Fear and anxiety are toxic for people and planet
Many of us live with fear and anxiety for years: dreading public speaking, worrying about looking stupid in front of colleagues, feeling embarrassed when we try to speak a foreign language, fearing and hating maths in equal measure. These fears hold us back in our work and relationships, and eat away at out self-esteem.
At the same time, we live in an increasingly complex and interdependent world that seems to become ever harder to understand, yet alone control. Climate change, habitat destruction and emergent human conflicts can appear both baffling and insurmountable. Without the ability to communicate, collaborate and create solutions together we risk endangering our way of life and the life of the planet.
Play reduces fear and anxiety, and brings us closer together
I believe that play, and playful learning in particular, can reduce our feelings of fear and anxiety, and open us up to the perspectives of others. I’ve used games and playful approaches in software development, innovation and language teaching and have seen the results: more relaxed, more confident, more creative people and teams. Now I want to share those approaches with the world.
I’m an actor, trainer and creative technologist in Cambridge (UK).
I studied economics in France and started my career in international marketing. I returned to university to study computer science and worked for many years in software development and user experience (UX) design, first in investment banking and then in journalism and automatic language translation. After becoming intensely curious about healthcare and ecology, I studied biology and genetics and worked for several years in cancer research and DNA sequence analysis, which combined data science, software engineering and genomics. After leaving a permanent job in bioinformatics in 2012 I worked as an independent consultant in software product design and development before taking a senior management role at a nonprofit organisation in 2017, covering marketing, technology, fundraising and communications.
In 2009 I took my first acting class and was immediately hooked. I went on to study improvised theatre (improv) and physical theatre, including studying under the great improv teacher Keith Johnstone. I saw immediately the potential for improv and other playful techniques to foster creativity, collaboration and teamwork. I began teaching improv at weekends and ran applied improvisation workshops at Agile and UX conferences. I also saw how improv could reduce the fear of speaking a foreign language, and ran open workshops in Cambridge and at The School of Life in London.
In 2015 I began working as a role play actor for training companies specialising in conflict and difficult conversations. I work in partnership with the trainers to put their teaching into practice: we ask participants for difficult conversations they’ve had or have coming up, and with a brief description of the context and relationship, I play the other person in the conversation. Working alongside the likes of Adelina Chalmers and Dr Rachel Morris, we’ve used this approach in healthcare, law, agriculture and engineering organisations, where I’ve played neurosurgeons, paralegals, farmers, finance directors and software engineers. Johnnie Moore calls this the “rapid prototyping of behaviour” because it gives the participant the opportunity to try many different approaches to see what works.
Along the way I’ve created technology in my spare time to educate and inspire children and adults in science, engineering, design and sustainability:
- DNA Disco is a web app to raise awareness of wildlife conservation by telling you which endangered animal you dance like. It converts your dance moves into a DNA sequence, which is then searched against a database of real genes from endangered species to find the best match. You’ll see the animal’s conservation status and be able to support organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to protect the animal and its habitat.
- Food Waste Hero is a school project to raise awareness of food waste and initiate change through behavioural economics, storytelling, design and technology. It features a Raspberry Pi internet-of-things device to weigh kitchen food waste bins and show how households are doing compared to the UK average.
Now (July 2018), I’m embarking on a new adventure that combines my love of training, facilitation and theatre to design and deliver playful learning experiences in language, culture, technology, innovation and communication.
If you’d like to know more, please get in touch.