Meet one of our co-founders, Andrew Jackson. While he’s not busy adding avatars into every part of his life, he’s busy driving Rethinkly forward in its mission to help ambitious teams and individuals unlock their communication challenges and turn sceptics into believers!
Read on to find out more!
How long have Rethinkly avatars been in your life?
10 years. I’m shocked to say that out loud, but yes, I left IBM in 2013 and it's 2023 now so it was in that leaving process that David and I were talking about this crazy idea that he'd had.
When did you met David, your co-founder, and how did ProReal the engine behind Rethinkly happen?
David and I had been helping a charity out together, so I knew him and knew his thinking and of his work. And we had a lot in common, so when he came to me with the idea for ProReal, now the engine behind Rethinkly, it already had some credibility. I knew it was to be trusted. The thing he hadn't worked out was how to commercialise it or how it could be helpful for clients at scale. He knew and still knows, and we all know the value of it and the power of it.
I was quite intrigued, not just with the idea, but also with its application and how it might help change the world of work and the world of relationships.
You mentioned ‘the power’ of it – what do you mean by that?
It's crazy really, because it took me some time to figure it all out. What I needed to do for my own process for the first few years, was to try to understand why it's so powerful. I think I’m still discovering the power of what is now Rethinkly to change people's lives.
Even now I’m surprised by the power of it. I give you an example… I was talking to somebody recently during a session, and they started out adamant that hadn't got anything to talk about. And then suddenly, they’ve created 2 avatars and the symbols start getting added between avatars and this whole dynamic appears that they had been reluctant to raise or address even to themselves. It helped this person make great progress in identifying an issue they really needed to address but were struggling to make the initial connection.
Our ability to sidestep issues is such a common thing. But the ability to unlock and address those moments and find solutions can still be for me quite remarkable - It has value and is a powerful medium.
What I’ve always been curious about is the question why is that the case?
So I spent time digging deep into the mechanisms. I listed them. I had a hypothesis about 10 of them that were out there. It’s really interesting to me the way our brains work with visuals, with perspective taking. The way the brains work better when we've labelled emotions and feelings. And the way our brains work better when we're detached from the story.
What I’ve learned over time is that I don’t believe it’s a single powerful mechanism but rather it’s a combination of off these approaches that Rethinkly taps into. I see it as like a mixture, a lovely melting pot into which our team has designed and added things. But in the mix is where the magic happens as everyone engages with Rethinkly in the way they need to.
Symbols and metaphors work really well for some, less so for others. Personally, I sometimes get insights from a perspective, a camera shift enabling me to see the situation from a different point of view. Other times I get a benefit from a movement – a walk into a future or a past. There can often just be a simple connection and benefit from just looking at an animation of a posture allowing the mind to put two and two together. And I suspect many of the people who use Rethinkly find the same.
Running a startup business and creating something fundamentally new and different can be hard. What make you stick with it?
Funny, this might be a story of turning the sceptic into believer! So, just like everybody else who looks at our technology, I was really sceptical at first as well. I had that sceptical criticism and sometimes it takes us a while to trust that it's going to work. And I remember one occasion for me was. Sitting down at a coffee table, we're on a sofa. I'm on one seat and the chap sitting next to me and he says, what's this avatar stuff all about? So I open my laptop and shuffle it on the coffee table to him. I said look, there it is. That's what it is. Just show something that's going on in your life? And I sort of moved away and let him connect with the software.
We sat in silence for about four or five minutes. He'd put 2 avatars out there.. I asked no questions. I said nothing. But it I knew him well enough to know that there was him and his wife as avatars. And then he put a clock in the scene with the ticking hands. And then he sat back, looking at the scene from a distance. A few more moments in silence passed. And he said, “Oh well. Of course, that's it, isn't it? This is all about time.” And he shut the lid on my laptop. Turning back to me he said, ‘that's amazing’.
I remember feeling like maybe I was a fraud. Well, great that this guy's got that, but what have I done? I hadn’t said or done anything. But in hindsight and in conversations, I discovered the power of Rethinkly. In these few moments Rethinkly had provided the space and a vehicle for this wonderful man to get to grips with a situation that had been plaguing him and running through his mind without solution. I had provided the space. That's all he needed at that time.
That’s been the first of many moments like this and that’s what keeps me going. I know this tool can bring solutions, creativity and even wellbeing.
But can’t you get this “space” using other tools?
Most tools don’t provide the combination. Let me give you a really simple example of what I mean by that.
You are on a Teams meeting or a Zoom meeting. And you just invite people to put their thoughts in the chat. Reacting to them. And everybody puts a word or two or a feeling, or what they're noticing about the situation there. That's a really good start. The tools like Miro and Mural like, because they allow co-creation in a different way. But most of them are words based. Most of them rely on the written word.
The challenge is that's only part of how the brain communicates. That's what I've come to understand is if we're going to get the most of our brains, we need imagery. We need to use the visual. And we need immersion.
I’ve seen things like Lego used in creative team sessions where you're building something that represents beyond words. It's outside of the words, it's into the story. Your relationship with that narrative works too. And while we all love Lego, it does’t scale very well and it’s not very practical for day-to-day or online work scenarios.
I haven't seen any tools out there that provide this full mix which can also scale to help teams of different shapes and sizes and even global organisations like Rethinkly does. I'm not seeing anything as rich as Rethinkly. That's part of the reason why I like it!
Do you think it's a curse or a blessing that you’re so unique?
Both. It's definitely both as we know. It's a blessing because of the power we keep witnessing in those situations. It's a curse or - not a curse, that's a strong word - but it's it makes it more difficult to describe to people, because it's unusual. It's out of the ordinary. So people going to be sceptical because we are all doubtful and may reject the new, unusual thing until it's experienced, until it's become normalised.
What’s your advice for those who might be sceptic?
The scepticism, that's really healthy and I love it. All we ask is give it a try. Give us a call and let us help you to work with that scepticism and embracing it and honouring it. And going to the other side and experiencing its benefits. We can make the world of work a fun place, a dynamic place where people's voices are heard, where people's health and resilience and different perspectives are honoured, and that's got to be worth doing.
Who is Andrew when not in a CEO role? What are you passionate about behind the scenes?
I have a couple of other worlds. In my life as well as my family, they take up a lot of my time and my young adult kids and my dear wife is a big part of my life.
I also work in the area of climate action and occasionally, my avatars show up in that world too. We've got a really interesting innovation to look at our relationship with climate change and how that may provide us with agency and motivation and sense of purpose, rather than the despair, the doom that that subject can generate.
And then I also love working with young people. I'm really proud of the work we have done in this team with the NHS, with the CAMHS teams, with the Youth counselling charities, with the criminal justice system and the people, and the kids that don't have all the lucky breaks. That's another part of my world in my youth work - I get on the river and help kids learn the power of water and what the natural environment can bring to them.
Is that why there is a river that is part of the scene in Rethinkly?
Indeed - the design of our storytelling landscape is not accidental. It's got a purpose. Being outside, being in the outdoors environment, even being in our virtual world storytelling environment with its green and its water and its plants and its trees. It helps to calm us. It helps to help us to do better thinking. And that's a good thing.
Inspired to learn more about Rethinkly and how the rivers, avatars and even your scepticism can all work to unlock business and communication challenges?
Reach out today for a personal demo with Andrew – he loves to turn people into believers. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org