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Serious work calls for serious play
Episode 51st August 2022 • Why Play Works. • Lucy Taylor and Tzuki Stewart
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Tommy Crawford and Brian Fitzgerald of Dancing Fox work with individuals and organisations tackling problems as diverse and weighty as climate change and childhood cancer. But the often isolating nature of the work makes play all the more vital.

Tommy is a published poet, shamanic storyteller, and a fountain of wild ideas. Brian spent 35 years at Greenpeace, and wrote the children's book, The Moon Candy Rebellion.

Things to consider

  • How can we find our way back to our childhoods, and hold hands with our childhood selves?
  • Play can be an antidote to burnout, and a route to healing.
  • An invitation can be more powerful than persuasion and coercion.
  • Work with more children and animals!

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Transcripts

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Hello, welcome to the show.

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My name's Lucy Taylor from Make Work Play.

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And my name is Tzuki Stewart from Playfilled.

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Together, we are Why Play Works, the podcast that speaks to

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people, radically reshaping.

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The idea of work as play.

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Today, I'll be speaking to Tommy Crawford and Brian Fitzgerald, the

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co-founders of Dancing Fox, a ragtag collective of artists and activists

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who believe in the power of outrageous amounts of beauty, generosity,

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and mischief to change the world.

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Tommy is a published poet, shamanic storyteller, and a fountain of wild ideas.

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Brian spent 35 years at Greenpeace putting his hands to work as everything from

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a deck can to a hot air balloon pilot, to the head of digital communications.

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And as the author of a magical children's book, the Moon Candy Rebellion.

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Together, they're on a mission to bring a healthy dose of play and a big doop

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of magic to the business of creating a thriving, joyful and downright

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delicious feature for all beings.

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In this episode, we explore the power of invitations, why we need to work

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with more animals and small children and freedom within constraints.

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Tommy and Brian, welcome to the show.

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It is so nice to have you here.

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How are you doing?

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Hello?

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Yeah, we're doing great.

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Thank you.

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hello?

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finishing up breakfast and feeling, uh, well clearly quite,

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um, quite shimmery and shiny.

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I love shimmy and shiny.

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I haven't actually had my breakfast yet, so I hope my stomach doesn't

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rumble into the microphone.

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Um, Yeah, it's such a pleasure to have you here.

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We do a lot of work together.

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And so to be interviewing you is kind of nice and different and feels fun.

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Um, I'd love it.

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If we could start by you describing in your own words, what it is you

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do and how play feeds into that.

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So we are Dancing Fox, which is a ragtag collective of artists, activists,

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and mischief makers of all shapes and sizes based all around the world.

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and we collaborate with nonprofits, with charities and foundations to

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help them create culture change, um, through something we like

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to call beautiful disruptions.

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And in essence, this is about co-creating big, bold, and bodacious ideas in

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service to a more beautiful world.

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Oh, I love the way you described that.

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And that idea of beautiful disruptions just sounds so

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magical, and kind of counterculture

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Love that word counterculture.

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But at the same time, I think in some ways, we're looking for the

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stories of humanity at its best.

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Yeah.

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And humanity at its, you know, greatest potential and the

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future at its greatest potential.

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And in some ways that shouldn't be counter culture.

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That should be mainstream.

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Yeah, I love that.

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I, I just couldn't agree more like how do we mainstream that?

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And I know that you guys are fighting a good fight around

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taking that idea mainstream.

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Yeah, I'd love to a, I'd love to hear what does play mean to

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Play is, is a complicated word for me.

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I grew up in a, in a, in a somewhat sort of Calvinist household where you were

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taught that, you know, plays for children.

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You put away your toys at some point and you become adult

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and you don't play anymore.

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No.

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I know, and I think, I think it took me a long time to realize what an

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important role play has in, in learning and creativity and all these things.

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And I remember, you know, when I first started getting back into computers

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back in the 1980s, um, when the first.

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Brian's dating himself a bit, here.

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I am, but I bought the whole earth software catalog and it was just,

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it was, it was, it was literally a book of all the software you

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could buy in 19, whatever it was.

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And, um, and it started with games.

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And it had this impassioned argument for why are we starting with games because

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games are how we learn as children.

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They're how we explore.

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And this is exactly how people are exploring this new technology of

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computers and programming and all that is through play and through games.

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Yeah.

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That's so interesting.

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Cause I think, you know, I think you are not alone in that experience

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of having that break from your playfulness as you enter adulthood.

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And it's just really interesting to me, kind of what takes people back.

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So for you, it was games, Tommy, what does play, like what does play mean for you?

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Have you had, have you had that similar break or have you managed

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to keep hold of your playfulness?

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I think it's an, it's an ongoing.

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dance basically.

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Um, there, you know, as Brian was saying in the, in the culture that we live in

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there is definitely, um, almost a, a taboo around play or a fear around play.

