Pig catching on 31 May: Improvisational Mindfulness for Leaders

Flying pig

You are invited to catch flying pigs with us

In-person pig catching in Johannesburg

Topic:  How do I stay connected to presence and people when I need to make decisions and take action from moment to moment?
Date: Friday 31 May
Time:  7:30 am – 10:00 am
Place:  Floor 21, University Corner, above Wits Art Museum, Corner of Jan Smuts and Jorissen, Braamfontein (parking can be booked 8 days in advance)
Facilitators:  Petro Janse van Vuuren,
Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
RSVP: by Wed 29 Mayto petro.jansevanvuuren@wits.ac.za (unless you want parking, then let me know as soon as possible- it needs to be booked the week before)

Donation: (Optional) R280 to paypal.me/PlayingMantis

Live online pig catching in a Zoom room

Topic: How do I stay connected to presence and people when I need to make decisions and take action from moment to moment?
Date: Friday 31 May
Time:  2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Place:  In Zoom room with ID: 2828282259
Facilitators: Petro Janse van Vuuren
Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
RSVP: by Wed 27 Feb to petro.jansevanvuuren@wits.ac.za

Donation: (Optional) R280 to paypal.me/PlayingMantis

More about the topic

In spite of the growing popularity of mindfulness based programmes (MBP’s) in leadership and organisation development contexts, studies have highlighted various shortcomings. Many of these relate to the seeming incompatibility between the ethical and spiritual roots of Buddhist contemplative practise and the strategic aims of the organisation and existing culture where it is to be implemented. Most notable is the inability of contemporary mindfulness practise to account for the inherent strategic, action oriented or embodied, nature of leadership. In response, many MBP’s incorporate practices draw from other fields and sources, such as Applied Improvisation (AI), allowing programmes to address the particular needs and requirements of the organisational context. AI proves to be particularly suited to the leadership context leveraging its interpersonal dimension and action oriented nature. The study argues that this action orientation, or embodied nature, of applied improvisation is inherently mindful because of its immersion in presence awareness and openness drawing on the sense of resonance between participants for the interpersonal dimension.

Come feel what such resonance is like, how to achieve it and how to use it as springboard for strategic, mindful action.

Side note: I will be presenting on this topic at the Global Improvisation Initiative Symposium in London this week. Are you coming by any change?

What does it mean to catch flying pigs? Look at this : https://prezi.com/jxgstjc_ckmx/about-pig-catching/

Improvisational mindfulness – an action oriented mindfulness for leaders

How do I stay connected to presence and people when I need to make decisions and take action from moment to moment?

This week is the South African elections, I am getting ready to go to London for a week and we are in the third short work week because of holidays and work has stacked up. At the same time, I need to fill the emotional tanks of my nearest and dearest ahead of the trip.

How do I remain calm and connected when there is all this craziness going on?

I review my notes for my presentation on Improvisational mindfulness for leaders I will be presenting at the Global Improvisation Initiative Symposium next week:

I read: “At the very core of both the interactive quality of improvisational practise and the idea of mindful action is the ‘yes and principle’. This principle captures the essence of AI and of mindfulness++. The ‘yes’ refers to the complete acceptance of whatever is present in the moment and whatever another person might offer. It mirrors the detachment and non-judgement of mindfulness practise as well as the sense of compassion with self and others. The ‘yes is only possible when one has entered into a non-distracted space of stillness and intunement through the body and its senses as well as the other bodies and subjects in the room. “

I snigger, how can I find this ‘non-distracted moment’? From where I am now the journey to such a place seems a thousand miles long.  Then I remember an exrcise I once did where the facilitator asked us to close our eyes and repeat the word ‘no’ three times, staying aware of our physical and feeling responses to the word. She then asks us to switch to the word ‘yes’ and again note our responses.  I close my eyes and repeat the exercise and … there I am not distracted and aware of everything and everyone in my immediate presence.  But the moment is tenuous and fleeting… if I blink or breathe I fear it might evaporate.

