xDiscipline interview with Geoff Paine

On October 6 I’m running a pretty exciting design event in Melbourne called xDiscipline. The idea is: hear from and work with our special guests — philosopher/ethicist Dr. Steven Curry, political consultant/activist Tanja Kovac and actor/science communicator Geoff Paine — with the goal of learning how their disciplines can inform your own.

In the lead-up I’m doing some short interviews with our guests to give you a sense of who they are and what we might be discussing on the day.

Here’s the first, with Geoff Paine.

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1. xDiscipline is a design event focusing on the things we can learn from people in other kinds of careers. What’s one thing you’ve learned from someone in another discipline that you remember and/or use?

I briefly studied the dark arts of advertising copywriting and the skills are all about cutting to the chase with any communication. The ad briefing model — working out who you’re talking to before what you’re saying — is something I use all the time.

2. If you look back on your career so far, is there a pattern you can spot running through all the jobs and projects you’ve done? A particular skill you always end up employing?

I’m not sure it’s a skill, but I do have a thing when it comes to live audiences — I talk to them. Can’t help it. So those stage shows where you pretend the audience aren’t there are a real challenge. And I do have a weakness for improvisation. So other than breaking the fourth wall and not sticking to lines, I’m very disciplined.

3. What’s something you wish everyone understood about being an actor?

It’s not mystical. It’s all about solving a bunch of problems before you start performing. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you make the right choices.

4. xDiscipline is all about problem-solving. What’s a problem that keeps you up nights?

Getting people to accept that risk is part of all problem-solving. Most of us are risk averse. Learning from failed experiments is how we eventually succeed, but how do we encourage courage?

5. What do you hope to get out of xDiscipline?

The chance to see how other people attack/think about/deal with different challenges, and to hear their stories. Can’t wait.

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I met Geoff through my work in the TV/film industry, but I’ve been excited about his work with the BehaviourWorks unit at Monash University ever since he first told me about it. At the time I was starting to work in human-centred design, and the parallels between the work we’ve been doing were obvious.

Geoff says that, at xDiscipline, he’s planning to take you through an actors’ exercise designed to help you communicate more effectively!

David works in service/strategic design: experienceillustration.com. He draws comics at Squishface Studio: squishfacestudio.com. Other stuff: nakedfella.com.

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