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Um, And very often we're encouraged to, to put on the mask of professionalism

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and sacrifice big aspects of ourself in order to be seen as, um, to be taken

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seriously and to be seen as professional.

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Um, and so I think the dance is always to.

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You know, to bring that part of you that, that did maybe go to university

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or who has done all of these courses or who does have all of this, this

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knowledge and this lived experience.

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And then to hold hands with the, the ultimate muse, the kind of the inner child

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within us, the spontaneous, the playful, the cheeky, the mischievous aspect of our.

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and find a way to, to move in the world where both of them have their

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place and in doing so hopefully inspire others to, to unleash their own in a

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mischief a little bit more as well.

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Yeah.

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I love that idea of kind of holding those two things together and allowing those

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two things to move along kind of parallel tracks and being able to, for them to

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cross and interweave with each other.

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So I'd love to hear from you how work and play relate to each other.

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So we've touched a little bit on it.

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You know, you said Brian, your upbringing, there was this, um, sense that there's

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a division between the two, but like how do you see that now that relationship?

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See that?

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Yeah, I, I mean, I, I think I've learned to reweave them together.

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Work and play and I think that's, um, yeah, I think it's a wonderful, wonderful

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approach to particular creativity.

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Um, you know, play is this space where you are, um, you're, you're getting

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out of your world of right angles and direct paths and things that you're

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familiar with, and you're going into that sort of more forest, like space

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where there's stuff rustling in the, in, in the bushes, and he sort of.

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Curiously go after and chase after that.

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It might be something that's gonna chase you.

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It might be something you wanna chase after you don't know it kind of.

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Um, and it's, it's just a, it's a more refreshing way of approaching

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any kind of work challenge to say, okay, how can I make this playful?

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How can I make this an, an adventure?

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How can I turn this into something that my coworkers and I are

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enjoying rather than a, a slog

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you say that I'm like, can I come and play?

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It feels so, um, delightful and delicious.

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Um, and I'm totally with you about the right angle versus

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these more kind of natural path.

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And wiggles, I've got a slide I sometimes use in a presentation

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that's like down with the right angle.

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But it's so interesting and I love that metaphor of the forest that you've used.

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So I mean, Dancing Fox works with some really serious, like

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sometimes harrowing issues.

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So climate change, childhood cancer, human rights, and I guess playfulness

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is not an obvious quality that you would associate with that sort of work.

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Why do you think it is important?

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And why have you chosen that as a core value in, you know,

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how you show up in your work?

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So I think there's a, a couple of ways that we work with play the most basic

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is the, that being a change maker, being an artist, being an activist can often

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be incredibly challenging and tiring.

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We know people who, for example, spend day after day looking at,

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um, the latest figures when it comes to ocean acidification.

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And it's a, you know, it's a bleak picture and they they're, they're staring at

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it on a screen week after week, often alone and, and contemplating all of the

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consequences in terms of what this is gonna do to the coral, what effect this is

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gonna have on all of the beautiful Marine life, those wild and wondrous creatures,

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what effect it's gonna have on us.

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And so I think when we gather together as community when we're looking to

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collaborate, when we're looking to create something new, having a playful element

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to it can be extremely cathartic, it can be healing, it can be rejuvenating.

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So I think play has a really important role to play there.

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We also use it very often as a teaching tool.

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You know, we know that we don't tend to hold statistics and facts and a hundred

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slide presentations, um, particularly well, but one way that we do hold

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information really well is through story.

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So we use a lot of stories and another way is through play.

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And Brian runs a, a fantastic game, for example, called the, um, or

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we call it the impossible game.

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And basically, uh, you work in pairs.

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People are kind of handcuffed with pieces of string together and they

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have to break free from each other.

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And the way that the, the game often evolves and we've played this game with

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many different groups, the way that it often evolves is that at certain points,

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someone says often quite quietly at first, you know, this is impossible.

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It can't be done.

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And that kind of ripples through the room.

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And as it does, you see more and more people actually stop trying.

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They just give up and kind of stand around.

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And the thing is that the game actually is possible.

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It's an old nautical trick that you can use to get out of it.

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Um, but when people believe that something's impossible,

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they often don't even try.

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They give up, they become apathetic.

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And, you know, you can share that with people on a slide,

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but it's much more powerful to experience that through a game.

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So.

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play and game can be a really fantastic way to, to teach people

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particularly when we're doing trainings.

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But I think, you know, fundamentally and, and perhaps most

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importantly, we work with play.

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We, we have play as one of our core values because play and

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creativity are intricately connected.

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It's hard to find one without the other.

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And when we're, when we are looking to solve.

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Incredibly challenging complex issues like climate change, like deforestation,

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um, when we're looking to change, uh, whole ways of thinking around

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women's rights or children's rights or whatever it might be, our imagination

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is the most powerful tool that we have and play can act like a key that can

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unlock the door to our imagination.

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So in that sense, it's, it's crucial that we

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Wow.

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There's so much in what you just said.