I read on “One can identify in this ‘yes’ state the altered state of consciousness that is characteristic of mindful leadership practice. In the ‘yes’ we have therefore encapsulated all the characteristics of contemporary mindfulness. It is then in the ‘and’ that the embodied action part characteristic of improvisational mindfulness practise is captured. The ‘and’ refers to the action one might take in response to what has been offered and what one has already ‘yessed’ to. These actions as a direct flow from, and in direct response to, the other actors (or colleagues, or loved ones etc) become mindful in its being invested by everything that is encapsulated in the ‘yes’.

With the ‘yes’ still permeating my consciousness, I surrender my fear of this week and get ready to act.

Craziness, here I come!

Below is my abstract for the presentation.

If you want to know more, join me for an improvisational mindfulness session live online or in the flesh in Johannesburg on 31 May. Click here for details.

Or learn how to facilitate Applied Improvisation processes and sign up for the free online modules of the SNE course: Transformative facilitation for Orgnisations.

GII symposium poster

Improvisational mindfulness for leaders abstract:

The improvisational mindfulness session incorporates a methodology from the fields of applied drama and applied improvisation, strategic narrative embodiment (SNE). It demonstrates its value by focussing on two characteristics of leadership that cannot be addressed by conventional mindfulness practise alone: the inter-relational character of leadership and its inherent strategic, action oriented nature. The study highlights the necessity of a mindfulness practise that draws attention to these aspects of mindful leadership while retaining the value of traditional contemplative practise and presents applied improvisation, specifically in the form of the SNE model, as potential ally for addressing these needs.

How does improvisation relate to the corporate world?

Like a troupe of improvisers on stage who collaborate under high pressure to satisfy an audience’s need for entertainment that is fresh and creative, leaders and teams too must collaborate under high pressure to satisfy the needs of their clients in a fresh and innovative way.

Because the actors create in front of the audience, they have to do it in a way that is respectful to each other while at the same time building trust and rapport with the audience. To get the best out of their teams employers and employees too must work in a respectful manner with each other while at the same time building rapport with clients and customers.

The improv actors incorporate ideas from the audience with ideas from one another to create an integrated high quality performance. Just like people in organisations might have to incorporate input from the client with input from each other to provide the best possible product and service.

Finally, improvisers deliver their performance by playing ‘games’ which follow strict rules and parameters. These parameters could be a metaphor for the policies and procedures people need to follow in order to ensure high quality products and processes.

“Playing Mantis is committed to achieve that which is required from your specific needs. They work along side the client and if things change along the way, they are happy to move with that. They are experienced with people and understand what makes people tick and how to extract the best results from them..” Warren Young, Chief Risk Officer, Sanlam Investments:

Does that mean you put people on the spot to perform?

No. We have found that the most learning takes place when people feel a mixture between excitement and anxiety. Research in neuroscience shows that excitement motivates people to participate and a bit of anxiety keeps them alert. BUT too much anxiety is negative for learning and that’s why we’ll gently draw people into the learning process, by creating a very safe space that is caring, where people can connect on a human level and discover that they are much more creative and courageous than they ever thought possible. That is how improvisers create the safety for each other on the stage to perform at their peak.

 “Playing Mantis managed to get the whole company involved very quickly. They had great chemistry with everyone and it was so easy to engage with the work. They made it simple and easy and very quick to get into both the theatre making and the values of the company. Somehow they also managed to get people to own their work. Everyone was empowered to take action and take charge of their own process. I was very happy with them. You cannot fake that kind of connection with people, people will see through you.” Sinikiwe Dube, HR manager at EPPF.

Walking exercise


• Illustrates the art of creative leadership.
• Practices giving and taking control.
• Practices awareness and focus.
• Practices collaboration.


Participants walk around in the space. In the first round everyone stops and starts walking when the facilitator claps their hands. In the last round everyone stops and starts at the same time without the facilitator clapping their hands.

15 min

Number of participants: 6 – 50

Game flow:

Have the participants walk around the space spreading them evenly across the floor. Tell them to stop when you clap your hands and to start walking when you clap again. Do this for a while varying the intervals. Then tell the participants that they have to do exactly the same thing, walking and stopping at the same time without you clapping your hands.


It is important that the participants do not talk during the exercise.

Debrief questions:

• What was interesting about the exercise?
• What was different between the first and second round?
• Who was in control in the first and second round?
• Which round did they enjoy the most?
• What does this game reveal about leadership?