Female Disruptors: Ari Mostov of WellPlay On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

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“It’s ok not to fit into a box”, my screenwriting professor Tyger Williams shared this with me my sophomore year of college. I was lamenting that my script didn’t neatly fit into any genre, and I thought it was a disadvantage. But as I saw with time, there’s no point trying to be like anyone else, be it in creative pursuits or business. Why fit into a box when you can be anything?

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ari Mostov.

Ari Mostov is an award-winning entertainment producer turned healthcare innovation strategist. Her strategic narrative and engagement designs improve outcomes for health seekers all over the world. She is committed to scaling healing through entertainment.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’m a film school dropout, having attended USC School of Cinematic Arts for two years before working on my first TV show as an associate producer. I spent nearly 10 years in Hollywood crafting stories for TV, films and games and I was lucky enough to work on the documentary film The Hunting Ground which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2016. The film chronicled the Title IX movement, where survivors of sexual violence on college campuses fought to change policy and culture. The film was endorsed by the White House and had a huge social impact campaign. The film even influenced national legislation. But most importantly, it changed people’s minds and behaviors around sexual violence. After witnessing what one great documentary film did for sexual violence, I knew I had to use storytelling for something just as complex and misunderstood — healthcare. I’m super fortunate that I grew up with a “doctor in my pocket”. My dad is a doctor, and I always had an easy time navigating healthcare since he was by my side advocating for me and explaining the medicine to me. I didn’t realize until I aged out of our family insurance how lucky I was and that no one else experienced healthcare the way I did. I decided in 2017 to bring Hollywood to healthcare, creating entertainment that changes behavior and helps everyone have a better healthcare experience.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I’m pioneering Health Entertainment: entertainment that changes people’s behaviors. Thanks to interactive technology, we can experience stories like never before. Now we can leverage our love of stories into something that improves our lives at the physiological level. It’s entertainment with improved health as an outcome. One of my favorite examples of health entertainment is Pokemon GO. A family friendly mobile game was able to increase physical activity for people of all backgrounds. It’s incredible what we will do if we have the right story. Beyond creating health entertainment, I help health organizations craft health innovation strategies, with a focus on consumer health experience, engagement and the metaverse. I approach strategy through a narrative lens, so that each organization knows the story they are creating and are a part of.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I do a workshop on storytelling for healthcare, and I use Star Trek as an example in the workshop. My first time doing the workshop I confused myself in front of my attendees, switching some of the key characters of Star Trek with the key characters of Star Wars. I accidently mentioned Darth Vader when I was supposed to be talking about Khan! I was so embarrassed. I laughed it off during the workshop, but now I always have a talk track for my workshops that I can refer to, so I don’t get confused. If you’re working off a deck, a talk track is a must.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’m incredibly grateful to my mentor Jennifer Kenny. I worked as Jennifer’s business manager for two years and had the opportunity to attend her workshops for emerging technology teams (such as autonomous driving, blockchain, AI etc) and women’s leadership. Jennifer helps people unlock their innovation potential and coaches teams on how to innovate better together. I will never forget a workshop in Arlington, where Jennifer told me that I was an excellent observer and that it would be an asset for me in my entrepreneurial journey. I didn’t think of myself as particularly observant, but she was right, and I’ve come to value my observations as a superpower.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think we typically think of disruption as product disruption — what’s the shiniest, newest, coolest gadget you can buy? But true disruption that shifts paradigms happens in our social structures: through attitude, culture, policy, and behavior change, and that takes work. Yet, that work isn’t nearly as valued as the newest B2B marketplace or crypto currency. We don’t need more products, yet these are the types of inventions that are lauded as disruptive when they don’t serve the most disenfranchised of our communities. I’m always cautious of “disruptive” technologies that only serve WEIRD demographics. WEIRD as in Western Educated Industrialized Resourced Democratic communities. Disruptive innovation that continues to maintain the status quo is not something I aspire to. Instead, I believe we need to value and invest in disruption of our social structures. Movements like radical justice, circulatory economy, mutual aid — these are the types of disruptions I want to see headlined in the Wall Street Journal or Tech Crunch. And guess what? Women, POC, LGBTQ, disabled folx are at the forefront of these social disruptions. It’s time to center them as the true disruptors of our society.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“When you design for privilege, you design for failure” — my friend Phil Corriveau shared this with me as we were discussing health product design. Too often, the people who are in the room making decisions are not the ones impacted by the decision. This is especially true for healthcare, where patients are left out of the conversation 99% of the time. In my narrative strategy work, I always incorporate patients into the narrative design process so that the narrative we’re creating for the company or product is a story that the patients want to be a part of.