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So there's like this healing aspect of play, which I just

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find, you know, so powerful.

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Um, this sense that play gives us like the fuel we need to keep going.

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And then that lovely idea of play and creativity being so intricately connected

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and that imagination piece, which is so important, I think, particularly in

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the work that you do, like expanding people's sense of what's possible.

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I mean, I know you work with clients.

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and organizations across the NGO spectrum.

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Do you have any stories that you could share with us about where you've seen

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play having a really powerful impact?

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Well, I mean, one of my favorites was a, a, a campaign we ran at Greenpeace,

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called Green My Apple, and it was aimed at Apple computers, trying to get

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them to remove these toxic chemicals from their, from their product line.

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We were working on electronic waste and these horrible impacts of ewaste going

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into China and Africa, where mostly, you know, kids were disassembling these things

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and cooking them for, to recycle some of the minerals, horrible conditions really,

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really, really toxic when these particular chemicals were released into the air.

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And so, uh, Gelo Koppe and Tom Dole, who are just these tremendous members of the

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digital team at the time had, had been talking about, you know, we, we have to

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go after apple, we have to go after apple.

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And the, the sort of policy wants were like, well, you know, apple represents

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only like 2.4% of the total toxic stream that's going into these EWA sites.

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So we really, you know, we have to, we have to focus on Hewlett Packard and all

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of these, no name sort of, sort of brands.

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But Gelo and Tom spotted this opportunity for play with Apple

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that didn't exist with anybody else.

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And instead of attacking the company and going bad, apple bad apple, which would

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be the normal sort of Greenpeace response, they cooked up this communication strategy

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of, I love my Mac, I just wish it came in green and they wanted to invite.

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All of the, and apple users in these days were all the, the creative class.

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They were the advertising people and all that stuff.

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And they thought, okay, we'll invite them to make ads and to create posters

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and social media stuff and all that kind of stuff for them to share.

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And I was at South by Southwest and I happened to meet a designer who had

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worked on the original Apple website.

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And I was telling her about that.

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And she was like, oh, can I play, can I play it?

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So she designed this perfect mock up of the apple website, um,

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with all of these invitations to people to create these things.

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And it was hilarious.

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The stuff that people came out with was just wonderful.

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It was beautiful in the same way that apple ads were and it was invitational

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and it was nudging Steve Jobs to the point that he was just absolutely,

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you know, dug in, furious at one of the meetings with our campaigners,

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because this was just something he didn't wanna do, and he didn't want

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to be sort of strong, armed into it.

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And yet, without sort of any fanfare we noticed one day an announcement goes up

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on Apple's website saying the banning all the chemicals that we asked them to ban.

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And to this day, they brag on their website about the fact that

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they don't include any of these chemicals in their product line.

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And they became this, you know, 900 pound gorilla in the industry for advocating for

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the complete banning of these chemicals.

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So it was just a beautiful example of how, when you invite people to

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play, you can have real impact in the

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Yeah, and real impacts in a way that is so not coercive.

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Like I love what you've just described about you were not strong arming.

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Well, you weren't strong arming.

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You were making mischief and doing something delightful and created a space

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where they felt they could make that change, which I think is quite different.

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How these things are often approached.

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That's a beautiful example.

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I mean, maybe just a bit.

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Build on that.

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What, what we've noticed over the years is that a lot of activism is

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essentially trying to force someone to do something that they don't want to do.

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And then once you've managed to force them into doing the thing that they

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didn't want to do that you wanted them to do, you then have to watch them like

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a Hawk to make sure that they actually do the thing that they didn't want

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to do, but that you wanted them to.

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And not only is this incredibly time consuming and

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exhausting, but it's not fun.

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You know, burnout within activism.

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Circles is a very common thing.

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People are so passionate about what about the world that they're trying to create.

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Um, and this way of, of campaigning is it can be incredibly draining, incredibly

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exhausting, um, and not very joyful.

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And what we.

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What we've seen time and time again, is that the most successful

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campaigns that we've run and the most successful campaigns that we've

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seen and that we've appreciated have this more invitational element to it.

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So it's about how can we paint a picture of a world that's so delightful so

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compelling, so magnetic, so downright delicious that people are actually

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queuing up to be part of creating it and seeing as well, how their unique

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gifts and skills are actually crucial to birthing that new world into being.

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So nice.

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And I think that that idea of.

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Making beautiful invitations can be applied anywhere, you know, any behavior

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change, whether it's in an activist context or in a, um, or a different

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type of organizational context, just if you are looking to make change,

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how do you make it invitational?

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How do you make it enticing, which it sounds like, um, is what you are doing.

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Um, any other examples of kind of where you've seen play

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have a really powerful impact.

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This one's a much smaller example, but, um, it still makes me smile to this day.

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So this was also at Greenpeace and it was at a, a big global meeting

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that I was at in, in Taipei.

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And.

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There was about 60 people in the room.

