In the first week of October 2021 international leaders joined together to attend the world premiere of the Virtual Reality Overview Effect for Leaders (VROEL) at the Astronaut Room at De Groene Afslag in Laren, Netherlands.
Business leaders and experts in the field of leadership training and sustainability from the Netherlands and the UK participated in a two-hour workshop that included a 25 minute multi-sensory Virtual Reality (VR) program.
The VR program is a multi-sensory application based on the self-transcendent experience of the Overview Effect, a term coined by space philosopher Frank White that describes the shift in awareness reported by many space farers when they see planet Earth from orbit or moon landings.
The psychologically informed VR program, combines a state of the art VR technology, music, meditation and haptic audio to give a fully immersive experience. The VROEL experience involves a 25 minute journey that takes participants on a voyage from the dark side of the moon towards the Earth and then around our planet a number of times. The Experience recreates well know space imagery such as ‘Earth Rising’ and Carl Sagan’s ‘Small Blue Dot’. The model of Earth was based on NASA’s blue marble dataset and 40,000 pictures of the model were generated using a gaming engine. Gaia’s voice speaks to the travellers and reminds them of their personal connection with the planet and the impact humans have had on all of our planet’s systems.
Reactions from the participants
After experiencing the VR journey and taking of their head sets, many participants stayed silence for up to 5-10 minutes, reflecting and contemplating upon the thoughts and emotions they witnessed. A great variety of subjective experiences were reported, both cognitive and emotional. All participants reported feelings of awe and humility. Many talked about compassion for the planet, feelings of oneness, but also about remorse and guilt after witnessing the devastating consequences of human-kind’s thoughtless actions on Earth. Others talked about feelings of sadness, grief, vulnerability, but also about joy and inspiration.
Applicability for Leadership Development: Planetary Awareness for Planetary Economics
Many participants thought that the VR experience could be beneficial for leaders since it gave them new insights and feelings on the planet and a renewed sense of responsibility. One of the participants, Kate Raworth, Professor at the University of Cambridge and author of Doughnut Economics said: “ We can’t all go into space, but to have this experience is so incredibly important. It was is such an immersive and awe inspiring experience. This should be available to all leaders of the world to see because you can only understand the system if you look at it from one layer above it, and that is exactly what this overview experience gives us”.
What is the Overview Effect?
The Overview Effect is a term and concept first coined by space philosopher Frank White in 1987 in his book, The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution. The Overview Effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by astronauts that creates a powerful shift in how we think about our self, our surroundings, our connection to life and others and, finally, how we think about Earth. The term gave form to the psychological and emotional effects brought about by a new experience for humankind, seeing the Earth from orbit or in Space. Many astronauts have given testimony to the profound effects of seeing our planet from a panoptic perspective. If it holds true that this unique experience has the potential to affect schemas or worldviews, then the impact of the Overview Effect goes beyond the personal to the social. It deepens the cognitive, emotional and spiritual connection with our Planet and so motivates conscious leadership.
Further Introduction to the market
In Q4 2021 and Q1 2022 Circular Leadership and VROE will organise introductory workshops with the VR experience in the Netherlands and the UK. Further roll out to markets in EMEA and other continents is expected to take place mid 2022.
Egbert Mulder, founder of Circular Leadership
Circular Leadership was founded to enable leaders to raise their awareness and consciousness so they can gain mastery over their lives, guide their actions and be a source of inspiration to those around them. We teach leaders how to be resilient in times of VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) in order to develop vision, focus, creativity and better intuition. It is our mission to facilitate our programs to leaders, both young and old, in business, politics, education and healthcare on all continents of the world. More and more leaders are recognising that a fundamental change in awareness is necessary to make a successful transition to a more peaceful and sustainable world, so we envisage that this program can be an important part of helping to achieve that awareness.
Dr Annahita Nezami, founder of VROE
Annahita Nezami is a psychologist who works internationally with individuals and organisations. She specialises the psychology of the Overview Effect, and carried out PhD research that attempted to build on Frank White’s field work. Annahita has a particular interest in trying to translate the Overview Effect via positive human-centred technologies. She has presented internationally at conferences, at TEDx and on radio (BBC radio 4 amongst others). At the event she commented; “Immersive VR is a great way to bring the Overview Effect to earth, so that more people can experience the positive psychological benefits that astronauts have experienced. We’re in the process of researching and fine tuning the program so feedback from this event and particularly this group of attendees will help us hugely with this.”
Charlie Perring, co-founder VROE
Charlie has an MBA, an MSc in Psychology and a background in new media and marketing. He has spent several years working in agencies and running his own companies. He has a special interest in using new media for improving psychological well-being and for educational purposes. Charlie is in charge of communications and all the technology side of things at VROE.
Concept and production of VR Overview Experience for Leaders
This VR program was developed using models of earth based on NASA’s Blue Marble dataset in a gaming engine, which was then used to produce 40,000 images. The images were then edited together with, voice-over, haptic audio, music and other video content to produce the final VR video. Scientific research will be set up to measure both short and long term effects of the VR Experience on shifts in awareness and behaviour.
All information about this new endeavour, bringing together space and leadership training can be found on the VROE website: https://www.vr-overview-effect.co.uk/