Design & Innovation

Season 4 recap: becoming antifragile, measuring nature and planning the future airport

Liam Hayes, Dr. Srini Pillay, Jessica Holz, Adrian Ward, Erik Kriel and Ryan Both | 30 November 2022 | 23:40

Podcast Transcript: Season 4 recap: becoming antifragile, measuring nature and planning the future airport

Maria Rampa: Hi, I’m Maria Rampa. Welcome to our season four wrap-up episode of Engineering Reimagined.

This year, we’ve interviewed some inspiring leaders and innovators to help you thrive in a world that is changing more rapidly than ever before. From reimagining education, to building circular economies, and designing better for accessibility, we hope you’ve found our episodes valuable.

For our final episode of 2022, we’ve brought together highlights from three of our most popular episodes this season.

We begin by exploring the concept of antifragility with Dr Srini Pillay, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, brain researcher and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group. Dr Pillay discussed the important link between mindset and performance and introduced the CIRCA methodology, a tool you can use daily to reduce anxiety and unleash your potential. But first, Aurecon Chief People Officer, Liam Hayes, provided some commentary on what resonated with him most from Dr Pillay’s presentation to some of our Aurecon leaders.

Liam Hayes: I first heard about the concept of antifragility from Aurecon’s Chief Executive Officer Bill Cox. As many of you would know, Bill is an avid sailor and has a friend who, when he sees a storm brewing across Sydney harbour, races to get his boat out on the water. Bill’s friend wants to experience first-hand the challenges and dangers of sailing a boat in a storm. He wants to test his equipment, see what works and what doesn’t, so that if he’s caught in a storm in an important race, he’s better able to respond as he knows what to expect.

This is what is known as ‘antifragility’.

There is a difference between antifragility and resilience. Resilient people block shocks to the system, yet they remain the same, whereas the anti-fragile get better.

There were so many valuable takeaways from Dr Pillay’s presentation on antifragility, but these are just a few that really resonated with me.

Dr Srini Pillay: What we're going to be talking about today is how to optimise your innate capacity to be able to function at your highest level. What we want to do is fill out this performance gap with antifragility. So, let's look first at the definition of antifragility. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resist shocks and stay the same. The anti-fragile get better. What we're talking about is not just how to recover from shocks. But how do you get into the situation of adversity and use this chaos as a tailwind so that you actually do really well in this environment? What research shows is that mindset is a really good place to go to. Peter Drucker is famous for saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast, because if you have a mindset culture, it actually can significantly influence your success. Keller and Price at McKinsey did a study showing that if you are aligned in your aspirations this can improve your performance by between two and four point four times.

How do you build a dynamic and progressive mind? And from the perspective of reframing business models, how do you remove obstructions to possibility thinking so that you reach your highest level of functioning? Let's first take a look at removing obstructions to clear thinking and strategic speed and how you can target your brain to think more clearly. Jocelyn Davis and Henry Frechette and colleagues actually studied strategic speed within organisations, and they found that there were three factors that contributed to optimising strategic speed. The first was clarity. The second was unity. And the third was agility. Now in the brain, what we know is that for clarity to occur, the prefrontal cortex, the thinking brain, has to be unencumbered. The prefrontal cortex has to not have interruptions from other parts of the brain so that it can't function. But what happens when you're anxious is that the anxiety centre or the emotional centre is like an alarm in the brain and it disrupts what the prefrontal cortex can do.

How do you quiet down this anxiety centre so that you free up your thinking brain to think more clearly? And I've come up with this mnemonic 'CIRCA' and each step in 'CIRCA' is backed up by a large amount of research that shows that when you perform the step, it actually takes blood away from the anxiety centre in the brain, allowing your thinking brain to think more clearly, and I'm going to go through each of these different steps.

The first 'C' is for chunking, the 'I’ for ignore mental chatter, the 'R' for reality check, the 'C' for control check and the 'A' for attention shift.

What you need to know is that when you chunk something down, it prevents your brain from being overwhelmed. Chunking is very important when you do it explicitly by breaking things down into segments. So, if the task is too big, you break the task down. If the task seems too overwhelming, you spread it out over time. Ignore mental chatter refers to mindfulness. You close your eyes and you place your attention on your breath like a flashlight. And if your mind wanders, you gently bring your attention back to your breath, just observing in and out.

