Pig Catching on 22 April: The Rapid Role Recast

Flying Pig

Flying PigPetro have been invited to run a session at the 2016 Be the Difference Knowledge Management Summit.

On Friday I will test a Strategic Narrative Embodiment technique for the summit called “rapid Role Recasting”. For the first time, instead of using participants to embody their own stories, I will be using actors from Drama for Life. Rapid Role Recasting is aimed at understanding where we come from and where we are going. Perhaps more importantly: what is the next step on the way? We can decide on the day what ‘we’ means in this context e.g. coaches in general or pig catchers in particular?

It is about understanding our role in the bigger picture.

Watch this space to see how the experiment went and what Elmi Bester, the summit convener who will be attending on Friday, says about it.

Topic:    Rapid role Recasting: the thing you (or your client) need to do when you (they) don’t know what to do next.

Date:     22 April 2016

Time:    7am for 7:15 to 9:15  Research conversation (for all who are  interested in Strategic Narrative Embodiment)

9:30-12:30 Pig Catching

NOTE: the Pig catching session will start at 9:30 sharp to make the most of our time.

Facilitator: Petro Janse van Vuuren assisted by Drama for Life actors

Cost: R250 (Includes a write-up of the session)

Venue: 305 Long Ave Ferndale

Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in

Coffee, tea, muffins and fruit on arrival.

RSVP: by  Wed 20 April

Other Pig Catching dates this year:

22 july
7 Oct

9 Dec

Please diarise!

Join our group on Facebook:

About Pig Catching:

Pig catching is what coaches and facilitators do when we chase the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients.

Please note: No pigs get harmed, our pigs are purely metaphorical and they have wings.

Bring your curiosity, your open minds and your questions.

Join us on Friday if you dare…



‘I’m curious’

Possible outcomes:

  • Learning to ask curious questions.
  • Building listening skills, especially listening without judgement.
  • Appreciating diversity.
  • Expanding your point of view.


In pairs, participants have a discussion about a controversial topic, each taking an opposite point of view. Participants are only allowed to ask curious questions about their partner’s point of view.

Time: 5 – 15 min
Number of participants: In pairs

Game flow:

Ask participants to pair up. Instruct them to pick a controversial topic of which each chooses an opposite point of view. One participant shares their point of view and the other participant is only allowed to respond with curious questions. It helps if they start their questions with the words ‘I’m curious …’ Tell them to be careful not to disguise their own point of view in the form of a question. The questions must come from genuine curiosity and not from judgement.

Debrief questions:

  • What struck you about this exercise?
  • What did it feel like to ask only curious questions?
  • What was it like being listened to in this way?
  • How was your listening different than usual?

5 Differences between Motivational Speaking and Strategic Narrative Embodiment

ATKV Jeugleiersimposium

jeugleiers_dv4_0Dit was my voorreg om hierdie week, Maandag en Dinsdag, as spreker op te tree by die ATKV se Jeugleiersimposiums by die Goudini Spa naby Worcester en Buffelspoort naby Hartebeespoortdam.

My onderwerp: Vyf soorte weerstand teen leierskap en hoe om dit te hefboom. As jy daar was kan jy die opsomming hier aflaai in die vorm van die skyfie reeks wat ek gebruik het. As jy nie daar was nie, sal dit maar min sin maak vir jou.

Vyf soorte weerstabd teen leierskap


It was my privilege to speak at the ATKV Youth Leaders symposia on Monday and Tuesday this week at Goudini Spa in the Western Cape and Buffelspoort in Gauteng.

My topic: Five types of resistance to leadership and how to leverage them. If you were there you can download the slide show above. If you were not there, it won’t make much sense to you.

Insights from this experience:

Five differences between motivational speaking and Strategic Narrative Embodiment

For those new to this website, Strategic Narrative Embodiment (SNE) is an applied theatre process that uses story and embodiment strategically to effect change in organisations and leaders.

