My Bridge Intro Story for GL[E]AM by Hayball on Bold Ideas at the Sydney Opera House

Anzac Bridge. Text: Ben Pecotich

I’m stoked to be part of GL[E]AM 2022 Session 1 by Hayball in the new Sydney Opera House Centre for Creativity space next month. I’ll be speaking alongside Fiona Winning (Sydney Opera House), Jonas Nordquist (Karolinska Institute in Sweden), and Fiona Young and Richard Leonard from Hayball.

Hayball is one of Australasian largest architecture practices. They’re focused on designing a positive future for our cities and communities, and thrive on making places people love.

The theme we’re exploring is “What do you do with a Bold Idea? Enabling innovation”. It will be a livestreamed hybrid event with an in-person audience in the Opera House and the Hayball Melbourne Studio.

We just had a planning session. Fiona Young is going to get each of us to do a one-minute introduction of ourselves using a single image.

Straight after our session I went out for a walk and took this photo of Anzac Bridge. During my walk I wrote this longform version of my introduction. I’ll need to work out how to get it down to one minute.

My Bridge Intro Story

Hey… I’m Ben and I love bridges. What they do, the role they play, and how they look… I also love them as a metaphor for transition and new possibilities. They connect things, transport you from one place to another… they’re in the middle of things helping make it happen.

I’m not a civil engineer or architect. But I love bridges. What they do, the role they play, and how they look… and as a metaphor for transition and new possibilities. They connect things, transport you from one place to another… they’re in the middle of things helping make it happen.

I’m not a civil engineer or architect.

I grew up as a brickie, did some landscape design, and went into horticulture briefly. I then started in banking when I was 17 and founded my first startup the year after. I also spent a few years as a personal trainer specialising in Pilates, spin, and mindbody training.

So I started with built environments for people to enjoy for decades… which evolved into leading, designing, and delivering strategic change and digital tech in complex organisations and systems… to social innovation.

The bridge that connects all of these things is people and place… and taking a human-centred design approach. I’m lucky to live, work, and play on Gadigal Country and I pay my respects to elders past, present, and future.

Basically I live at the intersection of design thinking, social innovation, and wellbeing. In addition to loving bridges, I love music and fun even more. I also take photos and write a bit and I’m the author of Solve Problems That Matter.

I spend my days coaching founders and leaders to solve problems that matter in more empathic and innovative ways. Designing and building ideas that help create the conditions for people and communities to be happier – where they’re empowered, included and inclusive, and live in sustainable ways.

I’m also a founding board member of SECNA which is the member-led peak body for social enterprise in NSW & ACT… and the co-founder of SydDT, one of the biggest design thinking meetups in the world.

Right now so many things in the world are in transition and we need to bring all of ourselves to solving problems that matter and making bold ideas real.

Afterword

To really double down on this metaphor… this bridge goes from the Cement Australia factory on the western side… to the city. Cement is a key ingredient I worked with as a brickie when making mortar and concrete… before I left the trades at 17 and started working in the city.

I was living in Wellington, NZ at the time, before moving back to my first home city Sydney when I was 24. The Kiwi flag flies on the western side of Anzac Bridge and the Aussie flag flies on the eastern side – right above where I live now. You can also see a plane heading towards the city.

I often meditate on the bench in the foreground facing the setting sun.

A surprising amount of my story in a single photo.

Check out the video recording and my slides.