The 'R' is for reality check. And this is just because when something is anxiety-provoking, your brain makes up lots of catastrophes. One thing that you can do is call out the possible end. So, you literally use self-talk by talking to yourself, either out loud or in your mind. And you say this too shall pass. And by reminding your brain that this is not going to last forever, it actually starts to calm down. So that's reality check.

Control check is all about acceptance. Studies show that we need to really focus on the things that we can control.

The last 'A' in CIRCA is attention shift, and it's there to remind us that when things are bad, we often spend a lot of time talking about the problem and not enough time talking about the solution. So, if you shift your attention to what you want, you are much more likely to solve that problem.

One of the things that we know about stress and anxiety is that they can impact genes because they cause negative changes that we that we call epigenetic changes. And when that happens to genes, it can open up pathways to cancer, heart disease, stroke and neurodegenerative disease. So, it's really important to work sustainably, to work intelligently.

Now you might ask yourself, how can I make this work? You can download the CIRCA app, you can do a daily CIRCA. So, you just typically go through all five steps at the beginning of the morning. Or you can use the CIRCA before stressful moments. If you're going to a board meeting or you're about to go to a talk, you just do a quick CIRCA.

Maria Rampa: The connection between mindset and performance is fascinating. Could your team benefit from becoming antifragile?

Shifting focus now, our episode on ‘Is nature positive the new net zero’ attracted a lot of interest.

Today, an organisation’s future success has direct links to its sustainability and climate change performance. In an effort to increase transparency, and respond to pressure from investors and consumers, some organisations are now seeking to go beyond ‘net zero carbon’ to become ‘nature positive’.

In this episode, Aurecon's Queensland Sustainability Leader, Jessica Holz, spoke with Adrian Ward, CEO of Accounting for Nature, about their methodology for measuring environmental health, understanding that accounting for our impact on nature is an opportunity to go one step further in caring for our planet.

Jessica Holz: So Accounting for Nature has a robust, scientifically verified methodology for measuring environmental health and these assets that you just spoke about. What does this involve? And how does this system work?

Adrian Ward: It revolves very much around, very similar to how we actually do carbon methodologies at the moment. In that, there is a scientifically robust way to measure the condition of these environmental assets out there in the greater world. So we've got many wonderful scientists, you know, field ecologists who go out and they measure the changing condition of these environmental assets for assessing environmental impact, for statements, for assessing, for example, carbon offset projects. So Accounting for Nature's role is basically to bring together those methods, and standardise them to produce something called an ECON, which is an environmental condition index. And that's a score from zero to 100, where, if you can imagine zero would be concrete and 100 would be your pristine state of nature. And if you look across the farm, you can basically take those scientific methods which have very complex array of indicators, depending on the asset type, you can imagine that measuring water quality, or the condition of rivers is very different to measuring for instance, koalas or native vegetation. But we can roll all those complex indicators into one score. And that makes communicating the scientific condition a lot easier, because intrinsically people kind of understand that 100 is probably good, zero is probably bad. Where do I sit on the scale? This first measurement that I do and then five years’ time when we measure it again, have we taken our ECON from 20 to a 40, for instance, and actually improved the condition? Off the back of that, people can then make credible environmental claims in the marketplace.

Jessica Holz: The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures is of great interest to us here at Aurecon. And I've seen it as this progression really from the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. And I'm just interested in your thoughts on that, and whether you see it as the next legislative reporting mechanism in the future.

Adrian Ward: So TNFD is the sister initiative to the TCFD. If you talk to fantastic organisations, such as the Responsible Investment Association of Australia, they'll verify the interest amongst their members from the investment side of the equation in this and the TNFD has also been driven by industry, by investors. I think the last count is that they had about $18 trillion of assets under management amongst the members to the TNFD forum. So it's massive, it's driven by the Black Rocks of the world, and others, there's a few governments involved, including the Australian and French governments. It's a complex thing, the TNFD will not be finished until the end of 2023. And they’re going through a very careful process of working out what how you actually do it. But it's measuring nature to make credible green claims so you're not crossing those boundaries around false and misrepresentation of what you're doing in your supply chains, or on your property. It's actually really challenging. And so that task, it's not simply just stepping up from the TCFD to a TNFD, it’s actually taking a lot more thought around how we actually assess for nature risk and nature opportunity in our value chains, which are often very complex. A lot of the organisations we work with, who are very interested in also informing the process of forming up the TNFD over the next 18 months. So yeah, huge amount of interest in TNFD. And I think the market is probably running ahead of itself potentially in many ways, before this actually gets straightened out.

