From bio markers to markers of agility outcomes

How would you live differently if were told it was possible to extend your lifespan by possibly 20, maybe 30 years.  What if you were told you could live to 130, and that turning 40 was, well, the new teens? We all need a little help, but what David Sinclair PHD in Lifespan proposes is nothing short of a living a life that is supercharged!

Potential Powered by Data

One of the core tenants that David adopts is that the flow of information within our DNA structure is required for a more confident and vital life.  Additionally, the application of insights from DNA testing and the regular tracking of biomarkers (amongst other things) carry the ability to empower us all with a health baseline and recommendations to maximise our potential toward living our best and longest life.  I was fascinated to read the parallels with Umano’s, but more from David on the matter below.

Excerpt from Lifespan:

Knowing thyself

Since the new millennium, we’ve been told that “knowing our genes” will help us understand what diseases we are most susceptible later in life and give us the information we need to take preventative actions to live longer.

Today, an entire human genome of 25,000 genes can be read in a few days for less than a hundred dollars. And that’s for a fairly complete readout of a human genome, plus the DNA methyl marks that tell you your biological age.  Targeted sequencing aimed at answering a specific question – such as “What kind of cancer is this?” or “what infection do I have?” can now be done in less than 24 hours.  

But those aren’t the only questions that our DNA can answer.  Increasingly, it can also tell you what foods to eat, what microbiomes to cultivate in your gut and one your skin, and what therapies will work best to ensure you reach you maximum potential lifespan.  And it can give you guidance for how you treat your body as the unique machine that it is.

There are more than a hundred companies just in the US pursuing lightening-fast, super focussed  DNA testing that can offer us early and accurate diagnosis of a vast range of ailments and even estimate our range of biological aging.  With a simple blood test, doctors will be able to scan for…and diagnose cancers that would be impossible to spot without the aid of computer algorithms optimised by ML process trained on thousands of cancer patient samples.  These circulating genetic cues will tell you not just if you have cancer but what kind of cancer you have and how to treat it.

Getting, and staying ahead

All of this means we’re tracking toward a fundamental shift in the way a disease is discovered, diagnosed and treated.  Sinclair indicates that our symptom-first approach to western medicine is about to change by being able to get ahead of symptoms.  “We’re even going to get ahead of ‘feeling bad’” he writes.  Many diseases, after all, are genetically detectable long before they’re symptomatic.

Car sensors driving safer, optimised experiences

Today, the dashboard on a car is equipped with insights representative of more software than you can poke a stick at.  It can tell you how fast you’re going, of course, and how many kilometres the vehicle has remaining before you need to fill up – adjusted second by second based on the conditions of the road and the way in which you’re driving.  It can tell you the temperature outside and in.  It can tell you of obstacles around you and warn you if they’re close by.  When something is wrong, we’re told in real time. And if you get a bit distracted and begin to veer over the line, it will take control of the wheel and pull you back on course to continue driving autonomously down the highway.

Perhaps there are people out there who’d be happy to drive without any dashboard at all, relying solely on their intuition and experience to tell them how fast they’re going, when their car needs fuel or recharging, and what to fix when something goes wrong.  The vast majority of us however, would never drive a car that wasn’t giving us at least some quantitative feedback, and, through our own purchasing decisions, we have made it clear to car companies that we want more and more intelligent cars.

Biosensors for living a safer, optimised life

Surprisingly, we’ve never demanded the same for our own bodies.  Indeed we know more about the health of our cars than we know about our own health.  That’s farcical.  And it’s about to change.

We’ve already taken some pretty big steps into the age of personal biosensors.  Our watches monitor our heart rate, measure our sleep cycles and can even provide suggestions for food intake and activity.  Athletes and health conscious individuals are increasingly wearing sensors twenty-four hours a day that monitor the ways in which vital signs and major chemicals are rising and falling in response to diet, stress, training and competition.

One biotechnological advancement at a time, this world is coming, and fast.  Realtime monitoring bodies, the likes of which we could hardly have imagined a generation ago, will be as inherent to the experience of living as dashboards are to the experience of driving.  And for the first time in history, that will permit us to make data-driven day to day health decisions.

Biometrics and analytics already tell us when and how much to exercise, but increasingly they will help us monitor the effects of our exercise – or lack thereof.  Increasingly, our devices our devices will offer recommendations on what to do to mitigate suboptimal biomarkers: to take a walk, meditate, drink a green tea or change the filter on the air conditioner.  This will help us make better decisions about our bodies and our lifestyles.

From biomarkers to agility markers

I recently participated in a webinar presented by Ian Maple, Enterprise Agility Leader  at Intuit.  Ian shared his experience creating an outcome-focussed approach to applying agile metrics that support teams and the company to perform at their best, consistently. The culture within Intuit starts with a clear focus on ‘agility outcomes’, rather than measuring ‘Agile’. Ian and his team have created a framework that applies many different metrics that can inform the team of their progress toward the agility outcome in focus.

In a follow-up session with Ina after the webinar, I learned more deeply of how Intuit applies data from  ‘Leading Practice Metrics’ to help teams make better decisions about their practices, customer outcomes and shared experiences.  As illustrated in the example below and  within the context of Intuit’s true north goals, there are Agility outcomes that teams strive for within the context of achieving Intuit’s True North Goals. Supporting each agility outcome are the Agile and Design Principles, which in turn are underpinned by hundreds of agile and design practices.

Supporting agile practices are Leading Practice Metrics, working as ‘agility markers’ to provide data driven feedback to teams on how they’re tracking as they strive toward improving the agility outcome in focus.


Agility Markers here to stay…

I love this notion of an ‘agility marker’ – a term I’ve coined in the context of Sinclair’s Bio Markers that might stick in the Umano lexicon. I also get a kick out of reading parallel walks of life that relate so heavily to our mission, and share these examples to stimulate your own thinking about how we can live and work toward our best lives, collectively.  Information flow, and the reflection on quantitative feedback is critical to building your own team’s OS.  If you’re not already, ‘know thyself’ and get onto it!


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