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And it happened that one of the, the women who was helping to curate

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and, and organize the, the meeting, her daughter was there for the three

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days, and most of the time she was with a relative or some kind of, um,

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babysitter who was taking care of her.

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But at this particular moment, she was actually in the room with us.

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And there was two beautiful crusty gnarled campaigners kind of going

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at it in the room at one point, arguing about, you know, whether we

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should do this thing or that thing.

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the whole thing got quite heated.

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And almost as if she was responding to that, Naomi, the little girl just got

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up and it was a long kind of thin room and she just put her arms out to the

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side and started racing up and down the room as an airplane, making, you

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know, the suitable kind of no noises.

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And it just totally transformed the energy within the room, and brought

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that, brought that levity, brought that play, brought that cheekiness.

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Cuz like I say, it was almost like she could sense what was

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going on and was like, I know what will help here, the airplane.

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and.

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You know, ever since, you know, we, we love having kittens,

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kids, puppies, in our play shops.

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We ran one in, uh, New England a few years back where we had

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nine people and three dogs.

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So kind of, uh, three to one ratio of humans to puppies.

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And I can highly recommend that ratio to anyone who's looking

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to, uh, come up with great ideas.

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The other interesting sort of side effect of, of dogs in the room, we use these,

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um, little noisemakers called shaky eggs to show appreciation instead of applause.

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And it turns out applause freaks out dogs all the time.

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They love the shaky eggs.

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They were fantastic.

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That's so good.

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Um, and it's really interesting just cuz on that, cuz I think.

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During the many lockdowns we've had, there has been this infiltration of

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kids and pets and the washing has come into everybody's working lives.

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And I, I, I, yeah.

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I wonder, like, have you seen, has, has that had an effect, this

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kind of merging of home and work?

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Hmm.

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I think it's so healthy.

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Um, you know, I think that, uh, that, that severance of our perception of

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colleagues into, you know, work people, this is someone I only know, you know,

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it's so one-dimensional, and it ignores, you know, the, the, the challenges they

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face and their fullness of their lives.

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And, you know, the more we erase that border, I think the more

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compassionate, the more generous we're gonna be in treating each other.

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I just think it's, I think it's wonderful.

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I think it's absolutely great that it's harder to see that, that

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split of home life and work life.

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Oh, Brian had such a big smile on his face when he was saying

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that I gave me goosebumps.

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as challenging as Zoom has been, it was a, a beautiful constraint.

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In many ways.

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It was an invitation to be more creative, to be more playful, to find new ways.

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And we were running a play shop with a group last week and talking about exactly

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this and, and one of the, the women at the table said that the best, you know, zoom

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inspired game, that she'd played as a, kind of an Energizer between these kind of

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long sessions was to go to your fridge and to find the oldest item in your fridge.

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And then the person with the oldest item won and she had some pickles from 2012.

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she, so she, uh, she was the queen of the game.

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Um, but you know, it's just a great little example of how constraints can

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be invitations to playfulness and to

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Yeah.

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And there's so much humanity in that isn't there.

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Like there's humanity, there's vulnerability, there's messiness.

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It's like the complete opposite to your posed professional LinkedIn profile,

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I think there was definitely a moment when she was, you know, she picked the

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pickles up and was like, oh God, do I, you know, do I dare bring them back?

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Or do I do I pretend that it's this two week old cottage cheese instead, you know?

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But she, she had the courage to bring the,

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I feel like she deserved that prize.

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Yeah, but I would've won that game for sure.

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I think I've got some jalapeno Marade that's been in the refrigerator

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since probably in the 1990s.

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No, Brian.

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Oh my goodness.

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Okay.

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You win the prize for

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yay.

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sure.

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Um, so how do you create the conditions for people to feel

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able to play and safe to play?

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Well, you actually taught us something on this, uh, Lucy Taylor.

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Um, you did, um, you were quoting Keith Johnson.

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Um, one of the great thinkers of improv, um, but he, he, he had that

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wonderful, um, set of, of, of guidelines.

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Let go notice more.

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And use everything.

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And when you think about, you know, uh, how a kid plays and how they can

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turn a, you know, a set of Popsicle sticks into a moon, rocket, and

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they're, you know, they're doing just that, they're letting go of any

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sort of constraints or restrictions.

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Those are Popsicle sticks, those are not rockets.

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Um, you know, okay.

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Erase that rule, let go of it.

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Um, notice the fact that they're there and, and, and use them.

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I.

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So much of activism in particular would benefit from that on the macro level.

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You know, we use it in a micro level with the yes end game and all these ways

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that we create, um, sort of, uh, the conditions for creativity in a play shop.

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But if you think about, you know, Most activists that I know can be very, very

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tunnel visioned on their, their issues.

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And the only thing they see, the only thing they can imagine ha

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wanting to impact or wanting to have anything to do with is this very,

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very narrow stream of interests.

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And if they just let go and notice more about, you know, what are the

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conversations that are happening in society that aren't about your issue?

