Exercise: Land disputes

Objectives:

  • To practice non verbal negotiation skills.
  • To interrogate the relationship between words and body language
  • To elicit conversation about the principles of negotiation, collaboration and team work.
  • To brainstorm and practice solutions to group conflicts
  • To explore the underlying motivations of conflict

Overview:

Two teams on opposite sides negotiate their claim on land using gibberish.

Time: 10-20 min

Group size: 6-30

Flow:

The facilitator divides the participants arbitrarily into 2 groups. Each group lines up on opposite sides of an open space. The facilitator explains that the space represents a strip of land that lies between the occupied land of two communities. On the land grow beautiful big trees. One community wants the land so they can preserve the trees, the other wants it so they can cut them down and use them.

The groups decide which community they represent and why they either want to preserve or use the trees. They can preserve it for instance because the trees mark sacred graves, or are sacred themselves or because the community wants to conserve the environment for future generations etc. The other group may want to use the trees for shelter against fierce winds, or for fuel against cold winterss or to sell for a profit. The groups negotiate their reasons amongst themselves in gibberish as a practise round.

Next the facilitator asks them to pick a negotiator that will meet the negotiator of the other group in the middle of the open space. Selected negotiators are instructed to meet each other and begin the negotiations in gibberish. The rest of the community is asked to support their negotiators in gesture and sound where presumed fitting. Negotiations cease when either side gives up, or when the facilitator feels it has done what it can for now. Or, when it becomes too fiolent.

Once the first round has been debriefed, participants may go a second and third round until the game has achieved what it can for the moment.

Debriefing questions:

  • What was this like for the negotiators?
  • What was it like for the group members?
  • What was intersting? Perplexing? Hopeful?
  • Where did it go wrong? What might be the reasons?
  • What worked? Why do you think this happened?
  • What would you do differently? More of? Less of?
  • Would you like to try again?
  • Did you experience or observe any stereotypical genderist/agist/racist feelings or behaviour during any part of the game play? What do you think caused this? (Our experience is that the absence of language levels the playing field to a large degree and that stereotypical behaviour decrease the more participants genuinely seek agreement.)

Variation:

  1. For an extra kick you may introduce an element of tension by inventing a reason why there is a time urgency to conclude negotiations: E.g. winter storms are brewing and the tree users must  build their shelters before it strikes, but the other group believes the crisis is exactly what is needed to find other solutions since no threat should interfere with the principles of conservation/ sacred tradition etc.
  2. Ask participants to pair up with some from the opposite team. LEt them discuss what in the game play made them feel closer to, or further from, agreement. After some moments of discussion, ;et the, return to their teams and discuss what they had learned. Play another round where they impliment their discoveries.

Online adaptation

In the absence of spatial orientation in the online room, we suggest that you change the scenario to fit the context. E.g. Participants are all part of a production company who has landed their first major TV series. The stakes are high. They need to make a reality show with a certain family. One part of the team believes they should work with the family as natural as possible and not interfere with how they appear on screen. The other side believes that some performance training is needed, and that hair and make-up alterations are essential to present the family in a certain way for entertainment purposes. The team must come to an agreement before they pitch their concept to the client. Introduce tension by suggesting that they client is waiting in the next room for their concept presentation.

This adaptation works because the gestures can center around the face and hair which is most visible in the screen. It is limiting because it does not really relate to the survival of a community or the environment to the same extent as does the land conversation, but it is still very effective.

Online improvisation and embodiment in Paris

Petro and Christian at the Applied Improv Network conference in Paris 2018

Petro Janse van Vuuren and Christian F. Freisleben have been working together since 2015. Based on a steadily deepening friendship they explore possibilities how to use methods and the mindset of Applied Improvisation also in Online-Rooms. Petro invited Christian to her flying pig-sessions. “When pigs fly” is a figure of speech that says something is completely impossible, even unthinkable. For example: “Can people really change for good?” “Yes, when pigs fly.” For Petro and Christian a flying pig is the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients, students, participants…

As academic at Drama for Life, University of the Witwatersrand school of Arts, Petro contributed her research, findings and experiences with Strategic Narrative Embodiment SNE). This is an Applied Theatre methodology that has been developed for application in leadership and organisation development contexts (you can find more background information here).