  1. Strategy and narrative, but no embodiment

At its most interactive, speaking still only works with strategy and narrative, not with embodiment. Unfortunately, it is the embodiment part of the model that invites people to question the dominant narrative. Without it, people get to think, but they struggle to break the requirement of acceptance of the narrative that goes with speaking. The speaker may, in his talk, question the dominant narrative about his topic, but then his story becomes the new dominant narrative and audience members are primed by the genre of speaking to accept it. This was very notable this week where the topic was resistance, but there was no resistance to the topic.

  1. Whose opinion matters

Motivational speaking is the genre of convincing and propaganda. Strategic narrative Embodiment is designed to allow the audience, or rather participants, to make meaning of the ‘story in the room’ for themselves. Speaking centres on the opinion of the speaker, SNE attempts to elicit the opinions of the participants. It does so by inviting participants’ entire bodies into the conversation, not just their intellects. In this way participants can access resistance that does not necessarily surface as clear thoughts, but only as discomforts in their bodies e.g. knots in their stomachs, frowns on their faces and so on. Making sense of these questions can have a far deeper learning result than a mere hearing of a talk and a later dismissal of it because somehow it did not gel.

  1. The seat of knowledge

In motivational speaking the speaker is the seat of knowledge which he more of less downloads into the receptacles that are the members of the audience. In SNE the facilitator structures conversation, but is mostly there to listen and allow others to speak. This is always hard for me because I have such clever things to say and I love to coin quotable phrases. However, this week my clever phrases left even me cold. The ideal would be for the speaker to voice her story, but then to allow participants to interact with that story in order to make sense of it for themselves.

  1. Opinions or stories

Motivational speaking, even the interactive sort, finds it easier to elicit opinions and much harder to invite story sharing. SNE is designed to invite the latter. There are exceptions to this difference. I have seen amazing story tellers whose example of vulnerability and authenticity on the platform unlock people’s own stories and can, therefore invite deep connection, but not necessarily a questioning of dominant narratives. The stories shared still link to the new dominant ‘story in the room’ as presented by the story teller. Resistance to this story is then often read aspeople trying to be difficult, or unwilling to be moved or to buy in. Somehow the SNE tries to create a safe space for diverse points of view without getting into a debate or intellectual voicing of opinions. It wants to invite diverse stories and make it safe for every point of view.

  1. Time and value.

Motivational speaking takes less time that SNE and gives the illusion of being value for money. On Monday I suggested to the organiser of the symposium that I run a fully interactive session instead of a talk. They preferred the talk for its particular content, but the organiser also remarked somewhat tongue in cheek: “After all we are paying you for your input.” Organisers seldom value a facilitator’s ability to shape and draw meaning from participants, they want to pay for knowledge. This is an illusion, though, because people hear what they already believe and unless you allow them to put what they believe into direct embodied interaction with what others, including the facilitator, believes, these believes do not change. Learning only really happens when people connect the ‘story in the room’ to their own stories. I know of few more powerful processes to do this through than embodied participation.

I still believe that speaking has an important part to play, but I have discovered that it meaves me unmoved for the most part as the speaker. If it leaves me that way, what impact does it have on my audience? Perhaps it is just me and I have to accept that I will have to leave the speaking to people who are moved by it themselves.

Read more about this on  jy personal blog: No more model citizens!

Pig Catching for Coaches and Facilitators on 4 Dec


Pig catching is what coaches and facilitators do when we chase the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients.

Please note: No pigs get harmed, our pigs are purely metaphorical and they have wings.

Bring your curiosity, your open minds and your questions.

Join us on Friday if you dare…

Topic:    Moving PeopleFlying Pig

Date:     4 December 2015

Time:    7am for 7:15 to 10am Pig Catching

10:30-12:30 Research conversation (for all who are  interested in Strategic Narrative Embodiment)

NOTE: We will start at 7:15 sharp to make the most of our time.

Facilitator: Hamish Neill (from Drama for Life)

Cost: R250 (Includes a write-up of the session)

Venue: 305 Long Ave Ferndale

Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in

Coffee, tea, muffins and fruit on arrival.

RSVP: by 1 December.

