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.


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

“Taken from Playing Mantis’s Moving Story Structure”

Principles for doing online facilitation and embodiment

Here are the principles Christian and I shared at the Applied  Improvisation Network Conference in California yesterday.

Here is also a video of people reflecting on one such online facilitation.

(Principles Using Online Rooms – overview as pdf)

Safe environment

  • In facilitating, training, coaching it is crucial to (co)create a safe environment: An atmosphere, that supports participants to open up, to be ready to share their experiences and feelings using facial expression, gestures, sounds or tunes, visualizations, words. An atmosphere coined by intimacy, trust, connection, the willingness to listen and to collaborate.
  • Using online-“rooms” with the help of live-online tools with possibilities to share audio, video, pictures, presentations, the screen of your PC/ Laptop / Smartphone needs some additional considerations related to building / sustaining a safe environment together.
  • What is more, e-facilitation / e-coaching requires in some aspects a different intensity compared to working together in a physical space. This is because there are not four walls that contain the action and the activity. Containment needs to be created in other ways e.g. a strong visual or conceptual frame.

Intimacy and vulnerability

  • People in very different places & time zones can meet and share aspects of their life. They are in their personal spaces, some of which can be seen in the background behind them. This brings a certain intimacy that is not there in offline spaces.
  • The nature of vulnerability that comes with seeing yourself on camera must be acknowledged. This extra important when doing body work.
  • In online rooms, people who are not contributing, more easily ‘disappear’ out of the mindfulness of the group and must therefore be called upon by name for a response.

Here is a video of our AIN session.

Important aspects for preparation:

  • A cornerstone of a safe environment is everyone getting-to-know each other. If possible: start methods to support it sometime beforeh the first session.
  • Some participants won’t use their camera, they should contribute a picture of themselves.
  • You can use props – you can’t pass them around, but you could ask participants to find similar / related props at their places to create the ‘feeling’ of something described / shown.
  • It is often necessary for participants to share information. What is the best way for a person to share files with other participants? E-Mail often is not the ideal answer. You could use Online-Folders, (hidden) Blogs & Web-Sites or learning-management-systems. Neutral public sharing tools are better than private emails.

Technical issues

Stability of internet connections should be tested – and they can be wobbly or fail at any time.

  • Participants should have possibilities to test / play with earphone & microphone and with features of the online-tool.
  • It is advisable to schedule 10-15 minutes extra at the start of a session to sort out any technical challenges.
  • Another technical and planning consideration is designing time slots where participants meet online in pairs or small groups (with or without you). Such breaks are valuable to change the energy, or to do pair work – just as the case may be in offline sessions.

Please join us for our next online course: How do I do meaningful focused work amidst the business of living?

The individual settings

  • Setting of the place, participants use during online session(s) needs consideration.
  • Facilitators should highlight this in a preparation email.
    • Will they be alone there?
    • Is it a familiar place to them?
    • Which background noises could be heard?
    • What is the light in the room like? And is thee participant sitting in front of a bright window?
    • Is it a place, where they can stand up and make some steps / movements?
    • What can be seen in the background, when they use their video – what do they want to show and what not?
    • Has the participant thought of providing her-/himself with a glass of water / brain-snacks? This is important. Because, in offline spaces we can provide this to participants, but online, people need to care for themselves.


  • Online-Sessions shouldn’t last longer than 90 minutes – and you can use breaks (during them participants could be motivated to work on various tasks) and/or combine several online sessions
  • Combine possibilities of contributions via chat, audio, video, any kind of presentation.
  • You can’t point at someone; therefore you could decide about an order who is first and who is next together or you name people.
  • Foster role flexibility of your participants: they can also (temporally) take over tasks like moderation, documentation, presentation… and some of them will need preparation / support to succeed in this task.
  • Role flexibility, real participation and a sustainable learning process is supported by tasks, that are tackled alone and in small groups before / between meetings.

Please join us for our next online course: How do I do meaningful focused work amidst the business of living?


How does one use embodiment in online rooms?

Session at Applied Improvisation Network conference

(update: Literatur on Emodiment also in online rooms,  WriteUp of the session; and a video of the session – see this post)

My friend and collaborator Christian and I will be presenting a session at the Applied Improvisation Network’s annual conference next Sunday 27 August. To me it is a kind of dream come true. This will be the third time I attempt to attend the AIN conference in some way. The last two attempts failed because for various reasons I was unable to make the trip. This year, though, Christian and I solved half the problem.

