens/pictures).
– SAHMRI (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) – initial discussions on establishing a research centre to examine human-technology interaction and ramifications for design and use.
– Discussions with FHI on the human cognitive aspects of existential risk, including the impacts of AI development and the nature of human unpredictability on emergent behaviour.
Previous collaborations include:
– Investigating complex systems, innovation policies and creativity at Baden’s Fraunhofer Institute.
– Co-designing a summer school syllabus with Montreal University, for world renowned creatives such as Cirque du Soleil, Disney and Ubisoft on ideation.
– Co-designed and ran a summer school with Strasbourg University and Fraunhofer Institute for Pennsylvania University MBA students on cutting-edge innovation practices through Europe.
– Working with APEC, ISD (Indonesia) and NUS (Singapore) on building smart, creative cities and future proofing.
Fiona has contributed to a number of books, writing chapters on Operationalising Innovation: Hotwiring the Creative Organisation; It’s What We’re Here For – A Once In A Lifetime Chance and Taking a Premium Quality Chocolate Family Business onto the E-Market – Haigh’s, as well as a manual for government on Using Value Chain Mapping to Build Comparative Advantage.
Letting your mind wander can increase your creativity and help you when it comes to tackling complex problems.
As an expert in the neuroscience of human connectivity and complex systems, Fiona advises and presents to both organisations and the public on the importance of communication and interconnection.
She is a regular keynote speaker in Australia and overseas on a range of topics including: neurogenesis (building new brain) and the neurophysiology of human interaction; the cognition of leadership, collaboration and creativity; how to build resilience through long lens problem solving and a capacity for foresight; and the neuroscience of values, learning, community engagement, and trust.
The intersection of humans and technology is another of Fiona’s major areas of interest, where her research and presentations cover: the use of technologies in organisations; how technology shapes us and how we should shape technology; Artificial Intelligence (advantages and issues); and shaping a human centric future. Fiona’s keynotes are designed to inspire and empower all audiences, from corporate conferences to community forums.
Fiona has also appeared on many national media platforms such as SBS Insight, ABC Catalyst, and ABC Radio National’s Ockham’s Razor, as well as speaking regularly as a guest on ABC local radio.
“We are hard wired to connect. When human beings who trust each other interact face to face, their capacity to have a positive cognitive effect on each other’s brain and body is something which no robot or screen has”.
Good leaders alter the shape and size of workers’ brains – and their own.
As a scientist-practitioner, Fiona believes in translating her research findings into action and seeks to build the capacity to create change in the world at all levels, from speaking on individual behaviours, to advising governments on matters of national policy. Fiona is currently a member of Finland’s ministerial steering committee for the future of Artificial Intelligence and has advised national governments from Asia, France and Australia on issues such as futurizing, fostering creativity and neuro-leadership.
Fiona collaborates with creative, international companies such as Cirque du Soleil in the areas of creative ideation and how Cirque acts as a complex system. She has worked for a number of years in the not-for-profit sectors of ageing and multiculturalism, presently sitting as vice-chair of the Catalyst Foundation board, a not-for-profit organisation for ageing, employment and disability. Fiona also sits as a member of the Brand South Australia Board.
“Under the right conditions we can grow new brain at any stage of our lives. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for learning and creative thought, not only in the workplace but in all facets of our lives”
Over the years, Fiona has published numerous articles, been featured in many interviews on radio and in print, and given a variety of stimulating keynote presentations.
She draws attention to important human issues and how each of them impact us on a personal and global level.
Fiona is passionate about shifting people’s mindset and opening their eyes to their true potential. As an inspirational speaker, scientist and implementer, she will help you to understand how our brains function as human beings and our organisations and societies function as systems, providing practical approaches to maximizing our potential.