Jessica Holz: What role do you think that engineers or specialists or designers can play in getting the market to understand this better and understand the role of nature and TNFD reporting and Accounting for Nature?

Adrian Ward: I think the TNFD is fantastic, because it sets a framework into a way that we start to think about nature systematically and particularly across the value chain for companies and from a corporate disclosure point of view. And that's really critical, particularly in the context of a lot of the stuff that's happening with greenwashing. Barely a day goes by at the moment where there's not a mention of greenwashing in the newspapers. But yeah, we don't want to run too fast on this and so I think the real role service providers, such as Aurecon can play is actually just taking a step back and working with clients to say, well what is biodiversity? Which is always good question, because I think biodiversity can be a very wide thing. So breaking that down and the TNFD talks a lot about realms and environmental assets. In the first instance, if you look at your business and you look at your value chain that your business plays into, where are the impacts and dependencies? Where are the touch points for your business and nature? Where do your operations directly, indirectly touch rivers, where do they touch populations? And then what are the material things that you think you should be measuring from that perspective? That's probably the best place to start. Down the track, when we start thinking about making claims, and requiring to have scientifically credible metrics, that's when Accounting for Nature plays a role. And so when you're going out to the market, you know you've got an environment account that backs up what you're saying, I've got a sustainable farm, because of this reason, because I know I've improved the condition of native vegetation or the rivers that are on my property or in my supply chain. And I've gotten an environmental account from Accounting for Nature to back that up that's been independently verified and certified. And it sits beneath it, just like we have carbon accounts, which sit beneath carbon accounting. And also going a step further, is to then look at the nature opportunity side, which is where nature-based solutions, buying carbon offsets from projects that have got verified, environmental care outcomes through frameworks is very important. And also looking at cultural condition from a traditional owner perspective is also critical. So look, I think, take a step back, take it slow, try and work it out.

Maria Rampa: Just like ‘nature positive’, sustainable travel is another growing trend. While the aviation sector prepares to decarbonise, it’s also embracing emerging technologies to improve the passenger experience and prepare for the new mobility airspace.

In our episode ‘Flying into the future by reimagining airports’, Erik Kriel, Aurecon’s Capability and Industry Leader, Aviation, spoke with Ryan Both, Executive General Manager, Aviation, at Brisbane Airport Corporation about the future of travel and how airports are being reimagined to help us to fly seamlessly and sustainably into the future.

Erik Kriel: How are you seeing the new user of the airport, because ultimately this is about the passenger moving on a journey. How do you see the user in all of this? And why do you think a user centred approach to facilitating the passenger, and possibly designing for the passenger, might be important in the future as we recover?

Ryan Both: I like to think about these things as a system and think about the flow of the system in a seamless way between data and technology and mobile technology and physical world. When you have a security overlay, when you have a regulatory overlay, when you have very time critical processes that have a need for high levels of resilience, progress can be a little bit slow. We also have multiple stakeholders involved and we have passengers to educate, we have airlines to bring along the journey as well. The trend towards integrating data and data infrastructure and the sharing of data and using the power of the amazing devices that we have in our hands and pockets in the smartphone, leveraging biometrics, data geolocation, temporal referencing, and integrating that with the physical world in the airport is really the key and sharing that across all different partners in that processing chain. And that's a complex problem to solve. That's the challenge for us over the next 10 years is to really move down that spectrum and find solutions that help us to get proper biometric identification at multiple points that help us to identify when someone's behaviour is conforming to what we would expect in a predicted sequence of events and help us to really take out any of the bumps in the road and make the journey as seamless as possible.

Erik Kriel: We've seen through COVID, one of the other things that’s come to the forefront is the decarbonisation of aviation. We saw globally, the short-term impacts of lower levels of activity in manufacturing and travel. The European airports have committed to net zero targets, similar to their governments. And we've even seen legislation in European countries where, for example, short haul flights are prohibited or at least reduced. But what are Brisbane Airport Cooperation doing around this and what are your plans and strategies to respond and deal with this emerging trend and pressure?