Christian added his know-how as a teacher and trainer using Applied Improvisation, as a expert on the didactics of higher education and blended learning e. g. out of his work at the University of Applied Sciences St. Pölten.

Petro and Christian offered various Online-Workshops with participants from all over the world and evolved a process combining Applied Improv, SNE and the embodiment of the flying pig. 2015 was also the year in which Christian started with the work on his doctoral thesis on using Applied Improvisation in the field of higher education online and offline. Petro and Christian realised during the year 2016, that they have embarked on a journey of action research. They started to look more closely at their didactic designs, recordings of various sessions and of reflections of participants in order to critically evolve their processes and record their discoveries.

Findings of this journey can be found online here http://www.playingmantis.net/applied-improvisation-exercises/. Together they wrote a paper and presented it online at the 9th International Drama in Education Research Institute (IDIERI, 2 – 9 July 2018, Auckland New Zealand). In addition they facilitated a 90 minute workshop at the conference using a live-unline tool (see this review). This paper , now including findings from this experience will be published within this year.

Join us in Paris!

Here is the ZOOM Link to join online;

if you are not participant of the conference and want to join please send an application to Petro at the latest till 23th of August

Note: the session will be recorded an used as data material for the ongoing research.

How to catch a flying pig at IDIERI 2018

A paper and a workshop at The International Drama in Education Research Institute

Christian and I (Petro)  presented a paper and a workshop at The International Drama in Education Research Institute (IDIERI) 2018 in Auckland New-Zeeland this past weekend. The theme was The Tyranny of Distance. IDIERI is the premier drama education/applied theatre research institute held triennially around the globe. IDIERI focuses on developing and expanding research in the community of drama education/applied theatre and aims to engage rigorous academic discourse within the field. Read more on the conference theme and programme.

Our own response to the theme was to look at how online rooms can be used to over come distance and its tyranny by connecting PhD students across Africa with each other through embodiment processes.

Below are some resources you might like to access if you are interested in this theme:

If you were there, you can download our presentation slides here: Paper slides – Embodiment in online rooms

and our workshop slides here: Workshop slides IDiERI

You may also be interested in some of the applied Improv games we played with their online adaptations:

Sound ball

Gifts

Here are two articles you may like to read:

This one is an overview of the principles we shared at IDIERI and

This one is about principles I learned from interacting with other applied I,prov facilitators who use online processes.

You may also like to buy the complete facilitator guide for The Flying Pig Signature Move (for $7,50) for face to face and online rooms here. It comes with a case example of how it worked in the life of one particular participant.

For more context, this was our abstract

An important aspect of Applied Improvisation and drama is using and perceiving the body: your own and those of others in the room. What happens when this room is virtual? Can adaptations be made to do embodied work online without jeopardising impact? Is this a flying pig? At Drama for Life, Wits University, Johannesburg, students of the PhD cohort are scattered across the African continent able only to travel through virtual space to engage with peers. This paper focuses on adaptations and inventions two academics had made to engage these and other participants in online embodiment processes over the past two years. While much is written about e-learning processes, or about incorporating online technologies in face-to-face drama work, little is said about embodiment work in online rooms. This study aims to address this gap making recommendations for online facilitation of embodiment work. While the study identifies a number of challenges including access to wifi and reliable electricity sources on one hand and the loss of physical touch and three dimensional engagement on the other, it highlights the value of online engagement using the body for PhD students that are isolated and struggling to maintain focus on their studies.

 

Key words: Applied improvisation, applied drama, online facilitation, embodiment

 

Trends in leadership development and implications for their implementation

Everyone wants to know what the global trends are for this thing or the next so that they can know if they measure up. Am I on par? As innovator in the space of leadership development, I am usually more interested in whether I am ahead or have an edge that makes me different from all the rest, but, I acknowledge the value of looking at the patterns evident in large scale social behaviour, if only to see what not to do. Was I pleasantly surprised! What the trends indicate we ought to do, is not what we see prominent leaders doing worldwide.

By following the trends, we may be doing something truly radical.