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Could be, that could be, you know, that you could tack onto, um, how can you use

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this, you know, wonderful thing that's happening over here as a springboard for

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your ideas for a more beautiful world.

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And I just think, yeah, more improv in the activism world

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would be a really good thing.

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Yeah.

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Yay preaching to the conversed.

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Yeah.

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I love those principles, which actually Rob Pointon coined, let go notice

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more, use everything just so powerful.

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So in your play shops, you bring artists and activists together.

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Tell us why do you do that?

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What's the impact that, that has?

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This comes from a very personal place and from, from our lived experience.

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So in terms of our lived experience, what we've seen time and time again,

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is that both artists and activists are seeking to change the status quo.

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Um, and that they are, again, they have this kind of secret accord, a lot

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of what they're trying to do, a lot of the skill set is similar, but how

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they go about doing it is different.

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And when you bring these two groups together in a little kind of alchemical

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cauldron and, and give it a little stir, magical things always happen.

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One very obvious thing that happens is immediately people start to speak

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differently because if you gather, for example, 10 experts on nuclear disarmament

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together, they will start speaking in a particular jargon and they will use

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certain words, certain phrases, certain acronyms that are often very exclusive.

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You know, the rest of us have no idea what they're talking about when

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they talk about the, the 1947 Basil convention or whatever it might be.

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And when you introduce non-issue experts into the room in this case,

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artists, they immediately have to start speaking in a language that is

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closer to the language that we will ultimately speak to the broader world in.

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So that's kind of a, a fantastic side effect.

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But, but more than that, you're bringing together people who have a lot of

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expertise on the issue with people who maybe know nothing about the issue.

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But have, uh, a skill set around communicating complex ideas in simple,

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compelling, and beautiful ways who are good at getting their hands dirty, kind

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of immediately building and creating and making, you know, thinking with their

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hands, um, thinking with their hearts.

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And when you couple that with the expertise, you get these

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incredible results coming out of it.

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So we've, we've run these all around the world with artists, from all

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around the world, and time and time again, we are blown away by what.

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What they managed to come up with.

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And on a very personal level, when I was growing up, I, um, was working

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as a creative and as an artist.

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And I always looked at these organizations like Greenpeace or

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WWF or whatever it might be and was like, oh, I'd love to get involved.

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How can I help them?

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You know, I'm totally aligned with what they're doing.

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I wanna help protect the rain forest, or in the use of toxic chemicals or

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whatever it might be, but it never really felt like it was possible to get

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in either you could sign a petition or you could give them money, or if you

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looked at the, the job page, it was for things like climate scientists or

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ocean acidification expert, and, you know, all of these kind of things that I

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certainly was not and would never be, and.

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So much of the time, what we see is people are not looking to be convinced

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they're looking for an invitation.

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And so what we are doing here in the play shops is offering that invitation to.

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All of these creative people and saying, you know, come play with

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us, come lend your gifts, your abilities, your talent, your time.

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You know, we'll give you some money for it as well, because we think that's

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important to compensate artists for their time, but come lend your gifts

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and your time to this beautiful cause.

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And let's see what we can come up with together.

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Yeah, that's so beautiful.

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And, and to you use your word, like what a gift, what a gift you're giving

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people who are artists and creating a space in a world that they don't.

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Naturally necessarily feel invited into.

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So I know one of the other things that you do in your work

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is you work in wild spaces.

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So you try and shake people out of the kind of conventional settings

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that they find themselves in.

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Why do you do that?

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We get a lot of people come to us.

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And the reason that they often come to us is because they're stuck.

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And oftentimes that's because they're having the same conversations

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with the same people in the same building, sat around the same table,

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and expecting something different to happen and it's just not.

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And so we, we do all kinds of different things to help people to

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break out of that the, you know, the, the world of the right angle.

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And one of them is to take them out of their usual space.

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So we never hold.

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Play shops in their office where kind of the ghosts have failed meetings

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can kind of come back to haunt them.

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We take them we take them to ideally these wild spaces, because in our

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experience, what we've seen is that wild spaces breed wild ideas.

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And part of the reason for that is cuz you invite in the more than human

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world, you give them space at the table to talk to you and through you.

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And we've run these on olive farms in forest.

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We ran one on a boat in the BOS for, with swim breaks and

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yes, please.

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And what, what these spaces encourages for us to, to be more agile, to be

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more spontaneous and to be more human.

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Just to give you an example from the, the one that we ran on a boat.

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We went into that, thinking that we might be able to present a few slides.

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There was nowhere to present slides.

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So slides, you know, literally went out of the window.

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Then, you know, we were standing there, we were presenting at certain points

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and then the captain would turn on the engine to kind of turn the boat round

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a bit and we'd have to be shouting over the sound of the, the engine or

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we'd have to huddle everyone super close, you know, come here, come here.

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Or a post-it note would fly into the ocean.

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So someone has to dive in and go get it.

