About BeauDr Beau Lotto is a globally renowned neuroscientist whose studies in human perception have taken him well beyond the scientific domain and into the fields of education, the arts and business. Public engagement, in the broadest sense, is at the core of what Beau does – whether he's creating scientific experiments, giving talks or making TV programmes. By enabling people to experience what it is to be a scientist, Beau's aim is to encourage them to see science not as an academic investigation but as a way of being that is relevant to every aspect of their lives: this discovery can be powerful enough to make people think differently about both themselves and the world around them. Beau believes passionately in the potential impact of his work on corporate innovation and creativity, and to this end his company, Lottolab Ltd, has teamed up with Purpose, one of London's most innovative branding consultancies.
Beau is in increasing demand as a speaker. He has given two TED talks, a relatively rare honour, which have had more than 1.6 million online viewers combined, and has been invited to speak at one of Google’s Zeitgeist events in 2013. He is an inspiring and motivational speaker and uses illusions, games and interaction to engage his audience.
There are two aspect to innovation: efficiency and creativity. I.e. the ability to create novel solutions to a meaningful problem and ability to realise that solution. Indeed, innovation is itself inherent in both of these processes. In recent decades we focused - at times almost exclusively - to efficiency. Billions of dollars are spent every year by companies - and indeed individuals - in a never ending attempt to get more for less. And there's actually good biological evidence to say that this is a good thing: In nature if two animals are set the same challenge, the one that deals with it most efficiently is also the one that is most likely to survive. If a bus is coming at you, well ... you want to get out of the way as fast (i.e. efficiently) as possible. You don't want to say ... ' ... hmmm ... I wonder if there's a different way of seeing this ...'. But ... is everything an oncoming bus? If you look at the world around you, we behave as if it is.
But without ideas, there will be increasingly less to 'efficientise'. Without creativity, one cannot have innovation. But we know from behavioural neuroscience that the requirements of creativity are different. They require questions, not answers, collaboration not competition, noise not sterility. This is not to say that creativity is - as most assume - a mysterious, messy and serendipitous process. That leap of faith, that ability to bring together two highly disparate ideas, is an apt description from the outside. But from the inside ... there is nothing all that creative about creativity. It's a wholly logical process. The challenge, then, is not practical but emotional, since creativity requires stepping into a place that the human brain hates to be: uncertainty. Hence, the biggest barrier to innovation is fear and blindness. But fortunately, evolution has given us an answer to uncertainty. Indeed, there is only one human endeavour where uncertainty is a good thing. Here, we will discuss what that one thing is ... and by the next greatest innovation isn't an external technical but an internal state of being.
Change is at the heart of any campaign. In the case of politics, those currently in power emphasise stability, whereas those seeking power argue for change. But, there is no inherent value in either. Whether change is good or bad is - like everything else in life = context-dependent. Here, using principles in behavioural and perceptual neuroscience, we'll explore those different contexts in order to discover what lives at the heart of change; why it's often essential for success but equally the most feared of human activities. Indeed, to ask questions, especially 'why?', is - historically - dangerous. Which is why government organisation, businesses, religions and - ironically - our education systems are designed to reduce the risk of question-asking. There is one principle reason for this: All revolutions (and revelations) begin with a joke (i.e. " ... you mean it could be different from this ...? "). We'll see how and why questions and metaphor are mediators of change; why most questions are useless, since they don't confront the most difficult barriers to change; and how change - when properly pursued - has no direction or goal. Change is a way of being that is fostered by one's external, but also one's internal environment. Which means change is personal and - when properly considered - inevitable.
What is education for? When you watch children in most schools, it's not obvious. Most it seems is a history lesson. Or at best a place to memorise and reiterate. This is because school largely is in the service of society and what it thinks is important. And much of our society is driven by the world of business and government targets. Because those worlds are motivated by efficiency, so too is our education curricula. And because the best route to efficiency is competition - which is also true in the natural world, again so too is education.
But the world is changing - indeed it has changed. It is now more complex and uncertain than it ever has been before. And we know from nature that to succeed in increasingly uncertain worlds, one needs to know how to adapt, to find solutions to questions that haven't been asked yet. Indeed to know how to ask and identify good questions. Doing so is at the basis of creativity. But increasingly creativity isn't just for the arts; it's a way of being that underpins innovation in all walks of life. But in our current system designed for remembering not thinking, we are losing a key skill that has enabled the human species to be so successful in its evolution: the ability to adapt.
So how do we teach children creativity, adaptability - how do we teach them a way of being that enables not just knowing but understanding? Here using the neuroscience of perception, we will answer these questions, and will provide a concrete example in the world of science education where children became the youngest published scientists in history.