We will be attending the conference from the comfort of our home offices.

He is in Austria, I am in South Africa and we will meet together online and on screen to present a conference session in California!

I say half the problem, because, while we get to present and interact for an hour, we still do not get to attend and connect with all the other wonderful contributors and players. Next time!

Our topic: How does one use embodiment in online rooms?

Over the past two years Christian and I have been offering online pig catching sessions and learned a number of important principles for doing embodied exercises online. I have colleagues who do not believe it can be done and when I challenge them, they say: “I am sure something essential gets lost.”

Well, we have found that there is a unique kind of intimacy that develops online when people play together – a kind distinctly different in quality than when you work with someone offline. Part of the reason is because you see yourself on the screen interacting and this creates a certain vulnerability that adds to the connection.

To engage the imagination through the body  requires some innovation when working online.  We found ways to use the unique feature of online rooms to access the imagination and people’s creativity in fresh and unexpected ways.

We have discovered how to contain the work when there is no physical room within which to contain activities and relationships.

We have found out how to bridge the divides between participants and build playfulness and connection in new ways.

All these insights will be shared at the conference on Sunday morning and I look forward to sharing some of the principles here in a blog or two soon.

For the curious, here is our conference abstract:

An important aspect of Applied Improvisation is using and perceiving the body: your own and those of others in the room. It therefore seems logical, that “room” is a physical construct, a place with enough space to move and also to rest.

In a connected world “rooms” in the World Wide Web are part of the reality of more and more people: 3,6 Billion people have direct access to the internet, which is about half of the world population. Especially in Europe (over 70 percent of the population) and North America (nearly 90 percent) using the Internet is a part of daily life. An important aspect in the still growing numbers of direct users is mobile access to the internet via smart devices.

Internet “rooms” are used more and more often to learn together, to plan projects and them into action step by step. Topics are not only “tech related” – they are also about facilitating, coaching, developing various kinds of people, individually and in groups. Live online tools are often used in these contexts. They enable participants to hear and see each other. Nonverbal communication is a key aspect of Applied Improvisation. It is also a key aspect of live online rooms.

In our contribution we will summarize studies on using embodiment in settings enabled  by technology. We will present different improvisation methods that can be used in online settings highlighting its effects on collaboration and interaction on one hand and  and on personal development on the other.


Dr. Petro Janse van Vuuren,, Playing Mantis and Drama for Life, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Applied drama researcher and practitioner, coach and consultant.

Christian F. Freisleben,, Halftime: St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences (Didactics in Higher Education, E-Learning); teacher, trainer, journalist in the fields of education, health care and social affairs

[1] Http:// (14. 11. 2016)

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.

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

The improvisational mindset is rooted in an open and flexible attitude, based on a set of fundamental principles that are learned through engaging in improvisational games and activities.

For a quick overview of the most important improvisation principles that can help you navigate uncertainty and act with confidence amidst emergence, complexity and collaborative projects, check out Raymond Van Driel’s  P.L.A.Y.! model below.

In the mean time, if you are coming to the Applied Improvisation Network’s annual conference; we will be working with Raymond to present to you a three day Train the Trainer workshop so you too can add more interaction, creativity and ZING when you train and facilitate.

Raymond’ s P.L.A.Y.! model

P.L.A.Y.! builds capacity for staying focused while remaining open to choices in order to maximize results in crisis situations.

