“Changing how we think about how we think”
Dr. Fiona Kerr is a prominent thought leader in the fields of social cognitive neuroscience (SCN) and human connectivity.
Bringing together the fields of SCN and complex systems dynamics, Fiona tackles 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, speaking on the neuroscience of leadership, collaboration and innovation. Her keynotes are thought provoking, precise and open people’s minds to a level of clarity that is critical to high performers.
Fiona combines a half time academic role with Adelaide University as their Systems and Neural Complexity Specialist, with public speaking and consulting on a range of SCN areas and neuro-ethics. She advises a number of Australia’s largest companies on how leaders can build better brains and create organisations that flourish, and has spent time with a number of fascinating organisations including the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil. She has consulted and collaborated for many years to governments here and overseas on building creative democracies and innovative ecosystems.
All of these things revolve around Fiona’s passion regarding the value of human interaction and its amazingly transformative power, whether it is the ability of leaders to build flourishing environments and boost complex thinking, or the power of human touch and eye gaze on healing and wellness.
Part of understanding and valuing the dynamics of human interaction is knowing when it offers advantages over the technology-based interaction which is becoming pervasive in human society. To that end Fiona has co-founded a social enterprise called human-e along with biomedical engineer Dr Jordan Nguyen to investigate the neurophysiological effects of interaction between humans and multiple types of technology so that our future use of such technology is not based on assumption or guided by corporate profit.
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 a number of aspects of human systems interaction, and she maintains a strong focus on building knowledge which will allow us to shape a future that builds on and leverages the capacity of humans to build a successful society in a flourishing environment.
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, investigating why the successful ones worked. She combined complex systems engineering (to investigate the dynamics of organisations and ecosystems) with researching the cognitive characteristics of adaptive leaders and their staff as they grew in capacity and flourished as individuals, groups and organisations.
“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 has now worked with a number of research institutes and universities around the world on an eclectic range of subjects. These include investigating complex systems, innovation policies and creativity at Baden’s Fraunhofer Institute, co- designing a summer school (with Strasbourg University and Fraunhofer Institute) for Pennsylvania University MBA students on Managing Innovation and Creativity through Europe, presenting on Creative Ideation to some of the most innovative companies in the world in Barcelona and for APEC in Indonesia on building creative cities and taking handmade goods into an on-line luxury market.
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.
She is currently working with Adelaide University’s Nursing school, writing a scoping review on The neurophysiology of human touch and eye gaze and effects on therapeutic relationships and healing. This study complements the work of human-e in terms of gaining insight into those facets of human interaction which are both more effective and more efficient than technological intervention in therapeutic settings.
“Organisations are people and people are organisations”
As an expert in the neuroscience of human connectivity and complex systems, Fiona advises and talks on the importance of communication and interconnection. With an ability to adapt her knowledge into a form that people can understand, she is a regular keynote speaker in Australia and overseas on a number of topics. These include the areas of neurogenesis (building new brain); the cognition of leadership, collaboration and creativity; how to build resilience, and the neuroscience of values, learning, community engagement, trust and even (physical) space.
Fiona’s keynotes are designed to inspire and empower all audiences, from corporate conferences to community forums.
“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”.
Fiona believes in the capacity to create change in the world, and has worked with decision makers in a number of countries in government and corporate sectors, either in an advisory capacity, or at times embedding in organisations for up to three years to as part of their journey towards adaptive resilience. In Australia she is a part-time academic with Adelaide University, a government and ministerial advisor, is partnering or consulting with two of Australia’s largest companies, and has worked for a number of years in the not-for-profit sectors of ageing and multiculturalism, presently sitting as vice-chair of a not-for-profit board on ageing well in society.
“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.