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And.

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All of that kind of beautiful chaos, again, it loosens these, it

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loosens the mask of professionalism.

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It loosens the kind of the rigidity that can happen.

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And it gets people into that more agile fluid space where creativity can flourish.

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Yeah, and it, it was just a beautiful outcome from that one as well.

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It was an incredibly creative tour around the Mediterranean, um, that

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was celebrating sunlight and food and music of, of the region as part of,

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you know, an effort to talk about solar power, but not with solar panels and,

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and the usual sort of electronic stuff.

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It was celebrating the sun and, uh, yeah, it was just, it was a lovely experience.

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Absolutely great.

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Wow, what a beautiful way of theming something and elevating the topic

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that you're trying to tackle.

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So you work a lot with stories, and stories are a way of playing.

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I'd love to just understand a bit more about, you know, how you use stories.

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Why have you settled on stories.

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Well, I think they're an incredibly subversive technology.

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Um, stories are these things that we've been telling each other for

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centuries and centuries, as you know, coded messages about what it means

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to be a good human, how to survive.

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What the collective sense of what's right, what's normal and what's possible is.

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And stories, when they shift those things, when they shift the idea

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of what's right, and what's normal, and what's possible become these

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incredible sort of drivers of change.

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Because you know, all social change in some sense is just

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making the weird normal.

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Making the normal weird taking a fringe idea and bringing it into the

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mainstream and taking a mainstream idea and saying, we don't believe

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that anymore and pushing it out.

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And that's all it is.

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And so stories are these incredibly powerful tools for reshaping

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that public imagination of what everyone believes collectively to

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be right and possible and normal.

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And I'd love to know about the biggest surprises that you've had in your

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work, kind of with storytelling and playful, mischievous storytelling.

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What has kind of, you know, really taken you by surprise?

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Oh, for me, this is easy.

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It was a, um, it was a workshop that was done quite a while ago

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at when I was at Greenpeace.

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But, um, somebody in the HR department had the idea that it would be fun

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to bring in boom Chicago, which is an Amsterdam based, uh, improv.

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Um, theater and, um, at the time the people behind Ted Lasso were actually

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at boom Chicago and I have a feeling I'm not entirely sure, but I think one

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of them was actually in the workshop, but they came in with this incredibly

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radical observation about you, activists, you're all about no, you're

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all about no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

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And you bring that into your creative processes.

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You bring that in to your internal culture in your internal meetings and we're

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gonna teach you something called yes.

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And, and they taught us this, this practice of, you know, accepting

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whatever your colleague says and building on it instead of rejecting it.

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And wow.

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It just changed the way we held brainstorms.

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It changed the way we interacted with each other.

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I really took it to heart and it was just, it was, yeah, it

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was a, a complete revelation.

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And how they managed because they're in improv artists, how they managed to get

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into our heads and know that this is what was happening behind the scenes, I think

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to this day, I'm just, I'm it's it was an absolute Marvel and it was so much fun.

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Oh, that does sound so much fun.

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And I love that.

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That was so powerful and that really interesting frame

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and applying it to activism.

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I think what, what continues to surprise me is how.

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How much of a, an act of rebellion play can be, and how, how taboo

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play can still be in some circles.

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Just to give you a, a recent example, we've been collaborating with a, a

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wonderful client based over in, um, in the us, uh, a foundation over

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there and helping them to uncover their organizational story, and as

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part of that, we work with kind of helping them to, to articulate what

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are the most important values for you.

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And during that process, we suggested play, and it was just incredible to

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watch this, this really open minded, brilliant creative group of people,

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just kind of all retreat backwards and get into that, into that way of

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thinking of, you know, like this is a very serious issue and yes, of course

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we do want to be a little bit like this, but you know, this is impact impacting

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people's lives and all of the rest of it.

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And you know, this is a client, the, the executive director on our first

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call with him nicknamed me hunky Jesus.

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And

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he does look a bit like hunky Jesus, listener.

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in all of the follow up emails.

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He writes, you know, dear Brian and hunky Jesus.

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So, you know, this is a, a, a group, an organization led by someone who

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clearly has a sense of mischief and play and, and the same with the team.

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And yet when we try and say like, could this be one of the, the values that you

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embody and that you bring to this work, there's a kind of contraction, or a kind

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of, yeah, this worry that we won't be seen as serious enough or professional enough

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or taking people's lives seriously enough.

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And I think that is, it's a great mirror for ourselves to constantly come back

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to, as we've been saying time and time again, to this invitation to bring this

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Apollo aspect of rational and logic and, um, you know, He's got the, the bow

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and the arrow and he shoots his arrow at a target, so he is very focused.

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And then combining that with this Dian energy of wildness and play and

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spontaneity and how we can weave those two together in service of creating

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the change that we want to see in the world, because ultimately, you

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know, all of us on this call know.

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We don't wanna be part of any revolution where there's no dancing.