Ryan Both: So sustainability is really important to us as an organisation. At Brisbane Airport we undertook the first sustainable aviation fuel flights in Australia. We have very ambitious sustainability agenda. We'll be making some announcements in the next couple of months, our board is just signed off on some interim target changes. We will be pushing hard on scope one and two emissions but looking well beyond that, because that's a problem we can solve. But looking well beyond that, and then focusing on scope three emissions, both the landside emissions for vehicles coming, and transport coming, to and from the airport, but also aviation emissions. We're very fortunate to have a large mangrove zone at our airport, and 186 hectares of biodiversity zone, which we intend to use for carbon removal. I think it's called blue carbon, is the term. Our intention is that when we achieve net zero, it will be genuinely net zero with no offsets. We will remove the residual carbon on the airport estate, or the adjacent mangrove system. And then we want to go much further than that and start to remove residual emissions from sustainable aviation fuel operations.

Erik Kriel: We know that Brisbane Airport is focusing on a new terminal development. Any specific design and technology interventions that you're making right now into that process, to be sure that it's going to have environmental and sustainability performance come the day it becomes operational? Ryan Both: We really want to push the boat out with that terminal. It needs to be cost efficient, and it needs to be appropriately developed. So we need to spend our time thinking carefully about resolved design and appropriate levels of infrastructure. That said, carbon positive and automation heavy terminal that is using the most modern of infrastructure that we can find. We've got a fantastic opportunity here to have a completely unfettered run at this. And to build a building and a system that can process travel journeys in a way that just creates an absolutely wonderful experience for everyone involved but does it in a hyper-efficient way. Erik Kriel: Traditionally people think of air mode at the airports only as the real traditional jets and turboprops taking off and landing but we are confronted with urban air mobility and vertical takeoff, EV to run all of these good things. And depending on who you listen to, some people will say that it will happen tomorrow, and others say no, it's very, very far off down the track. It's not ready. What are your general thoughts about that? Do you think it's something that will be with us soon? And what types of sub-uses might we see, what are your thoughts?

Ryan Both: The vertical takeoff and landing aircraft are much closer to final certification and commercial operations than perhaps some people may be aware. By 2025, 2026, we will see the first aircraft in commercial service, so that's not very far away. The market potential for a transport mode that is infinitely flexible, as long as you have a vertical landing site, and can fly, as the crow flies, in 360 degrees from every vertical with very low noise, significantly higher levels of safety than a helicopter. Because it has distributed electric propulsion, the motors themselves have a lot of inbuilt redundancy, you don't have fire risk in the same way. You've got very redundant systems, advanced automation, avionics, etc. So that combination of noise and safety makes a significant difference, in addition to emissions. And then it's really a question of cost. So, the forecast industry have to commence operations at a price per seat per kilometre, the same as a chauffeured car or an Uber Black at launch. If we take a journey that might take an hour and a half in congested traffic, and it takes you 15 minutes, a segment of the market would travel privately in a car like that. It's not a large segment of the market, it's a reasonable size group, then travelling with two or three other passengers on board a hyper-efficient, really quick journey could be a very attractive proposition.

Erik Kriel: If you were to play visionary, if you were to describe 10, 15 years from today, what do you see the airport to be looking like? Can you explain the future of a typical airport?

Ryan Both: There might be a good timeframe is arriving for the Olympics in 2032. That's close enough that we can all see it. Paris, Los Angeles, Brisbane. That's a pretty interesting sequence. We will be ready. The new terminal will be open. And hopefully we have a travel experience that is as automated and touchless as possible for the majority of passengers. And we've got a development that creates an amazing sense of place. A sustainable journey and we've got a carbon positive building and carbon removal happening on site in the mangroves. That's a wonderful picture of the future that we can all really aim towards.

Maria Rampa: Thanks for joining us for another season of Engineering Reimagined – we hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have!

For more information about our guests and to listen back to full episodes from any of our four seasons, go to our website or find us in your favourite podcasting app. If you’re new to the podcast, hit the subscribe or follow button on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

We will return in early 2023 to explore how we can improve our wellbeing, uncover new technologies and innovative solutions to wicked problems, and create a better future for people and the planet. Until then, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season. Thanks for listening.

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Antifragility, the new net zero and future airports

For many, 2022 will be remembered as another challenging year. But there are reasons to be optimistic about the future.

In this season of Engineering Reimagined, we’ve introduced you to some of the leaders and innovators thinking outside the box to design a better future for people and the planet.

We hope you enjoyed it as much as we have. Sit back and listen to some of our favourite moments from season 4.

We’ll explain antifragility and how a simple tool can reduce anxiety and release your potential, we’ll examine how some organisations are seeking to go beyond ‘net zero carbon’ to become ‘nature positive’ and we’ll look at the future of airports and how they can provide a cleaner, greener, and seamless passenger experience.

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