  • ‘P’ stands for Presence. This refers to being in the ‘here and now’ and being aware of everything that happens around you. Akin to mindfulness, it replaces distraction and fragmentation with keen and clear focus.  Where are you now? What is happening around you? What do your senses tell you about the present surroundings? How do you fit in? Anxiety and stress can reduce our ability to focus and see choices. When we feel stuck and anxious, it’s easy to lose perspective and shut down, missing a lot of what is going on around us. By noticing more, we have more inner and outer resources available to us and we open channels to new ways of responding.
  • ‘L’ stands for Leaping Into. Sometimes we have to begin a project or a task without planning all the required steps beforehand. Sometimes circumstances demand that we begin before we are ready, and adapt as the situation requires. This is particularly important if we don’t have all the information we need or want or if the situation is rapidly changing.  ‘L’ also stands for Letting Go. Things don’t always go the way we’d like or expect. Sometimes we need to let go:  of our attachment to being right, of our need to be in control, of our preconceived notion of how things should be.  Rigidity and need for control are often fallback response to stressful situations. Flexibility can often be far more useful.
  • ‘A’ stands for Accept and Adapt. This is about accepting offers – seeing opportunities in what others say and do and allowing ourselves to be changed by circumstances, others’ opinions and new situations. Rather than being defensive and blocking, we receive others’ input, engagement, and participation. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with others when we disagree with them, but we can look for ways to acknowledge and build on what they bring.  This may not come naturally or easily – people often do not welcome difference or change, even when it’s positive. So this element speaks to overcoming initial restraints and resistance to change and really accepting and adapting to whatever crosses your path. When dealing with complexity it helps to be able to include diverse perspectives and approaches and integrate accordingly.
  • ‘Y’ stands for Yes, And… This reinforces the acceptance described above (“yes”), while adding to and building on that (“and …”). This is in contrast with “Yes, but …”- behavior, where we tend to focus on why something will not work. With “Yes, and” behavior we see more constructive collaboration, more energy, more flow and more options.  This also switches focus away from a problem focus and towards a solutions focus. It prevents premature discarding of valuable ideas by creating room to explore them further.
  • ‘!’ refers to Impact. This refers to implementing the four principles above in a convincing and bold manner in order to achieve maximum effect. Commitment, confidence and clarity are qualities that emerge through practicing and using these improvisation activities.

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

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

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

For more info on The Applied Improvisation Network Click here.

For more info on the AIN conference Train the trainer workshop Click here.

Above model taken from: Tint, B, McWaters, V and Van Driel, R. (2014) Applied Improvisation Training For Disaster Readiness and Response: Preparing Humanitarian Workers and Communities for the Unexpected. Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management 4: (forthcoming

Improv Class 5 – Make up your own story

Story was the focus of this week’s class. We started the class with an exercise from Imago Relationship Therapy. In this exercise each participant gets the opportunity to say in a few sentences what they need to say to be fully present. One of the others must then mirror that persons exact words back to them. The exercise is not so much about saying what you need to say to be present, but being listened to fully without judgement. When we listen to people like this we help them to become fully present. In essence what we are doing is accepting them and showing them that they are welcome and worth being listened to.

The next exercise was a game call Todododo in which we had to make word associations keeping a rhythm. This illustrates how much easier it is to come up with ideas if you stop trying so hard. This is why in Improv we say “be average”. If you stop trying to be perfect and get everything right , it helps to lower anxiety and your brain can relax and function better so that your creativity can surface. After that we played another word association game in which we just made associations around the circle. This game illustrated how our minds automatically make links between random words. In the next game everyone paired up with one other person. The one had to come up with 4 unrelated sentences that the other had to connect together to create a story. Relating random events together is what makes a story. At first it sounds like a difficult task but as I mentioned earlier the brain does it automatically. Our brains are wired that way. Relating events together and making up stories is how we make sense of the world.

Then we played Automatic Story. In this game one player has to ask yes/no questions about the storyline of an unknown story that the other player has in mind. What the questioning player doesn’t know is that the person answering the questions is only saying yes to questions starting with a vowel and no to questions starting with a consonant. The person asking the questions is therefore making up the story without knowing it. This game illustrates how easy it is to make up our own stories. Isn’t it interesting how in life we also often think that someone else is in control of our tale, while we are actually the authors of our own life stories?

The next game that we played was What happens next? In this game one player stands in the middle of the circle and acts out a story that the rest of the group make up one sentence at a time. After each sentence the player asks “What happens next?” To improvise a good story in a group there are 4 important guidelines-

• Free association: Free associated ideas create the material from which a story can be constructed.

• Reincorporation: Reincorporation is the recycling or re-using of ideas or situations from earlier in the story. By reincorporating ideas and situations you make sense of the random ideas generated by free association.

• Platform: The who, what and where of a scene. Success of a scene often depends on a solid and clear platform.

• Breaking routine: A good story that will engage an audience is a series of routines that are broken creating new routines.