So, here you will find an analysis of six different sources dealing with the global trends in leadership development. I did this analysis to understand how a leadership coach and consultant should think about her own work in response to these trends. I also thought it would be valuable for organisations to see if their own leadership development strategies are on par with world trends and how they should judge the value of various leadership development options. In the top row I identify the source from which the information was drawn. They have been organised from the most predominant trend to the least prevalent trend. Once you have taken the time to go through the analysis, you may read my interpretation for implementation afterwards.

Read the rest here…

What is applied performance?

What is applied performance?

Applied performance is a cross disciplinary field that uses performance process and practice, be it acting, music, dance or other forms of art, backed up by socio-political theory to address social and political issues. The purpose is to make a change and bring about sustainable transformation.

At Playing Mantis we have developed applied performance processes specifically suited to organisational change and development. Its rootedness in the arts ensures a holistic learning process that is experiential and that can bring about systemic change.

Delegates telling stories

Its use of narrative strategy and story telling also allows organisations to reframe their own narratives and reimagine their strategic objectives and ultimately their future. Applied performance is particularly valuable for culture change processes and is essential for organisations that are serious about transformation towards gender and racial equality.

Our applied performance model is called strategic narrative embodiment. The art forms that it most depends on is theatre, story-telling and improvisation sometimes inviting elements of visual art, dance and music. It functions on the levels of design and technique to help change makers create processes that really works. Read more.

Exercise: walking with enlarged body parts.

Great for helping people get into their bodies and conect with tacit knowledge

Possible objectives:

  • To get the group into their bodies and into the present moment.
  • To increase participants’ awareness of themselves in space with other people.
  • To lift the energy and mood.
  • To elicit conversations regarding the body, how it is presentedand how it is perceived..

Overview:

Participants walk in the space imagining that alternate body parts become inflated and oversized.

Time: 7 min

Number of participants: 6 – 50

Flow:

Facilitator asks participants to walk in the space concentrating on filling gaps that they see open up. She asks them to bring awareness to each body part from the toes up to the scalp, calling every body part by name and asking them to breathe life into it. Next she asks participants to walk as if they have inflated body parts e.g.:

  • Feet the size of mini vans,
  • Hands with fingers like canoes
  • Bums the size of busses
  • A head the size of a hot air balloon
  • A heart the size of a star ship.

Each time suggest things they try to do with the inflated body part (pick up a ball, get into an elevator etc.). Between body parts, let the inflated part return to normal before blowing up the next one.

Debriefing questions:

  1. What was that like?
  2. What do you think is the point of this exercise?
  3. What changes do you notice in yourself or the group compared to before this exercise/series of exercises?
  4. Were there any specific moments that brought up an emotional response different than the others? Explain?
  5. What does this mean to you?
  6. What did we learn about our bodies, how we presnt or perceive them/ or the bodies of others?
  7. What does this mean to us?

Facilitator note: I once did this exercise with a group of 30 or sostudents. At least three of them responded indignantly and one very agrily towards the moment of walking with enlarged back sides. One said it reminded her too much of the negative and , in her view, degrading image of the large bottomed black woman stereotype. She chise to sit in the middle of the floor and not move. Another student agreed and berated me for putting them in this difficult situation. I needed to calm the situation down and explain that the game is neutral, but that their reations are important and valuable food for reflection. It was after this experience that I added the forth outcome above and the last few reflection questions. It just goes to sjow, there is knowledge in the body and we can never know what body work may conjure up for participants.

 

 

 

Strategic Narrative Embodiment (SNE) in a nutshell

little-red-riding-hood-1130258_960_720

SNE is inspired by the three elements of a story

Every story, fictional or real, consists of three elements:

  1. Someone who wants something
  2. Obstacles in their way
  3. An attempt to get what they want in spite of the obstacles.

Everybody wants something. It is what motivates them. Tapping into this motivation is important for every coach-facilitator. It is the key to engaging people in the work of sustainable change that is for the better (change for good). Every time you, as a coach or facilitator, enter into a relationship with a client, you start by clarifying what the client wants: their strategic intent. This is often informed by existing documents like value statements or strategic objectives. Once your mandate is clear, and you begin to work with the designated group or individual, you once again have to create a picture of the intent with the people in the room – including you as enabler of that intent. It sets the context for the work. Of paramount importance here is that this intent must be owned and influenced, or made sense of, by all stakeholders not only by the paying client. Everyone needs to be invested in the process.