“When in doubt, listen.” An advisor of mine, Mary Hentges who is the former CFO of PayPal, shared this with me whenever I was unsure of how to approach a meeting with a new prospective client or individual. I think listening — deep listening in particular — is not taught to us in school or in our relationships. We must actively cultivate our ability to read between the lines, listen for what’s is and isn’t being said, and meet the people were conversing with, where they are. This is also true in design work or producing entertainment. Listening allows the creative process to emerge at its own pace. Great stories can’t be rushed.

“It’s ok not to fit into a box”, my screenwriting professor Tyger Williams shared this with me my sophomore year of college. I was lamenting that my script didn’t neatly fit into any genre, and I thought it was a disadvantage. But as I saw with time, there’s no point trying to be like anyone else, be it in creative pursuits or business. Why fit into a box when you can be anything?

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I’m eager to create metaverse experiences that change behavior, particularly targeted towards trauma treatment and care. With the metaverse, I see enormous potential for activating neuroplastic changes in our physiology, helping people create new behaviors and develop healthier mechanisms for navigating trauma and stress. Because the metaverse provides a sandbox for us to experience new things digitally, we could practice new behaviors that might not be possible in our own present reality. Imagine you struggle with anger management, and you enter a metaverse experience that lets you practice different coping mechanisms, in the safety of a controlled digital environment. I’m eager to create safe spaces to cultivate new behaviors in the metaverse and see how those digital behaviors translate into reality.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I think women disruptors aren’t given the same media attention as male disruptors. Women who disrupt industries like fashion, beauty and design are not given nearly the same amount of media attention as software or product disruptors. I think there’s a general bias towards these industries as not being important or truly innovative, when, anytime there’s a woman disrupting an industry she’s also shifting the economy. For every dollar a woman earns, 80% goes back into her community. For every dollar a man earns, only 30% goes back to the community. Women disruptors deserve more media attention, especially if we look at how their disruption impacts the larger economy and community.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk. This book has completely transformed my understanding of trauma, mental health, and how humans navigate healing. Dr. Van Der Kolk is a leading researching in trauma and healing and his work on the different modalities for healing from trauma greatly impact my approach to health entertainment. Trauma is a fact of life, but we have the capacity to heal, and a lot of the best resources can be found in the most unexpected places — like children’s play. I’m eternally grateful for the work of Dr. Van Der Kolk and the entire trauma informed community and aim to always design health experiences from a trauma informed perspective.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I think the greatest lever for massive healing and thriving is to treat ACEs at scale and we can do this with entertainment. ACEs or Adverse Childhood Experiences was first studied over 30 years ago and is one of the leading indicators of an individual’s health across their lifetime. ACEs, such as death of a family member or surviving a violent environment, impact an individual’s physical and mental health and the overall quality of their life. It’s one of the biggest public health issues in our society: children are experiencing trauma and are not receiving the support they need to handle it. I look towards TV shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood that have taught children important developmental skills like sharing and dealing with conflict, but I want to create entertainment that specifically helps children — and adults! — handle trauma and learn important skills like emotional regulation and mindfulness. Fortunately, there’s been a lot of great educational entertainment programs out there that are helpful for managing adverse experiences, but I would love to see it become more mainstream and use interactive technologies like AR to make a bigger impact.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Worry is a misuse of the imagination” — Dan Zandra. I’ve always been an anxious person, yet when I started learning about innovation and emerging technologies, I saw that my anxiety was being misused and I could do something about it. As someone who always thinks of the worst situation, I started using my future-tripping tendencies to imagine the best possible outcomes: what would be possible if we could solve X, Y or Z? Worry and imagination are the same function, just in different frames. Instead of thinking about the worst thing that can happen, I try to focus on the best possible scenario. It’s not always easy but this quote helps me stay motivated and optimistic, even in challenging times.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow my blog: https://arimostov.medium.com/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.