Cognitive Performance

The second annual Cognitive Performer Summit saw hundreds of high performance practitioners, across multiple disciplines, gather to explore how cognitive performance impacts and informs individuals, teams and ultimately humanity.

Sep 26, 2019

everal weeks ago, the Liminal Collective team joined the Logitech G team in hosting the second annual Cognitive Performer Summit - a gathering of hundreds of high performance practitioners across multiple disciplines, including fighter pilots, heart surgeons, DARPA project leads, high-profile choreographers and esports professionals. All were there to explore how cognitive performance impacts and informs individuals, teams and ultimately humanity.

It was our privilege to learn from so many inspiring experts, pushing the boundaries in their various fields. We’re grateful for their time, their insights and our collaboration.

We’d like to share all the conversations - on stage and informal - that caught our attention. That’s impossible, so instead, here’s a tasting menu of some of what was discussed. I warn you, it’s Michelin starred.  

How do you ensure you’re making good investment decisions in an uncertain world?

Well for starters, Bill Tai - venture capitalist, educator, athlete - has had some experience in this (understatement). As well as the importance of paying attention and learning from others, the key is timing: “You have to time the wave - if you’re too early you’ll be exhausted by the time the wave arrives, if you are too late, you cannot paddle up the back to drop in and if you time it perfectly - you must make sure you have the right rider.” Bill was joined by our own Andy Walshe in the discussion.

In the rapidly rising world of esports, how do you instill purpose and performance in young athletes?

Ujesh Desai, Sue Phillips and Mark Deppe tackled this big topic, prompting us to consider the holistic athlete. Mark and Ujesh brought experience directly from the world of esports, as both work with athletes in their respective roles of director of the UCI esports program and GM of Gaming at Logitech. Yes, cognitive performance can be improved by considering the physical and mental needs of an athlete, but as Sue Phillips noted, the special sauce behind cognitive performance could lie in a deeper form of human flourishing. By human flourishing, she’s referring to finding meaning in life, making and addressing the big question of one’s purpose. Sue is director of strategy at On Being Impact Lab.

Ujesh Desai, Sue Phillips and Mark Deppe discuss the holistic athlete.

What on earth has the power of nature got to do with cognitive growth?

As a “scientist of wild spaces”, Chris Lortie helped us understand how natural elements and patterns can help anchor, calm, and open up the mind. He explains it far more compellingly than we could in this video and accompanying slides. Liminal Collective’s Jurgen Heitmann took this topic of the big outdoors further in discussion with Mark Twight (alpinist, performance specialist), Grace Calvert Young (engineer, ocean explorer) and Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides (space scientist and explorer). When you’re exploring the ocean depths, sailing the Atlantic, summiting the world’s biggest mountains or going to space, the physical challenge tends to be the focus - but how do you tackle a never-been-done mentally? The cognitive preparation for and management of fear is key.

Humans and machines: how can we team with machines, what do we want the partnership to do and be?

Across two different sessions, Brian Pierce, Husam Balkhy and our own Brian Ferguson address key questions related to the relationship between humans and machines. Brian Pierce, as director of Information Innovation Office at DARPA, reminded us that with machines, “we get what we ask for” - a good reason then for thoughtfully addressing what indeed we are asking for in our partnership with machines. Husam shared his experience as a professor of surgery at The University of Chicago Medicine of how the collective intelligence between surgeons and robots is transforming medicine and patient outcomes.

How do you enhance the cognitive creative?

We learned so much here, from colleagues Gregg Curtis (former U.S. gymnastics national champion turned Cirque du Soleil performer turned artistic/creative director and creativity guru) and Dreya Weber (dancer, choreographer, creator and owner of Aerial Arts). In a practical session - that included learning how to do a traditional Māori Hongi greeting - the two showed us what it is like to be a beginner again, to “take the child’s mind”. And in starting new, and focusing on “beautiful specificity of our humanness”, they demonstrated how this opens us up to be creative.

Greetings from Dreya Weber and Gregg Curtis.

What’s the future?

This final, sweet dish on the taster menu was served by Adam Gazzaley, professor in Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry at UC San Francisco and the founder & executive director of Neuroscape. He opened up the future of brain optimization to us all, showing a vision of the next evolution of our minds and what is possible when technology meets neuroscience.

We left the summit inspired and motivated. We hope those of you who were there did so too. As Sue Phillips said:

“My heart and mind are still sparking away from the stories I heard and my imagination for what’s possible took off.”

Thank you Sue. Thank you all.

To find out more and to join the Cognitive Performer Community, please visit our LinkedIn group here.

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