From this point on, you embark on a journey together, led by the narrative design. You are attempting to get what you want together. You are living through a story, artfully shaped, but not controlled by you, the coach-facilitator. Along the way you and the delegates are going to encounter obstacles. However, because you are using embodied participation as your mode of enquiry, you are allowing an interaction between the narrative design and the embodied participation that mirrors reality. As delegates overcome the obstacles, they are practising for the times they will overcome them when they are back in the real world after the process is over.

Because you are working with a narrative design through embodied participation, you are also inviting into the space the stories about all the other times delegates have tried and failed to get what they want. In this way they are able to identify and reflect upon dominant and habitual narratives that may no longer be useful or practical. These are things that people believe or do in relation to the strategic intent that are not producing desired results but that they continue doing out of habit or conviction. The process is non-threatening and playful and allows delegates to experiment with alternative possibilities and solutions.

The SNE model

The diagram above shows the relationship between the narrative design of the workshop (represented by the horizontal process line) and a participant’s interaction with it through embodiment techniques (the vertical process line). The entire dynamic is contained by the original strategic intent of the workshop (the circle in the diagram). The centrifugal arrows indicate the new possibilities that are released when the unofficial, dominant or habitual narratives are fractured by the interaction between narrative design and embodied participation. The dotted and curved arrow indicates an emergent new narrative that arises as the more effective one in closing the gap between what delegates want (strategic intent) and what they have (embodied reality).

The strategic intent of SNE

SNE is designed for Shift, yet it believes that Shift is only possible in a particular way and because of how people open up to new ideas. It is informed by a particular learning philosophy and a certain understanding of how the brain works. For now, let us explain it by distinguishing SNE from other kinds of theatre-based learning systems like industrial theatre and storytelling skills or presentation skills

Usually when people hear we use drama or theatre processes in organisations, they immediately assume we do industrial theatre. We emphatically do not. Industrial theatre is like presentation skills, voice training and storytelling skills. All of them help people improve top-down communication from management to teams. SNE is designed to have multilevel, multi-stakeholder conversations in complex systems where leaders feel the need to hear from and listen to team members, where teams need to work together across functions and need to break down silos, and where collaboration, innovation and new direction is sought.

SNE is good for strategic planning, relationship selling, customer service, vision and values alignment and leadership development. It is great for organisation development and innovation, team development and facilitator training, but only in forward-thinking organisations where employee engagement, collaboration and a flattening of hierarchy are important themes. SNE addresses systemic problems and works on the level of relationships. It can address embodied reality, behaviour and action and move beyond words, ideas and dreams.

SNE is designed to close the gap between what we want and what we have, what we say and what we do.

An Ethical code for Applied Performance work in Organisational settings

Aligning with associates and clients with a shared set of values.

How many times have you experienced a values clash with a client or a fellow consultant when using applied performance techniques?

What you find here is a set of 7 values that had been work shopped with applied drama and applied improvisation practitioners who do work in organizational settings. Three different groups came together at three different occasions (two of them happened at our last Flying Pig sessions). We used a combination of embodied images, role play, conversation and systemic mapping to interrogate the meaning of each of these values sharing scenarios and stories to help us find the appropriate nuances. You are most welcome to comment, question and contribute to the conversation.

Playing Mantis and Associates Ethical guidelines

It is important to us that our associates and clients understand and resonate with our ethical approach and values. These can be articulated as follows:

1. Deep collaboration: We craft our work in deep collaboration with all stakeholders involved. We do not use the powerful tools of story and embodiment to ‘download’ information top down to participants. Rather, we create work that introduces ideas and then facilitate conversations to allow audience members to interrogate and make sense of those ideas for themselves. It is important to us to value the input of all stakeholders equally.

2. Sustainability of human relationships: Sustainability to us means that no process can be a fly by night affair. It requires relationship building, negotiation and development over time. We are deeply interested in the sustainability of the organisations that we support, which includes all of the human aspects of the employees and the wider stakeholder community that will inform the organisational culture.

3. Intersectional symbiosis: We support and enable leadership styles that seek to negotiate solutions between the organisation and the community, between management levels, between departments, sections and divisions, between leaders and workers, between skilled and unskilled labour so that all impacted parties benefit. This means that all parties also have to be willing to adapt and rework solutions based on intersectional input.

