Interview: Hyper Island’s Anna Carlson on personal and digital transformation

Hyper Island is helping individuals and companies survive in a world of rapid transformation. Here, Brandwatch chats to Anna Carlson about how change always starts on a personal level, even if you're dealing with a huge organization.

Bringing in multiple perspectives and building your own path on what you learn is certainly something Anna lives by. She tells me about an epiphany she had about her life – that it’s possible she’ll be working till she’s 65 or 75 and that means she can have lots of different careers, at lots of different paces. It inspired her to start learning new things – she’s done a lot of short courses over recent years, in everything from interior design and nutrition to bee keeping and sign painting, and spends a lot of her free time creating art. We both agree that whatever ‘extra curricular’ activities you do in your own time, there are always lessons that you can bring into your work.

“The very core of Hyper Island’s methodology is about that mindset shift – curiosity, continuous learning and not having to know all the answers. Taking in many different perspectives and forming your own perspective by applying critical thinking,” Anna explains.

Inspiration can work the other way, too – after spending a lot of time discussing design thinking and processes at work, Anna began to apply it to other parts of her life. Frustrated by the amount of time she spent travelling, she began to spend that time sketching or researching. “By the time I’d come home from my work trip I had an idea that I just had to paint or had to make,” she says.

Meanwhile, she took other aspects of working life and applied it to her creative endeavors. “In my work life I have mentors, people who give me advice and coaches, but I didn’t have that in the creative side of my life. As soon as that started to come in, it was really helpful and inspiring.”

“You can steal models from architecture and bring them into organizational design. There are often interesting parallels you can bring in from subjects adjacent to what you do. I do a lot of art outside my work and I’ve been really productive in that over the last year and been much more into sharing stuff, and in a weird way it’s made me more brave in work.”

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At Hyper Island, personal transformation is key to broader-reaching change. Anna says, “It’s about learning about yourself – how you deal with change, what your response is, how you interact with other people.”

Recently, a big client commented on how unique their experience with Anna’s team was. During a “check out” session at the end of their time at Hyper Island, people began to share their experiences of their own transformation, as well as what they’d be doing differently at work. Anna told me that her main client’s feedback was “You can’t unlearn that – once you have a shift in the way you understand yourself, you can’t go back.”

Interview and text by Gemma Joyce, Social Data Journalist, and published by Brandwatch in October 2018.