Introduction: Aidan Mc Cullen is best described as a Transformation Consultant. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Trinity College Dublin where he runs a module called Emerging Trends & Technologies and the host of the Global Innovation Show Podcast. Last year he emerged as must read Author publishing his book called Undisruputable. Aidan exemplifies the very mindset he describes in his book that of permanent reinvention. He is a former International Rugby Player, turned Innovator in the space of digital media before reinventing himself again as a transformational consultant, business advisor and board member. He studied French & German at Trinity College Dublin. He lives in Dublin, is married with two boys, whom he mentions a few times in his book.
Podcast Episode Summary
This episode put simply explores the idea of permanent reinvention for individuals, organisations and life in general. Aidan’s book uses Mental Models, Analogies, Nature and Stories of exemplars who perhaps defied logic to answer two important questions:
1. How do we navigate a world that is changing at breakneck speed, as business leaders and as individuals?
2. What can we do to minimise the impact of disruption on our careers in our organisations and in our lives.
Hopefully this podcast will go some way to bring Aidan’s book to life and to tease this same questions.
Points made over the episode
- The red thread that weaves through Aidan’s life is one of transformation. Aidan starts by describing his experiences, the experiences that resulted in life lessons, lessons that informed his book -he makes the case for why we must reinvent ourselves in the face of continuous change
- As humans we can fall prey to what is known as The Spotlight Bias, a belief that others are paying more attention to us than what is true. Two emotions in particular Fear and Shame can be the consequence of this bias and stymy progress in life.
- Life is too short and if you find you are not satisfied don’t sit there=that is the big message Aidan communicates throughout this podcast and in his book.
- Too often we achieve stuff in life and become seduced by the Success Trap. With achievement we often move to employ a defensive mindset-in our brain chemistry alters and we miss new information that could serve to enlighten
- A disposition towards continuous learning and a dash of humility are two conditions that feed a mindset of permanent reinvention
- Aidan shares stories from his rugby career that bring the above points to life.
- The book Undisrubtable was born out of Aidan’s life experiences, the many books he read and reads, he reads a book a week for his podcast show as well as his keen interest in Innovation.
- He describes a mental model as a pair of lens, like the ones you put on in an Optometrist’s office – as humans, which to Aidan negates the permanent reinvention mindset, we often forget to clean our lens, to purge them when they become redundant or even to clean them when they are smudged.
- The book starts by sharing how we resist change, a natural phenomenon. The book shares how to reframe resistance and fear as milestones rather than millstones. In these few chapters & across the book we learn about the biases we succumb to that block change
- The book then moves to describe different mental models we can adopt to endure the change we are experiencing at breakneck speed- Aidan uses analogies, stories from Nature and real life exemplars of change to disrupt the reader.
- Kintsugi thinking for example is a mental model that we could employ to allow for the full range of our human experiences. Kintsugi is a form of Japanese art . The premise being that mistakes or flaws are celebrated by painting the cracks with Gold Lacquer.
- The author believes that bad experiences we have in life can be reframed to mean that certain things were not meant for us. Aidan encourages us to think of our less than positive experiences as the minds way of employing a lightning rod, determining what is useful and what can be let go.
- Entrepreneurs often think in terms of failing fast but really the lesson could be to learn fast and learn safely
- The first act in permanent reinvention is awareness, you have to be able to catch yourself in the act to learn. You have to question your choices. Sometimes you might even notice you have picked up a lens or mental model that is not yours
- Become a Master of your own vision. This means customising your own lens instead of following a script
- The book describes a set of repeatable actions, housed in a simple framework that maps change, learning, products & services a framework called the S curve. He then describes the infinity curve as a more accurate lens from which to deal with continuous change.
- Do not drink poison and wish the other dead – A snake bite will not kill you but rather the poison you hold onto.
- Aidan describes the meaning of an S curve, as an heuristic that is a short cut for the cycle of productivity, learning etc..
- He then goes on to share how he landed on the concept of permanent reinvention through the discovery of an Ouroboros in a dream. An Ouroboros is a snake eating itself.
- With the speed of change as we know it, often described in terms such as VUCA, there is no safe harbour for an individual, a business model or an organisation. We have to be able to look out and respond to change and live with the inevitable uncertainty change at breakneck speed generates.
- Aidan uses mental models and the rich source of stories from nature to build his case for permanent reinvention. His book is littered with research and evidence based facts to ground his many ideas and ways to be with change. He closes the book by sharing many example of real life heroes, people and companies we can all recognise. The Story of Arnold “S”chwarzeneggar typifies the many lessons Aidan has shared throughout the book.
- Aidan ends the podcast by sharing the Coconut Trap Story. Essentially unless we are able to let go of the past, let go of our many resentments, let go of tightly held accolades we will not become the change that is possible.
- Undisruptable by Aidan McCullen