4. Intrinsic value and contribution: We support the notion that every individual and every social grouping has value and can contribute positively to the workings of an organisation and its health. This means that every person working in an organisation, and also the community outside the organisation that supports the individuals, have value and can contribute something unique to the organisation that the leaders may not be aware of at the outset. We work to surface and incorporate these in all the work we do.

5. Systemic awareness: We support the notion that every issue must be considered in relation to larger systemic influences and conditions. These include social, environmental, political, historical, strategic, legal and technological factors that may or may not be visible and recognised by stakeholders at the outset. We work to surface and acknowledge the effects of these in all the work we do.

6. Rigorous self reflexivity: We hold ourselves and everyone we work with accountable to honour their responsibilities and agreements they make. We train and support everyone involved in our projects to be self reflexive and able to see and consider their own perspectives and positioning in relation to those of the other stakeholders so that prejudice, egoism, nepotism, domination and corruption are never an option.

7. Responsible sharing of intellectual contributions: We value our intellectual property and yours. It is our livelihood. At the same time we want you to be able to use what you receive through interaction with our work and integrate it into your own. We also want others to find their way to the materials and use it. We therefore ask you to reference our work wherever possible in written or oral format if you use it explicitly or if your own work was adapted from ours. In all these cases please reference us as follows:

– State the nature of our influence e.g. taken from / inspired by / adapted from

– State the author or entity e.g. Playing Mantis People development Consultants / Petro Janse van Vuuren

– State the specific model/ tool /idea e.g. the SNE model / Moving Story Structure / Pig Catching process etc.

Examples:

“Inspired by Petro Janse van Vuuren’s SNE model.”

“Taken from Playing Mantis’s Moving Story Structure”

Flying Pig for February: Aligning with Associates

Flying pig

What are the values that bind us?

How do these values help us grow the pie and share it?

 

Face to face Pig Catching in Johannesburg
TOPIC: Aligning with associates – The values that bind us.
DATE: 23 February
TIME:  8:30-11:30 – Experience – stay afterwards for more coffee and afterglow.
PLACE: Emakhaya Foyer 19th floor University Corner Building Corner of Jan Smuts and Jorissen Braamforntein.
FACILITATOR: PetroJanse van Vuuren
DRESS: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
RSVP: by  Wed 21 Feb to petro@playingmantis.net

COST: R280/ $24   Pay with paypal: 

Online Pig Catching
TOPIC: Aligning with associates – The values that bind us.
DATE: 23 February
TIME:  14:45-16:00
PLACE: Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/406130239
FACILITATOR: PetroJanse van Vuuren
DRESS: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
RSVP: by  Wed 21 Feb to petro@playingmantis.net

COST: R280/ $24   Pay with Paypal:

More about the topic

In view of my wanting to grow Playing Mantis as a resource for facilitators, it follows that some of these facilitators, as have already happened, would fall in love with the processes, make it their own and want more and more. This means that you can then become part of a network of people who use SNE to serve client needs, while Playing Mantis serve yours.

I have changed my mind a little since I sent out the muse-letter two weeks ago: I will be looking specifically at the ethical principles that we all want to build our work on and if we can agree on what they mean?

So, whether or not you have received the SNE training  you are welcome to chip in with your thoughts. If you have received the training, but we have lost touch, come too and maybe we can find synergy with where we are now.

Figuring out a new business relationship that is mutually beneficial AND where parties agree on the underlying values that the work should embody, can sometimes be like catching flying pigs – especially when money is scarce. Let’s grow the pie and share it – there is enough to go around.

RSVP: by  Wed 21 Feb to petro@playingmantis.net

What moves you?

Star fish

I want to change the world for good – in both senses of the word: for the better and in a lasting way. To do that you and I have to be moved – moved to tears, to laughter, to action. Moved from being stuck and stressed to being present and flowing in our genius.

You know that nauseating story about the starfish?

The one about the man walking on a beach awash with thousands of starfish dying in the scorching sun? The one where he sees a little girl bending down every so often, picking up one starfish at a time and tossing it back into the waves to be saved?

I hate that story. It makes me want to vomit. Let me tell you why.

