Simon Shepard's Keynote Presentation at the EU Connect 2019

It was a great pleasure to speak at the PHUSE EU Connect 2019 conference and to visit Amsterdam (even though I must remember to pack my waterproofs next time!), and wonderful to talk on a topic that should be of interest to everyone.

However, being interested for 90 minutes is not enough, and I hope that this blog will remind you of some of the key themes that were covered in ‘The Data of Fluffy Stuff and the Battle for Sanity’ and shift your interest into actions!

Theme 1 – Why

During the session, I looked at various factors that are influencing organisations to invest more time into supporting their people including the rising spend on mental health and the increasing prevalence of an aging workforce. I then looked at the four disconnects that are becoming more and more common. Firstly, the disconnect between technology and user capacity; secondly, the disconnect with the ability to use our executive functions; thirdly, the disconnect between our knowledge and our actions; and finally, the disconnect between living as a human doing rather than a human being.  

The key point I wanted to make here is that there are lots of different statistics and theories that can be quoted to make the case for looking at your health and wellbeing; however, what I really want you to think about is not just ‘why’ but more the ‘why me’.

Theme 2 – Perception

Over the past 10 years I have been collecting a mass of physiological data. I have information on stress, sleep, exercise, resilience, energy – the list goes on. Whenever I collect someone’s data, I always start by getting them to answer some simple questions that explore their perceived wellbeing; the reason for this is to see whether people’s subjective evaluation is in sync with the objective view – it is incredible how often this is not the case. In fact, I would go as far to say that, in many cases, humans are experts in the art of self-delusion.

The main point here is we need to upskill in the way we look at ourselves, with greater depth and indeed regularity…last month’s truth may be this month’s lie!

Theme 3 – Quantify or Qualify

As I have mentioned, the data collected provides insight into a number of themes, giving us a significant amount of figures that can be useful to those who are committed to ‘the quantified self’. However, the real beauty of collecting the data in the way we do is in the ability to capture the thoughts, feelings and actions and put these alongside the numbers. By combining the two, we are able to underpin a data-rich report with a contextual framework, helping people understand the interactions between different aspects of our lives.

The data provides power; the story provides meaning. Put the two together and people can start to understand what really is going on in their lives!

Simon Shepard is the CEO of Optima-life and works with organisations to improve both the human and humane side of performance. He can be contacted at



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