Friday 11/11/11 will go down as one of the most surreal of my life. The day started with a look through my twitter feed on Flipboard. Lo and behold, I discovered the ideal Christmas present my Angry Birds addicted wife – “The Angry Boobs Bra: For Ultimate Angry Birds Fans”. The site that was selling it had a very funny sales line “If you are brave enough to pit one boob against the other, but all means, buy this hand-painted Angry Birds bra.” How do people think of these things – Angry Birds … and the bra?

Actually, later on in the day I attended the Power of One Conference at Battersea Power Station. Part of this Angry Bird’s question was answered.

For those of you have not been – Battersea Power Station is currently a shell. It’s a listed building (protected as an historic monument) – but there are just the chimneys, walls … and no roof. The conference is held in a large marquee at the centre of the building. We were told that this would be the last conference held on the site before it was redeveloped. By a twist of fate, the only other time I had been there was the very first conference held by Sun Microsystem in the mid-90s.

The significance of the day was not lost – 11/11/11. At 11 o’clock, along with the rest of the UK we observed 2 minutes to honour those who had lost their lives in defence of our country. Seemed strange being stood in a conference hall underneath those great towers. Low point was shared by a delegate who reported on Twitter “Cannot believe that I was just asked if the two minute silence observed at #p1event was to remember Steve Jobs.”

Back to Angry Birds.. One of the speakers, Jason Calacanis, shared that Rovio (Angry Bird’s creator) had 51 unsuccessful games before they hit on Angry Birds. So how do they think of these things? By lots of trial and many errors.

Error, failure and especially perseverance became a bit of a theme of the conference. This was brought home by the after lunch speaker – Yosi Taguri from Israel. He’s probably the best conference speaker I have seen – rivalling any of the great Jewish comedians (with a raft of bad language thrown in!).

Josi’s headline to the presentation was how he had spent his life F###ing things up. However, through perseverance he had managed to find success. I’m hoping the presentation will be available on-line soon – but there is a good write up on The New Web (TNW).

His story was peppered with failures and near-miss successes. These culminated in him creating a very simple game app called Pah! It’s such a simple video game. Space ship moves and shoot things. The twist is that you move the space ship up an down by saying AHHHH! and fire the rockets by shouting PAH!. You can see a couple of videos below – one of it being reviewed:

… and the other of a Chinese mum playing the game.

There are many more YouTube videos of the game in action. Here’s another one showing a violinist playing the game through the noise of her instrument.

Do support Josi and buy Pah!, it’s only 69p. It’s a great social game – breaks down barriers.

In the evening, I headed of for a “date” with a 16 year old! Well not quite. My friend’s daughter, Polly, who is 16 had to take a “business person” to a Black Tie guest night at her school. Her brief had said the person should be over 25. I think she had misread and thought the person had to be double 25! I was honoured – but it felt slightly strange picking up Polly and taking her out for the night.

The idea of the evening was to get the sixth formers used to the world of work. At the end of the night, we had an inspirational talk from a pathologist. Another quirk at the end of a long day!

Anwyay, it was great. Dr Suzy Lishman was not just any old pathologist – she can be found on Twitter @ilovepathology. She was an inspiring role model for the youngsters in the room. Again, she told a tale of perseverance – this time in pursuit of saving lives and understanding the cause of disease. One part struck home with me – and provided a link for the day’s experiences.

She talked about her long medical training – and then the selection of pathology as her speciality. She’d chosen to give pathology a chance after her boyfriend of the time said it was interesting. She then undertook intensive training for a 12 month period on the subject. She explained that the first 6 months were awful – and she wanted to give up and chose another discipline. She described the course being dominated by looking through a microscope at slides of human tissue being moved around (which made her feel queasy) and with the only colours being red and blue (the dies used to differentiate cells). She didn’t “get it” – and felt dizzy with spots in front of her eyes.

However, it suddenly came together for her after 6 months – and she got what pathology was all about. She understood “the game” and realised she was like a detective investigating. She was looking for clues – the needle in the haystack. As her skills developed, she unlocked levels, doors opened and she could make a real difference to people’s lives by finding the causes of an illness and suggesting medical solutions.

So, what have all these got in common? I think the message of perseverance is clear. It’s pushing through those times of failure, feeling that you’ll never get your head around a topic or you’ll never reach the next level.

I’ve written before about the power of gamification – the ideas put forward by people like Jane McGonigal, Daniel Pink and Clay Shirkey that there is a “cognitive surplus” being used in games that could be used for a greater good. What Dr. Lishman spoke about with such enthusiasm was how pathology became her addiction, her passion, her love.

Interestingly, Dr. Lishman described her 6 month experience training as a pathologist in the way my wife tells me about getting frustrated getting through a difficult level in Angry Birds. Lots of multi coloured dots moving around – and not being able to make sense of them. Dr Lishman talked about how she role plays as a “detective” – and that’s what makes pathology exciting for her. That sounds like game play too.

In our education for future work, we can (and should) learn a lot from how game makers enthuse through levels, role play, achievement and invoking passion. It brings out the persevering side of us – and that’s a skill we need in order to power through those failures (Yosi’s F### ups) and achieve success.

[My thanks go to Chris “Bookmeister” Book for organising such an excellent conference; Chris Day and Mark Power for their images with pencil and camera of the conference; Yosi Taguri for such a brilliant presentation; Dr Suzy Lishman for enthusing me about Pathology (want to come along to one of her Virtual Autopsies) – and, of course, my “date” – Polly, you were great company

P.S. Just for clarification – there is absolutely no way my better half would be impressed by a novelty bra! I’ll be getting her something much nicer for Christmas]