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And there's a quote that I heard, um, that I love is this idea that

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the role of the artist is to make the, the revolution irresistible.

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And so much of what is needed is a revolution of sort away from where we

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are now away from the status quo towards another way of being, and play and joy

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and mischief and beauty are all parts of creating that irresistible invitation.

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Matt is such a beautiful, um, image, which I really love.

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So if we are gonna create this revolution, like where do we start?

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So someone.

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sitting here listening, thinking, oh, this sounds amazing.

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But where to begin?

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What would you, what would you suggest?

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Uh, I'd say hire Lucy or hire us.

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So no, no.

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In

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I didn't queue him up for that.

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all seriousness, I think it's really helpful to have a guide.

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Um, part of the reason we're called Dancing Fox is that the fox is this

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animal that moves easily between these two worlds, the village and the forest.

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And, um, we like to think of ourselves as, you know, taking organizations

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out of the village of right angles and known paths and bringing them into that

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forest of creativity and then safely bringing them back with some treasure.

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And, you know, it can be very, very hard to Institute a new behavior

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on your own within an organization.

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And, you know, this was a trick that one of my colleagues at Greenpeace

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used to use, you know, he'd get tired of saying something a thousand times

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and getting no decision in his favor, so he'd bring in an outside consultant

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to say exactly the same thing and everybody'd go, Hmm, very interesting.

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It's a brilliant trick.

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Um, but sometimes that outside voice can bring you into a new state of being

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in a way that it can be hard to, uh, it can be hard to do internally on

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Yeah.

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Okay.

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So you need playmates basically.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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So, do you have a playful practice that a listener can take and use

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and inject in their day to day?

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Something that you think is a kind of, gift to be shared?

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Hmm.

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Yeah, something that comes to mind is an exercise that I actually

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learn in a yoga class with Megan Curry when I was living out in Bali

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and it's called One Weird Thing.

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Um, and we use it often at the beginning of.

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Um, our play shops and any training or events that we are running

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as a way of helping people to introduce themselves to the group.

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Because what AF often happens when people do introductions is they say their name,

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they say their title, and oftentimes they're, you know, they're the executive

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director of X or the creative director of Y or the head of country of Zed.

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And they all sound very, very impressive.

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And what that does is it creates an atmosphere where oftentimes

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people, particularly the more junior people feel shy, um, about

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sharing their ideas, particularly their kind of half cooked ideas.

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But when it comes to creativity, we want to hear all of your ideas,

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including the bad ones, because of course the bad ones can be built upon.

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and added to, and they might inspire good ideas or they might be combined

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with another terrible idea to make a brilliant idea or whatever it might be.

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But we want to create the conditions where people feel safe and able to share.

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And what's beautiful about one weird thing is, again, it creates that shared

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humanity of, okay, you might be the CEO or the executive director or whatever

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it might be, but when you're walking along the road, you never tread on the

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cracks, or you refuse to read a newspaper that anyone else has touched before,

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or if you're eating your M and Ms.

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You have to eat them and color coordinated.

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So two yellows together, two reds together, two blues.

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And if you end up at the bottom of the packet with a spare blue, you give

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it away because you can't possibly eat a single blue, you know, like we

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get all of these wonderful examples.

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And you know, in some ways it's built on this idea that the only people

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that we think are normal are the ones that we don't know very well yet.

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And what it does is it allows us to see that we're all just

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a bunch of beautiful weirdos.

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And that gives us permission to share more vulnerably and more easily, which

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is crucial when it comes to creativity.

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So if people are running a workshop or having a meeting and they need to do a

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round of introductions, one with thing can be a great game that you can play

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that can open up and facilitate a space where creativity can really flourish.

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Yeah, I love that so much.

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Thank you for sharing.

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One, one quote that that's been coming up time and time again for me, um,

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ever since you asked us to be on the podcast is from TS Eliot, and he says

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all old men ought to be explorers.

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Um, and Yate said something similar, and I don't know why exactly this,

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this, um, this quote has kind of been whispering in my ears, but

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maybe it's something to do with.

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This invitation that as we get older, um, instead of, as our culture suggests, we

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should be getting more conservative and more sensible and more, you know, there

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is a tendency sometimes to become a bit more fossilized and kind of rigid the

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invitation is to get, you know, wilder and more nutty and more brilliant and

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more beautiful as we get older and to, to keep that, that twinkle in our eyes.

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And I think that's an invitation again to anyone listening, maybe you're

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hearing this and you're, and you're thinking that all sounds great, but

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that's more for, for the younger ones.

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It's, it's, it's the opposite.

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If anything, it's kind of, as we get older, the invitation is to become

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Wilder and to, to inspire the youth.

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You know, in, in, in tribal and in indigenous cultures, one of the reasons

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why the elders are actually able to run initiations for the younger

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members of the tribe is because they are more wise and wily and savvy

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and crazy than the younger ones.