More on the topic:

What is this shift in leadership and Organisation Development that everyone is talking about?

Some call it a change from Command and Control to Sensing and Responding

Others say it is Autocratic to Participative Leadership

Some try to explain it by using metaphors for the kinds of Organisations we want e.g. no more machine like organisations, rather organic ones, or ones that work like the human brain. Still others say an organisation should be looked at as  a work of art…

There are also those that talk of a Vision and Values based culture versus a virtuoso culture, or a profit focussed organisation versus one that aims for a triple bottom line i.e. people planet and profit.

Whatever the shift is that our new changing world is asking for, we are the ones that support the transformation.

In this session, we will continue our foray into the symbols, metaphors and images that make up our understanding of this shift with Hamish from Dram for Life. In doing so you will also get insight into the tool called Image Theatre as a means for extracting and eliciting stories from participants.

Read my reflections on our previous session here: Can Image Theatre help us change organisational life in South Africa?

Join us on Friday if you dare…

Can Image Theatre help us find ways to change organisational life in South Africa?

Does this pig have wings?

On Friday 18 Sep 18 facilitators and coaches from the Playing Mantis Pig Catching group came together to experiment with Image Theatre.

Pig catching is what facilitators and coaches do when we search for that moment of shift and transformation that helps people move.

Image Theatre is a form of applied theatre designed and practised by Brazilian director and activist Augusto Boal. It uses body images to express collective perspectives on a chosen issue and to explore ways to transform these perspectives and experiment with alternative ways to act.

What we want to do

Our intention for the workshop is to explore the shift in Leadership styles and Organisation Development that we are noticing and that many of us are supporting. The shift seems to be characterised by a movement from command and control styles of leadership to participative sensing and responding styles; from looking at organisations as machines to seeing them either as living organisms, complex networks like the human brain or works of art; from organisations that focus on a single bottom line (profit) to one that has a triple bottom line (people planet and profit).

We are particularly interested in a transition in South Africa from organisations that cam rise above colonialism, apartheid and corruption to ones that work towards social equality, prosperity for all and happy working people from leaders to workers – in short, organisations that support the South African 12030 vision.

We choose to work with Image Theatre as methodology this time in order to explore the metaphors, symbols, language and images that help us talk about the shift and about our vision for leaders and organisations in South Africa.

An account of a transitional moment – a flying pig:

Image 1 - SilosWe are halfway through our workshop and we are exploring one of the typical ways in which organisations are described: the silo syndrome. We work in groups of 4 and begin to build group images. We do not go one person at a time. We simply step forward all at once and create the image. While we

maintain our image the facilitator (Hamish Neil from Drama for Life) asks us to look around and see all the images in the room.

In most groups people are standing either with their backs to each other, but touching, or facing each other but standing separately, doing their work. Hamish instructs us to reverse everything we are doing and create the opposite image. He gives a countdown and everyone moves together. We find ourselves in an ideal opposite configuration. Most people are standing in circles hugging each other. In two of the groups three are turned towards one another hugging or reaching out while one person is turned out and doing something different from the group.

Everyone gasps or laughs. “Does this always happen?”

“Yes,” I say, “people always end up in circles holding hands or hugging. My instruction to Hamish was to make sure we do not end here.”

Hamish invites the two groups where all are turned in and hugging to explore this image. “Stay there for a while. How does it feel as time passes? Still comfortable? Without breaking the configuration, start moving across the floor. Now jump. Go get the photo copier and fetch the printing…

Everyone is laughing.Image 2 - Hugs

Moans and groans emit from the groups.

“Too much breathing into the centre.”

“I am worried about the garlic I had for supper.”

“Can i please just go back to being a silo.”

It is clear from the activity that no-one can get any work done in this configuration. They are increasingly uncomfortable and getting too hot.

We can understand why silo’s happen.

We acknowledge that there was no big stick beating people into silo’s. It happens because it works on some level.

This ideal image is often a respite from the original problem image, but not sustainable. By working with the image its unfeasibility as a long-term solution is recognised. As with the original silo image, is important that this image too is arrived at through spontaneous action and not planning.