What makes a good leader? When asked this question of a diverse audience, I'll receive many, many different possible qualities that are 'essential'. And yet, there are only three such descriptions that correlate with the success of a company. What are they and why do they matter? Here we will address these questions from the perspective of behavioural neuroscience, and consider a new answer: the quality of a leader is defined by how he/she leads others into uncertainty.
Arguably one of the most dangerous things one can experience in life is doubt. During evolution, if your ancestors weren't sure whether that 'thing over there' was a predator, well ... it would have been too late. Resolving uncertainty is the fundamental problem that your brain evolved to solve. Thus, when presented with doubt, we hate it ... and are genetically programmed to do so: Sea-sickness, and indeed most of our mental health problems being direct manifestations of our fear. The deep irony, however, is that anything interesting begins with a question. So taking the risk to step into uncertainty is an essential aspect of adaptation, which we know is at the root of success in all natural systems. What's more, nature also tells us when it's best to risk uncertainty. Here we discuss how and why everything is uncertain, and natures solution to it.
We do not exist in isolation, but in relationship to our world. The most essential aspect of that world is other people. Our relationships become meaningful according to the narrative of those relationships: the more nuanced, creative and personal the narrative, the more valuable it is and thus the stronger is the relationship. Imagine instead having a narrative that described another as the average man or woman. Not surprisingly, it's not going to work out very well. It's knowing how others deviate from the average which defines how well you know them. Branding is nothing more than telling stories that foster relationships. But brands treat people as the average, hence their stories do not foster what they truly need - indeed anyone needs, which is value, meaning and loyalty. Understanding the mechanisms and principles of behavioural neuroscience that enable relationships to start, as well as the relationships that enable them to be maintained (which are not the same mechanisms) is essential to any brand. And key to this is authenticity. So how can brands be authentic? How can they understand themselves and communicate that to their audience? These are the questions with which we will engage.
There is no inherent value in any piece of data because all information is meaningless in itself. Why? Because information doesn't tell you what to do. This is true even at the most fundamental level of our senses: seeing light. As such, resolving the uncertainty of information is what the brain evolved to do. Which means it never actually sees information in any direct sense, or even patterns therein. Instead we construct meaning from information according to our history of experience. And it's that historical meaning that we see, experience and know. Here we'll discuss - and experience - the underlying challenges that the brain has in discovering new relationships ... and hence why innovation remains so elusive to most. We'll explore how to see new meaning in data that has always been there, but remained hidden. In short, we'll explore how to discover within not only new spaces of information, but more importantly spaces that we thought we had fully explored.
Testimonials"In the present times of crisis, we must be alert to opportunities around us, which often means changing the way we perceive things, "getting out of the box". Changing our perception of the world is a window open to new ways of seeing and doing things. In short, to innovate. To help us in this process, we decided to invite Dr. Beau Lotto to the opening day of the 13th Science, Technology and Innovation Week of the Basque Country. Beyond his proven experience in the field of perception, we want to highlight his skills for communication and outreach, the way he connected with the audience through an interactive, fresh, fun and inspiring presentation". Innobasque, Basque Innovation Agency
"What a knockout! The feedback from all the members was fantastic, thank you very much. I have already had some interest from another multinational company who unfortunately were not at the meeting. I shall continue talking to other senior member executives in our membership as I think your material really is fantastic."TechUK
"We couldn't have asked for a better presenter to kick off Being Human 2012 than Beau Lotto or a better presentation than the one Beau delivered. With playfulness, energy and vivid illustration of essential principles, Beau brilliantly set the context for the day and opened the 1,000 guests in attendance to the frame of curiosity and exploration we aimed to establish for the event." Being Human
Dec 20 2010: I simply adore these talks. Beau Lotto is one of those who studies a specific subject, such as our adaptation to illusions, primarily optical, that can be applied for any subject of human studies. For instance, it matters not what tools - wealth, knowledge, physical features, etc. - we are granted in life, but rather how we choose to use them. Apply this to scenarious and you'll understand. Basically, I believe this man has taken a giant leap in the direction of brain functioning. As he said, it is not as important to ask what it is, as it is to ask why it is so. Therefore, rather than discussing whether women have superior optical senses (just stating it here, don't attack me) is not as important as discussin why and how it got to be superior. By doing this we can, rather than identifying whether there are differences, understand the differences, and learn a crucial +art of our brain's functioning. Amazing ideas, creative talk! Brilliant finalle! Definately worth sharing! TED
