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What a 12 year old boy can teach the health sector about future communications and workforce

Photo: Hamish Finlayson
By David Reynolds, Davidson Executive Group Manager, Davidson Executive & Boards

I want to share a story about the most amazing 12 year old who has made me realise that if organisations (particularly those in the health sector) want to solve problems and deliver solutions, they really need to look at things differently.

My experience in dealing with organisations across the health sector is that many of the challenges they face today and in the future, will only be solved with digital enablement and disruption, and they acknowledge that they need to quickly become technically and digitally savvy.

Hamish Finlayson is a 12 year old boy who may be the solution for many organisations in the Health Sector. He is brilliant and is an example of an alternate talent source. This is his story:
Hamish developed an app, called Autism Moonshot, to help kids and adults, who don’t have autism, to better understand and to create awareness of what it is like to live with this lifelong developmental condition.

“Over one per cent of the world has autism and many people across the world don't understand it and so are afraid of it,” Hamish said. “This needs to change. I created the app in time for world autism awareness month in April 2016.

“Autism Moonshot aims to make life easier for everyone in the world with autism and reduce the costs of autism to people with it and their families.

“I want to create a world which leaves no-one with autism behind.”

Hamish chose a digital platform for his idea due to an incredible understanding of his audience, another lesson for the health sector in Australia.

“Kids these days are usually on iPads and electronic stuff and so I thought this would be a fun way to connect with people,” Hamish said. “I also created a website and supporting social media feeds to get my message out.”

“I used 10X Moonshot thinking as my inspiration because it's a good way to solve really big and really hard problems - things like Google making driverless cars, or balloons that transmit the internet.”

Further to understanding his audience, this 12-year-old boy also knew the value in developing partnerships with established and reputable groups, ie stakeholder engagement and marketing. To assist with the launch of the product, he partnered with Australian Autism CRC.

“It's really hard to get people excited by the idea when they are already busy on their own projects,” he said. “Working with partners is an important way to scale faster. You just need to find the right partner and work out how you can both achieve your goals.

“I have a lot of meetings with people to spread the word and sometimes really cool things happen, other times nothing happens. Uni's and research centres have really complicated and very slow processes to get things done.

“When you talk to start-ups with similar interests to mine though they are a lot quicker and faster on their feet and prepared to make things happen, more prepared to take risks to scale - and less frightened if the idea doesn't come off.”

“I promoted and launched my app by myself and just worked hard to let people know what I was doing. But making great connections with big companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, Data61, MaiTai Global, Blue Chilli, and BankWest has helped me scale and get extra tools, methodologies and equipment and contacts who can help me.

“Some of the Uni's here and in America have also been really cool about letting me pitch my ideas and offer suggestions on how I can improve on what I am doing and some have given me access to really smart people trying to help people with autism. All the start-ups I met in Silicon Valley and since then have been really supportive as well - from San Francisco, to Jordan, to Israel, to Nigeria, Shanghai and back to Australia - and they've given me extra contacts I could never have found myself in other countries.”

Thanks to his extensive knowledge in what platform would best suit the message and audience and the best partners to align with, his next step was to attend Obama’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley, which was attended by more than 5,000 other entrepreneurs across the world.

Hamish was one of 9 Australian entrepreneurs invited to attend to hear John Kerry, President Obama and other world and business leaders speak.

“I heard about the Summit in Perth in December 2015 when I met US Ambassador Berry and he gave me an innovation grant to help me,” Hamish said.

Since the Summit, Hamish has been kicking some serious goals.  Some of his recent progress is:
  • Facebook invited Hamish into - FbStart Bootstrap programme - US$40k of tools to help accelerate startups. Hamish is using many of these tools to develop prototypes, undertake market research and learn to expand his apps
  • AMP Tomorrowmaker Grant - $13,000 - Hamish was the youngest 2016 recipient. Hamish will use the money to expand his apps onto other platforms, like Android and Windows, learn more about autism research and solutions from the Autism CRC (he attended the first ever Autism Hackathon in Melbourne in November 2016 as an 'autism techie') and look at expanding his environmental apps and quizzes for use by kids in schools.
  • Philip Leong Youth Programme - $10,000 - Hamish will use the grant to learn about building VR apps. Hamish wants to build VR apps that can help people with autism improve their life and social skills - like kids learning to cross the street safely, practising job interviews. Hamish has also signed a Collaboration Agreement with U.K. Hao2.eu to investigate options to create a locally based 3D Virtual job hub that can help people with autism. Hao2.eu focuses on creating solutions for people with autism by people with autism.

So what does this mean for Australia’s health sector?

Perhaps this is the way forward for the future. Breaking the paradigm and thinking differently. Disrupting the traditional way you source talent and quickly develop ground breaking solutions.

What would happen if organisations were to break down communication barriers by looking at different platforms and avenues and also partnering with others? Or maybe consider sourcing talent outside the normal circles. Organisations may need to form partnerships with more digitally switched on people.

“It's important to understand that no two people with autism are the same, that we need solutions that help all people on the spectrum with all their issues - and that we shouldn't be frightened to look to other countries for great ideas. We also need to remember autism is a lifelong problem - it's not a phase, it's with you for life. We will need tools and technologies to help people with autism as they grow from being kids to adults.

“From a technology perspective, our leaders need to understand the road will be rocky, innovation is messy and we should never give up on finding some solutions for really big problems like autism. Autism is a $4.5 Quadrillion problem for the world and a $13.4 Billion problem for Australia every year.”

Hamish said the Australian health sector needs to find more accessible solutions.

“Whether they live in a big city, a remote country town, a village in Africa or an orphanage in China, the power of scaling technology is a big factor in reducing costs,” he said.

“Faster ways to screen people for autism are also needed so kids can get help earlier. There are apps that are free in America right now that can help to screen kids from their parent's iPhone in about 20 minutes and avoid long waiting times to see specialists. The average age of autism diagnosis in the US is about 5.3 years of age but signs of autism can be seen as early as 6-12 months. We also need to use companion robots, wearables, virtual reality and augmented reality more to help people with autism learn everyday skills more easily - like crossing the street, making friends, driving a car - just to name a few.”

Lessons we can learn from Hamish:
  • Ideas can come from anywhere;
  • Impossible is not a fact, it's an opinion;
  • Entrepreneurs can change the world;
  • Networks are important

So the challenge for organisations is to think differently as to where the great ideas come form and to consider changing the paradigm around sourcing talent to solve many of the issues that face the health sector.

It means that we all have to think outside the square and be open to new possibilities and consider throwing out the old ways of identifying and using talent through alliances and partnerships that we never dreamed possible

About the Author
David Reynolds is the Group Manager for Davidson Executive and Boards and has provided executive recruitment and consulting services to many of Australia’s leading public companies as well as government and not-for-profit organisations. He specialises in C-suite appointments including non-executive Directors, Chief Executive Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Chief Information Officers, Executive General Managers, Chief Financial Officers, Marketing and HR Directors, and company secretaries. His wide experience covers many industry sectors including health and aged care, mining and resources, financial services, tourism, education, aviation and agriculture.

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