Now we are instructed to work together to discover what image goes in between the first two. What is the image of transition between, in this case silo’s and huggy-huggy. We are given some time to talk with each other and work this out. When we have our transitional image, each small group shows it to the large group one by one. Again on lookers say what they see before the group responds.

“Can we also explore what the next step could be after ‘huggy-huggy’, instead of exploring transitional images?” someone asks.

Hamish answers that this is not usually helpful because it does not take us into difficult places. It does not help us process. From the ideal embracing image, people might just go back to the silos because that is what they know. It is true that people want respite from the silo’s and the isolation, but they can’t sustain it, so they may just go back. It keeps us in dreamland where we can plan and desire and vision things that do not get real. We have to take them where it gets messy so that they can find something new, something that is not there, something that can bring shift.

“Is this about ‘thesis, antithesis and synthesis?” comes another question..

Hamish answers: “Be careful to try and neaten up the mess too quickly. It is not helpful to begin to judge and see some images as ‘better’ or ‘more synthesis” than others yet. Just stay in the direct response and action space without making sense of it yet. Stay in the bodies, don;t go into the head yet.

From the transitional images we learn that here there is the most aImage 3 - interconnectednessmount of eye contact, dybamic movement and interaction. There is more laughter, more frustration, more mess and more noise. There also seems to be a theme of disconnection and reconnection running through. Two of the images resemble dancing and the other two show lots of open arms but not so much touching.

We decide to pick up this exploration again next time we meet on 27 November. We want to go deeper into the transitional images and understand more about how they might inform our own transitional work.

Join us on 27 November for Moving people Part 2.

Time: 7 to 10 am

Venue: 305 Long Avenue, Ferndale, Johannesburg

Where does Strategic Narrative Embodiment Techniques (SNETs) come from?

When we (Petro and Burgert) started Playing Mantis 6 years ago, we thought that, because our work comes from Applied Theatre its power to bring about transformation and learning is implicit. Stories move people more easily than pie charts, we reasoned, and if people get to try out solutions before they have to implement them, their implementation runs smoother. But we were wrong.

And when people in business started talking about VUCa (the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous nature of our world) we thought this strengthens our position. VUCA requires people to be more agile, innovative, collaborative and engaged – the very same things that we know Applied Theatre methods can provide. And still we were wrong.

We were wrong not because our processes don’t do what they say they can, but for a very different reason.

For long years past leaders and organisational structures have not been designed for quick adaptation, collaboration or innovation. They are designed for stability and predictability so that each person understands their place in a hierarchy and performs their function optimally

This means that not only must our techniques be validated in terms of how well they can help people collaborate and innovate, they must also ‘fit’ into the perception that the industry has of techniques that will be successful.

In response to this state of affairs, we have designed as set of facilitation tools: Our SNETs: Strategic because they are employed with a particular purpose as negotiated by the contract between practitioner and client; Narrative because they are derived from mythic structural patterns and archetypes and because they work with the stories of people about themselves and their world; Embodied because they depend on the projection of characteristics of abstract ideas into pictures, objects or the physical bodies of the participants.

They have been designed for you, the facilitator, coach, consultant OD practitioner, HR or L&D person. As such you understand both the needs of your clients and their contexts as well as the importance of innovation, collaboration, engagement and agility amidst complexity.

Read more about our Playing Mantis Essentials Course in Coaching and Facilitation using Strategic Narrative Embodiment Techniques.

More Story-Strategy for trainers and facilitators (and coaches)

shutterstock_72734719A good workshop design, like a good story:

S      helps people see their Situation in a new light and Summons them to new possibilities

T       Guides them across a Threshold full of Terrors—Facing their fears

     Provides Obstacles  and OBSTACLES as they journey through tests that challenge skill and paradigms.

R       Rewards their bravery and hear their commitments as they Return to their work-life.

      Supports them in Integrating their learning into their Identity so they transform their world.

…     Remembers that the story never ends and that no facilitator can completely control another’s journey.

For more detail on this model click here.