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And that's what gives them the permission to actually to hold those ceremonies

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and invite them to say, this is what you could become when you get older,

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rather than them kind of running away and saying, you know, like we don't

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wanna be like you boring, boring adults.

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So I think there's a big invitation there.

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And, you know, we should always listen to TS Eliot and Yates if we get a chance.

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Beautifully summed up by another poem by Eliot.

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We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all, our exploring

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will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

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so Tzuki how was that for you?

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What did you hear?

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Oh, I think the, the biggest takeaway that I left with was how

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can we take this pursuit of finding beauty in the world more mainstream?

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I love this idea of it rather than being, you know, small pockets of

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joy that magical being confined in the world, how can we all.

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Find more beauty in the world and just make that a mainstream

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part of our disco stay to day.

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So I love that.

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So much of, of what Tommy and Brian spoke about resonated with me,

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around the kind of reconnection to play, putting it on the shelf.

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And how do we find our path back?

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And it was computer games, I think.

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That started to that was the catalyst.

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For Brian, I think, yeah.

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But yeah, he, he connected with something and that was how he kind of found his way

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back and reconnect with the idea of play.

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And it just made me think that anything can be a catalyst in our life, an event,

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an experience, a new interest, but that can be our, our path to reconnection.

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Yeah, I thought that was really powerful too.

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And I loved what Tommy said about, um, holding hands with our inner child and

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that idea of in doing that, we re-weave together our like clever cognitive logical

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selves with our kind of mischievous, joyful more playful, spontaneous self.

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And I just thought, wow, that's such a powerful image.

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And allowing those two things to travel together.

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Yes.

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I, the same, the, the power imagery, I think, was really

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strong in this conversation.

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When he talks about going into the forest space, leaving the village,

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going into the forest space.

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And he said, oh, you could hear the wind rustling in the trees.

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And it just got, I got goose pimples and it, it made me think of a book

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I'd read recently, actually by Steven Desus called not knowing.

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And it was all around kind of.

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Being on the edge.

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And only when we say we don't know something, can we create

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the space to kind of learn more?

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And I'm not doing this book justice, but there was just something about

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when you go into the forest, you don't know what's what's in there.

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What, what might happen.

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Um, and I love that, that idea of being on the edge and, and

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opening yourself up to not knowing.

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Yeah, that's amazing.

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And like the power, um, of the vulnerability that like exists there.

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I also really liked the idea of play as an anecdote to burnout and also a

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route to healing, which I think is not an obvious thing, but actually when he

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said it, I was like, yes, that feels so

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Absolutely.

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I think when we talk about play and playfulness and work, a lot

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of our minds go to, you know, kind of creative, fun zany environments

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where, you know, play is welcomed and embraced and part of how you do things.

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But really the question he was posing was actually it's when you're grappling

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with big, kind of depressing questions that's when playfulness is needed most.

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Yeah.

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And that idea of invitational activism and change.

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So how can you invite people into something irresistible

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and fun and delightful?

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That the power of the invitation that just kept popping up and it

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really gives something to ponder.

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And that in a lot of the work that we do, it's sort around kind of raising

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awareness of, of play and its incredible benefits and building the business

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case for it and planting the seed.

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And there's a lot of kind of persuading and sharing findings.

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And it just made me stop and ponder and reflect when he was

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talking about actually, the most powerful thing is an invitation.

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Because if I think about in our work, small invitations to just experience

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like 90 seconds of playfulness in a, in an environment that knob doesn't

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normally have it that has more impact.

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And it's not about persuasion and coercion.

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And it's, it's just about inviting it in small.

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Um, invitations can, can have such impact is what I was hearing from him.

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I love the idea of working with more children and animals.

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Yes, we need more

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I just think why

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need more dogs.

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Yeah.

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More Naomis.

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Yeah.

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The aeroplane.

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That was so funny.

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And I think on, on that, there's like this, the power of bringing unusual

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suspects into the spaces you inhabit in your kind of daily work life, you know,

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kids, animals, but then they were also talking about the power of bringing

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artists who, who don't know your world, but bring a completely different dis,

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more disruptive perspective to the things that you deal with every day.

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And maybe you've forgotten to ask those obvious questions,

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which can be really propelling.

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Absolutely.

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And, and It's just the kind of beauty and the creativity within constraints.

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And there was another conversation we had with Heidi Edmondson and she

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talked about 10 at 10, and that was doing 10 minutes of learning at 10.

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O'clock just a brand new idea, just share it in 10 minutes.

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And it was just a small slot of time, but you can, you can still do something

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really powerful with that time.

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And I loved his, their view on constraints around, let's just do

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something playful for just even two minutes at the start of a gathering.

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And that can completely shift the energy, but you don't need days and

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weeks to change things, you can just use these constraints really powerfully.

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Yes, I agree.

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And I love that provocation at the end to get Wilder as we get

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older, I'm definitely gonna try and take that into my coming decades.

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Thank you so much for listening today.

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