Beau may, initially, appear to be an unusual choice of speaker for a conference on criminal justice legislation aimed at the police. However, PNLD asked Beau to speak at our 7th Annual Conference because we wanted a speaker able to re-energize delegates after a very full morning of legal information and engage with the audience, making them think about the assumptions we all tend to make every day. Beau certainly delivered what we asked for. In a series of practical demonstrations, he showed that the human brain tends to see what it has learned to expect to see and challenged the audience to reassess what we all thought we knew. The feedback we received from delegates included the following comments:
• "a highly captivating performance which kept delegates awake after lunch"
• "very intriguing and thought provoking presentation"
• "A breath of fresh air"
Beau Lotto is an excellent speaker whose energy and passion for his subject certainly engaged the interest of our delegates; we were delighted with his presentation. PNLD
Giving a keynote lecture on 'why you see what you see' to a room full of ophthalmologists may have been daunting to some but Beau Lotto clearly thrives in such an environment as he delivered a thoroughly entertaining, engaging and thought provoking lecture. The room echoed with sounds of surprise followed by increasingly louder sounds of laughter as delegates were subjected to various visual tests that appeared on screen and clearly demonstrated that what they thought they saw was indeed not what they saw! Beau lotto's lecture challenged our perceptions and provided an excellent roundup for our conference. A 96% average rating score speaks volumes about this! Enitan (pharmaceutical)
"Our client saw Dr Beau Lotto on the Horizon programme and they were so impressed that they were interested in having him present at their annual glaucoma meeting. Dr Lotto was very accommodating from start to finish and his enthusiastic nature was refreshing. Dr Lotto's presentation was interactive, educational and entertaining. Both the client and delegates thoroughly enjoyed the nature of the presentation and it provided a welcome break from the seriousness of the meeting. On a personal note, Dr Lotto was a pleasure to work with. He was responsive to correspondence and a real character on site. I would happily recommend Dr Lotto to anyone interested in having him speak in a public capacity." Darwin Healthcare Communications
"Beau Lotto has been resident in the Science Museum for the past year. He has created a lab and a series of programmes that is like no other; it's not too far from the truth to describe his time here as like having a Renaissance man in our midst – Beau blends art, science, curiosity, illusion and music to entertain children, adults and scientists alike. The programmes that the studio have put together with the Museum are also truly inspirational and life-enhancing... I believe that our visitors will be strongly influenced and inspired by Beau and the Lab, and our mission must be to get as many people exposed to this opportunity as we can."London Science Museum
"I worked with Beau Lotto for a film I made for the BBC2 science series 'Horizon'. Beau was our main contributor and organised an experiment, involving 200 people, which took place at the Science Museum and was the main thread through the film. Beau was great to work with – very creative, highly ambitious and with incredible energy. His communications skills are quite something to behold: when dealing with the volunteers from the public for the experiment, he held them in the palm of his hand and infected them with his enthusiasm. Respected by his peers and looked up to by his students he is someone who people like to listen to and learn from. I'd love the chance to work with him again." BBC
Read MoreBeau's scientific research, carried out both in the US and the UK (he is attached to UCL), is based on a deep and fundamental interest in human beings. It is also influenced by a strong artistic instinct and a boldness of vision. Beau has always looked outside the lab environment in order to collaborate with those who share his interest in exploring different ways of seeing – and doing – things, be they scientists, artists, musicians, educationalists, designers or entire businesses. As a result his domain is as much a creative studio as a lab, whose output ranges from art installations and visual illusions to workshops designed for corporate leaders. There's not a lab coat in sight.
Beau's ambitious ideas about the relevance of science to ordinary people have taken him to places where few other scientists have ventured – including into exhibition space inside the world's best-known Science Museum, in London, where Lottolab was resident from 2010–12. While at the museum, Lottolab pushed public engagement in science to new levels by involving the public directly in experiments. Beau's education programme led to the publication of the first-ever, peer-reviewed scientific paper written by schoolchildren (Blackawton Bees, published by the Royal Society).
The potential impact of Beau's work on corporate innovation and creativity has been recognised by branding consultant, Purpose Ltd, with which Lottolab is now collaborating. This partnership is currently developing several experiential products, including an interactive 'digital tree' in a prime London location; an augmented reality social network (in development in Silicon Valley); and, in collaboration with the Peter Baumann Foundation in San Francisco, a pop-up laboratory cum night club/cabaret – a format that Lottolab explored with great success during its Lates events at the Science Museum in London.
His experimentalist, visionary approach to science is winning Beau an ever wider public audience; he has made significant contributions to two episodes of the BBC's Horizon programme, filmed two programmes with National Geographic Channel and is currently working with PBS in the United States. One journalist suggested that Beau could do as much good for the public appreciation of science as Jamie Oliver has done for our appreciation of food and cooking. And Beau is in increasing demand as a speaker. He has given two TED talks, a relatively rare honour, which have had more than 1.6 million online viewers combined, and has been invited to speak at one of Google's Zeitgeist events in 2013.