The success of trusted workshop processes lie in their ability to guide participants successfully across the two thresholds.  First from their current situation through the barrier of their resistance and fear into the landscape of your workshop filled with insights, theories and skills development. Secondly over the threshold back to their own realities armed with new tools, skills and understanding with which to face their recurring patterns of thinking.

Most workshop processes are really good at helping people cross the first threshold. Few get the second threshold crossed successfully. That is because most of us do not have the luxury to remain with our clients as they return to work or life. If you can offer them a coaching programme, or some kind of follow-up support system online, you have a better chance.

But what if you could cross this threshold In the Workshop?

Play it out in a safe space

Applied theatre processes like Applied Improvisation, Theatre for the Oppressed, Embodied Reflective Practice and Theatre for Development all use the power of embodiment and action to help people ‘rehearse for their futures’ (Augusto Boal). By using processes that require people to play out the learning, they get the opportunity to try out new ways of being in a safe environment before they have to go back into the ‘real’ world.

Play it out with your whole body, brain, heart and guts

Applied theatre processes also involve the whole of a person: not just the whole brain, but also the whole heart, body and gut feelings. As if this is not enough, it also involves a community: learning with others. The doing, playing, laughing interacting and learning that happens when people play together helps to access more parts of a human being and creates more opportunities for deep learning on core value level.

This is one of the main reasons that Applied Improvisation is taking off as a leading- edge workshop methodology and why it works so well with Story-Strategy (as summarised by the STORI… model) for designing workshops. The way in which both AI and Story-Strategy can navigate participants across the first and second thresholds  is also the reason why coaches find Applied Improvisation such a handy set of skills and tools and why Story-Strategy help them to structure their coaching programmes. Coaching itself functions to lead people over both thresholds, but especially the second one.

Catch Playing Mantis and Raymond van Driel at the Applied Improvisation Network’s annual conference in Austin Texas!!

You might also be interested in:

S.T.O.R.I… – A strategy using story principles for Trainers and Facilitators

P.L.A.Y.! – A summary of Improvisation principles for Trainers and Facilitators

Podcast interview with Petro Janse van Vuuren (PhD) on Story-Strategy.

Podcast interview with Raymond van Driel on AI and the PLAY! model.

Trainer workshops in South Africa, click here.

Coaching contact Petro in Johannesburg, Burgert in Cape Town and Raymond in the Netherlands.

The Applied Improvisation Network Click here.

AIN conference Train the trainer workshop Click here.

Applied Improvisation for Trainers and Facilitators – Podcast 2

In this episode Shawn Utterback from the Play Storming Group interviews Raymond Van Driel of F-Act Training and Coaching  regarding the upcoming Applied Improvisation for Trainers and Facilitators Course that will be held right before the Applied Improvisation World conference in Austin Texas (3 – 5 Nov).  Raymond shares the PLAY! model as an  overview of the core  improvisation principles that can help you navigate uncertainty and act with confidence amidst emergence and complexity as an facilitator/trainer.

Catch Playing Mantis and Raymond van Driel at the Applied Improvisation Network’s annual conference in Austin Texas!!

For more info on The Applied Improvisation Network Click here.

For train the trainer workshops in South Africa, click here.

OR contact Petro in Johannesburg, Burgert in Cape Town and Raymond in the Netherlands.

Story-Strategy for Coaches and Facilitators – Podcast 1

In this episode Shawn Utterback from the Play Storming Group interviews Petro Janse Van Vuuren (PhD) regarding the upcoming Applied Improvisation for Trainers and Facilitators Course that will be held right before the Applied Improvisation World conference in Austin Texas .  Petro shares how Story-Strategy serves as a model for designing Applied Improvisation processes to creates safety and enables deep learning experiences.

Catch Playing Mantis and Raymond van Driel at the Applied Improvisation Network’s annual conference in Austin Texas!!

For more info on The Applied Improvisation Network Click here.

For train the trainer workshops in South Africa, click here.

OR contact Petro in Johannesburg, Burgert in Cape Town and Raymond in the Netherlands.