Right Brain, Left Brain
As Oli sees it, the early, foundational infrastructure of digital health companies like Sidekick is primarily built by engineers and data science – and this makes sense, given that the technology must ultimately apply to and understand behavioral economics. Oli describes this as a left-brained approach to organizing and building a company. “But you can’t fit human behavior into a box,” he points out.
“You can make programs to measure it, track it, even predict it…but there needs to be some form of ‘x’ factor that takes a different approach to balance this out — the right-side-of-the-brain approach — that is able to sidestep all the data, science, and habit tracking, and still influence people to make a change.”
In other words, science and engineering aren’t the only ways to approach things, nor should they be. For just as there are scientists in the world whose research is wildly impacting and influencing the human race, there are also artists throwing paint onto canvases and composing music that people relate to and are moved by.
Both approaches, science and art, generate influence and change,” he says. “So it’s not necessarily ‘one or the other’ but rather both.
With that said, Oli finds the artistry element more difficult to identify and bottle. “It’s because one doesn’t just go out and say ‘great, now I’m going to be creative.’” Instead, he says, it’s more a state of mind — and a willingness to explore and examine and make mistakes — that leads to creative thought.
The solution? “You have to bring out your pink scarf, so to speak,” he says. “Try something different.”
Oli the Artist
Amplifying creative pursuits doesn’t mean that Sidekick is necessarily looking to bring on Artists with a capital ‘A’ to their product team — or at least not right now. According to Oli, it’s important to find people who are experts in their field, but whose brains can live in and flex somewhat between both the right-brained and left-brained worlds. An engineer who also likes to write. A marketing manager who dabbles in gaming. Or, in Oli’s case, a CPTO who’s learning to paint.
“I’m as far away from being an artist as possible,” he laughs. “But if Sidekick needs to move in this direction — and I believe that it does — then it’s only natural for me to move in this direction as well. And so one day, I bought an easel and brushes and paint and just started to paint. I’m never going to show it to anyone, but that’s not the purpose. The purpose is to try to get me closer to an artistic mindset, to that ‘zone’.”
Oli also divulges that while he did pick up painting partly to explore his own creativity, it was also because the long days during COVID lockdowns were beginning to wear on him.
“I started to feel that I was running a live experiment on burnout. How far could I go without tipping over? But at the same time I was thinking: okay, that’s not really the best experiment you should be doing right now. Or ever. So let’s change that.”
And so he began painting while listening in on calls, which was often, at one point having an average of 50 meetings per week. “I found that painting was exceptionally relaxing for me. Perhaps it’s just the mindfulness of it.”
Or perhaps it was the subtle habit change that led to a new, positive lifestyle with a positive feedback loop — which is, after all, a cornerstone of Sidekick’s philosophy. It’s also an integral element of how Oli views “gamification” in the Sidekick universe.
But what is “gamification”? Well, it depends on who you ask…