If you don’t know the story, the man goes to the little girl and asks her: “There are thousands of dying starfish. You pick up one at a time and toss it back into the water. What difference can you possibly make?” This is where the little girl picks up another creature, looks at it lovingly and, as she sends it sailing into the surf her says: “For that one, it makes a difference.” And this is where the audience goes: “Aaah” clasping their hands to their chests in waves of gooey sentimentality. Yuck! It’s where I raise my eyebrows and go: Really? If you are going to make the effort to bend down, why not scoop up a handful? Heck! Why not bring a bucket to the beach with you? And how do we know she tosses them far enough? Won’t they just wash out on the beach again tomorrow?

I am not moved by this story, sorry.

“To this one it makes a difference” indeed. If I was going to make the effort, I want to change whole groups of people, whole societies, or at least impact the one damn starfish that will impact a community of starfish around him.

Let me hand out buckets, let me bring along some bulldozers and get a bunch of drivers to shove the whole lot into the water.

Of course, this depends on whether or not the starfish want to go back, or if it is good for the environment as a whole for them to go back. And here the metaphor breaks down. We work with people, not starfish. People don’t take to being bulldozed, bamboozled or otherwise manhandled or manipulated. They want to have a say, they want to debate the benefits and risks of going back into the water. They want to make sure they stay with their friends and families and that they get to the place they choose in the water, not the one they may end up thanks to the meddling of some old fool or well-meaning philanthropist.

I spent nine years working in organisation and leadership development playing saviour to the poor starved souls on the bleak beach of office work, monotonously tapping away at their computers in their cubicles yes-ing and no-ing to the poor soul in charge. All slowly trying to make it to the front where the waves are splashing. Until one day, six years later, I discovered with a shock: There I was thinking myself to be the saviour with the bucket, the hero, the enlightened guru — only to realise with a Copernican jolt that I was just another starfish gasping for a drop of damp. My time on the beach turned me into one of them. I watched wave after wave sloshing onto the beach nourishing the lucky buggers at the front while the rest of us starved. Once the industrious little star thrower nearly squashed me under her sneaker picking up the gal next to me. Another guy was not so lucky getting stuck to the underside of her shoe, turning into mince bit by bit with every step. I needed to get away from there!

I moved.

I began to wiggle towards the water laboriously making my way a centimetre a day and just as I nearly made it, a wave picked me up and tossed me back up the bank.

When I lay gasping and scorching in the midday sun once more, delirious from the heat, I remembered something I saw as I was soaring through the sky: a small rock pool somewhere to my right. Slowly and with hardly any hope or energy left, I began moving.

Centimetre by eternal centimetre I made my way to the pool and six months later I passed out on the edge of the pool where helpful friendly arms pulled me into the cool life giving water.

This was a few years ago when I received a post-doctoral research grant from the University of the Witwatersrand. Going back to academia was a revival for me especially getting back into the field of applied performance. Applied performance is a young field that studies the methods and effects of drama, theatre and improvisation when used in contexts outside of the theatre to effect social transformation, to educate or to heal. Applied performance gave me the buckets and skills for handling the machinery that can bring about change for good: a canny integration of planning, story and action. What it did not provide was the survival skills I needed to run a business and thrive in the sun – predominantly the ability to comply to the rules of the beach. Now I live a dual life sharing the tools and skills with starfish (not people) who do know how to work the beach and thrive.

It is us starfish that must do the moving ourselves.

Four days of the week I work at Drama for Life, the applied performance department of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Here I train facilitators in the techniques and skills needed for social transformation and healing and I co-ordinate the PhD programme wherein applied performance practitioners develop their thinking and their tools.

The fifth working day I spend here on this blog sharing my research, by questions, my inventions and my thoughts on changing the world for good with those of you who are working the beaches with a higher survival rate. I have combined the ideas of planning + stories + action into a model that I called Strategic Narrative Embodiment TM, or SNE. I developed this model over the nine years when I was an applied performance practitioner working as a consultant in organisation and leadership development. All the IP I developed during that time will now become available on this blog and in books, manuals and articles that I will systematically upload here.

If you are a coach, facilitator or other kind of grow guide, you may find tools, techniques and frameworks here to help you be moved to change the world for good too.