I believe that if we want our lives to be good stories we must become aware of routines that are limiting us and break them and create new routines. And when the new routine starts to limit us we must break it again. Routines can be anything from a mindset, to a hab it to a physical space. The harder it is to break the routine, the higher the risk and the better the potential for a really good story.

As a footnote: Sandra Lee Schubert co – facilitated a writing program for 10 years where participants would weekly share immensely personal pieces of some aspects of their lives. In a conversation, her co-facilitators asked why they had to be so personal. She asked, “ Why not? “There is a deep, deep desire to be heard. People want to stake their claim in the landscape of story. Intimacies are shared because we want to take the power back. Why should someone else define your story?

The Applied Improvisation Conference in Amsterdam

Street Café in Amsterdam

Schipol International Airport taunted me like Huckleberry to Tom – daring him to trust a raft made of sweat, spit and good old fashioned nylon rope. My heart and stomach clung awkwardly to the Boeing’s ceiling, unconvinced of a safe landing….both on the runway and on the stage. My husband reminded me of a Sunday afternoon frozen yoghurt in Stellenbosch…were we in the same aircraft?

The landing gear brushed the runway with an impressionists, well, impression. We were is Van Gogh’s valley. Land of Bicycles , Stroopwafels, Marijuana, Heineken & Bitterballen…

The AIN conference was scheduled from the Thursday morning until the Sunday afternoon. Our venue…The Felix Meritis, staircases’ would be home to 24 accents trading experiences, laughter and general out of breathness as the building was spread over 5 floors.

As an introvert, the idea of 3 people crammed days was daunting to me. The deer caught in the headlights image pops to mind.  Beautifully contrasted with this thought was my husband… a healthy, well fed wild mustang…energized by the breathing in and exhaling of gusts of words from strangers about to become friends.

We both joined Adrian Jackson’s pre conference workshop on Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the oppressed” on Thursday… “Yes, an additional day with, what my very unhelpful conscience, proceeded to tell me, were people living the Improvisation dream. I had recently fallen in love with it, but we were by no means an item in my eyes yet…unbeknownst to me…Improv had found its soul mate, and he was planning to propose every day from then on for the rest of my life, and I was going to say yes.

Have you ever met really nice people from a certain country at different intervals in your life? They inadvertently form your opinion of that country. Improv people are like that country; I have never met an improviser I didn’t like. They are open, accepting, honest and possess an enviable children’s quality called a sense of wonder.

Come Friday, fear slept late and I attended a workshop by myself whilst Burgert sat in on another. His was on “Deepening your Debrief”, the key element of an Applied Improvisation Learning Experience, and mine was on “Status, the language for describing and understanding situations”…I hope these sound like exotic dishes, because they are, but with that “home cooking” edge to them. Oh, but the nourishment was no where near finished. Next up was a workshop by the marvelously honest and down to earth  Marjin Visser on “Prejudice, and how to be playful with it”

Make you partner cook good

Saturday, fear was up before I was. I could have sworn I smelled it smoking a cigarette on the porch, nervously tapping its foot. Burgert and I were presenting our “Make your Partner cook good “a cooking workshop for couples later that afternoon. Burgert and I had attended pre marital classes based on Imago relational therapy and were so moved by the principles that we designed a workshop that married it with our other great passions – Improvisation and Creative cooking. We had presented this to test couples in South Africa and were left speech less at the beauty of 2 people working at a relationship.
My fear, in retrospect, was that I would be out of my depth. But, the thing with relationships is – if you’re in a committed one…it is a ship, and it will float and brave every storm without fear of failure.

We started our day with 2 different sessions again:
I joined Amy Carrol – her topic was “Are you predator, pray or partner?”, The Art and Science of Positive Influence. Burgert found his way to “Creative Conflict Resolution” with Barbara S . Tint. These are 2 remarkable women with finesse for performance with depth.

Just after lunch we both attended the “Hero’s Journey as a universal pattern for Personal and Cultural change in Organizations” …again, rich with content and the freedom of expression.

And then we were up… The proof is in the pudding. The feedback ( I love this word) on our workshop was down right pleasing  and instilled a quiet confidence that what we do has the potential to make a lasting difference.

As we flew home the next Sunday I closed my eyes somewhere in mid flight and smiled…for I was in the absence of fear.