Johnnie Moore


Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

I’m back in catch-up mode with Reverb10. Here’s the day 3 prompt: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture smells voices noises, colors).

This is a tough one but I’ll go with the one that first came to mind, even if it’s more intellectual than sensual and I’m going to pass on the texture stuff.

I was in Sri Lanka, running a big workshop with Viv. There were delegates from all over the world, and we had an awesomely permissive brief to explore complexity through playback theatre and improv.

Everyone spoke great English, even though for many it was a second language. And we started to sense that this was subtly inhibiting how people participated. It’s just harder when it’s not your native tongue.

We reached a point where needed another way to explore the idea of “different ways of knowing”. And we thought of playing gibberish games – because we thought this get us past the way English was limiting engagement.

In improv, when you speak gibberish you avoid using any known language, but you do try to be saying something real and not merely making strange noises. There’s a knack to it, and all sorts of things to learn from the endeavour. And in the challenge, everyone would be on a level playing field: your native tongue would be help to you in a gibberish game.

We tried a few different games and loved the results. Suddenly, people who’d been quite reticent earlier in the week came alive, vocally and physically. It looked like our hunch was right: the use of English had been limiting engagement.

Then we reached a point where Viv and I had run out of gibberish games we could remember. So she pulled out her iPhone and used an app that basically lets you plug in an imrov category, shake the phone, and it randomly suggests a game.

It threw up a game called Gibberish Reunion. We looked at each other, realising it was going to be a risk introducing a game we’d never heard of, still less played. But that’s the point of improv: get to the edge of your comfort zone.

Essentially, everyone pretends to be at a class renunion, many years on. They slowly recognise familiar faces and gradually start to share stories with increasing warmth and enthusiasm, until eventually they begin singing the old songs they sang as students. All done in gibberish.

What this set off is hard to describe but it was hilarious and heartwarming. It ended in a remarkable tribal dance around some imaginary campfire in which absolutely everyone was completely engaged.

The best improv for me is not the cleverest line or action. It’s when you see people playing it revealing more of themselves in their play, and when you sense something really spontaneous taking place. These people were not just roleplaying to meet each other with warmth. Viv and I pretty much fell over laughing and the feeling was remarkable. We’d gone beyond words in a way we’d not expected.

Share Post

More Posts

Rambling thoughts on models

I went down to Surrey on Friday for long walk and pub lunch with Neil Perkin. We’d originally planned to run a workshop about agile

Planning as drowning

Antonio Dias offers a fascinating description of what goes wrong when drowning: What separates a swimmer from someone drowning is the way a swimmer acknowledges

Leadership as holding uncertainty

Viv picks out some nice ideas from Phelim McDermott on the subject of leadership. “We love the security of the illusion that someone is in

Concreting Complexity

I’ve been thinking about the urge to scale things lately – see here and here. I understand the concern with being able to effect big

The absurd

In moving house, I radically downsized my collection of books which I can highly recommend. I used to think I’d one day find a reason

Rewriting history…

Thanks to my Improvisation friend Kelsey Flynn I rambled into a letter cited in Margaret Cho’s Blog (go to Letter #1): Lately it seems like

Who says fun is dangerous?

I wanted to share this email doing the rounds this morning… AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE After every flight Qantas pilots fill out a form called a gripe

Yes, and…

A quick ramble on the nature of paradox, inspired by a blog on the value of both fear of the new and curiosity

More Updates

Emotional debt

Releasing the hidden costs of pent up frustrations


Finding the aliveness below the surface of stuck

Johnnie Moore


I’m an uncomplaining fellow so I’ve not told you that for the last 2 weeks I’ve had very little heating working here at home due to plumbing gremlins. The thermal

Johnnie Moore

Manure madness

The folks at Fight The Bull are up to more mischief. Yep we’re here to cover all the action of Manure Madness an annual tournament that will crown the company

Johnnie Moore


I think there are way too many really bad diagrams in the world of organisations. Visual explanations can be extremely useful and effective. The famous London Underground map is a

Johnnie Moore


Steve Ellis has a very nice summary of soundbites from the recent Dachis Social Biz Fest. Stuff like this really does feel like a good substitute for going to events