Hacking with Arun Pradhan: How to learn and lead when the world is moving very fast

Arun Pradhan
Arun Pradhan will be facilitating an intense hackathon to attack a big industry challenge.

I spoke with Arun Pradhan about his background and what he intends to share in his presentation at the QUT Leadership Coaching Conference: Crossing Boundaries in Brisbane on 22-23 November.  Arun is a self-confessed geek with an enthusiasm for emerging technologies. The first thing I noticed was that his electric energy and urgency for impact contrasted with his corporate LinkedIn presence that I’d sneaked a look at just before. Arun explains that a boundary he has to cross is into conservative corporations who might not initially appreciate his unconventional approach to life and work – thus the site. (Go to http://arunpradhan.com/ for a better sense of who he is and what he does.)

Arun unashamedly delights in immersing himself in new ideas from cognitive psychology, behavioural economics, marketing and anything that provides insights into how people think, behave and change. Just knowing stuff is not the fun – his passion and gift is translating his broad tech and geek knowledge into impactful strategies.

We talked about his educational background in architecture and how this discipline gives him unique insights as he works with technology and change. After initially pulling back from the restraint of the discipline of architecture, Arun now realises that its lens gives him an edge in his new world of design thinking and all that – ‘all that’ meaning a constant flow of new tools and toys from different directions. As I dug a little deeper, I discovered that Arun has feet in many areas (more than two!). Architecture was his way of compromising with his parent’s Indian professional family view that he should have a ‘serious’ career. ‘Cartoonist’ didn’t quite cut it. Arun reasoned, at least he could draw! Ever impatient, he gave up architecture and became … yes, a cartoonist.

Now he is an educator, learning designer and strategist (he was the UX designer behind one of Australia’s first LMSs), a speaker, coach, and sought after practitioner in design thinking. We discussed the way that great coaching incorporates similar principles to design thinking – empathise, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Underneath all of Arun’s work is a commitment to empowerment, meaning a belief that to be successful in work and life now, people need to be rapid learners and be equipped with a higher-order thinking mindset.

And what about hacking? Arun’s presentation will be about learning agility in the future of work, with artificial intelligence being a dominant feature. He’ll tease us with ideas on how to survive the ‘robot apocalypse’. As AI infiltrates, Arun sees the challenge as, ‘How can we embrace what makes us uniquely human and develop as more effective people?’

His answer is to hack into learning – and avoid the turgid, tedious and torpid. Find the shortest way possible and value experimentation. He suggests adopting and adapting the Pareto principle – 20% of the content gives you 80% of the impact. I couldn’t help thinking of Howard Gardner’s work on the Five Minds for the Future who argues that in order to get to that sort of flexibility and agility, you need to have at least one deep discipline. Parents can be very wise.

We get two bites of Arun at the Conference. He’s facilitating an intense two-hour hackathon. In this fun co-design process, delegates will be part of cross-functional teams to attack a big industry challenge. We will bring in ideas from across the conference to seed the thinking. The aim is that delegates leave the Conference on a natural high! I will definitely be there and keen to hack into Arun’s mind- and skill-sets.

For information about the Leadership Coaching Conference “Crossing Boundaries”  highlights read more.

QUTeX Leadership Coaching Practice


Geoff is a highly experienced coach, educator and author who has coached and facilitated leadership development across many industries and countries. Until 2019, Geoff was Director of Leadership Coaching at the QUT Graduate School of Business. He now divides his contributions between different projects and organisations. Geoff’s research and coaching includes exploring how paradoxical thinking assists people to engage with complex organisational challenges, particularly in culturally diverse contexts. In leadership development, Geoff’s focus is on introducing coaching as a mindset and methodology including the eFIRE coaching approach. Geoff is the Australia-New Zealand Field Mentor for Ford Motor Company’s global Consumer Experience Movement. This work gives special attention to shaping customer centric cultures. Geoff holds a PhD from the Australian National University and is Adjunct Professor with the QUT Graduate School of Business in Brisbane. He is accredited in a wide range of leadership development instruments. Geoff is part of the Association for Coaching Global Advisory Panel.

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