Podcast by InnovatorsBox®

Curious Monica: Season 3

Ep 1: Master Play with Gary Ware

Curious Monica – a Podcast by InnovatorsBox®. Hosted by Monica H. Kang.

The Curious Monica podcast features candid conversations with innovators in thriving organizations across various industries. In each episode, host & founder of InnovatorsBox, Monica Kang interviews her friends in diverse fields about what they do and why they love what they do. If you’re curious too, you’ll gain incredible insight into the workplace patterns that can change the way you think about work, no matter what industry you’re in or who you are.

…and anywhere else you listen to Podcasts

Guest: Gary Ware

Founder and CEO of Breakthrough Play, Author of "Playful Rebellion"

Gary Ware, the Founder of Breakthrough Play is a corporate facilitator, keynote speaker, certified coach and author of the book Playful Rebellion: Maximize Workplace Success Through the Power of Play.

He has over 14 years experience in the corporate world and has partnered with some of the most well-known companies in the industry such as SAP, HP, Intuit, GoFundMe, and The United Nations Staff College.Gary assists teams with unlocking creativity, confidence, and collaboration via experiential methods that drive peak performance. He discovered that combining improv and play could be a powerful solution to achieve various business challenges and created workshops for his team as well as other executives in his network to not only deepen relationships but also improve creativity.

Gary was recently featured as one of the Top 100 HR influencers of 2021 by the Engagedly HR software platform.When he isn't leading workshops and keynote speaking, Gary enjoys learning magic and spending quality time with his wife Courtney and sons Garrett and Cameron on various adventures.

Meet Gary Ware, the creative force behind Breakthrough Play and author of ‘Playful Rebellion’ based in sunny San Diego. Gary’s passion for infusing play into the workplace stems from a diverse background in music, education, and web design. Fueled by the realization that his dream job wasn’t on the market, Gary took the innovative route and created his own path.

Join us for an engaging episode as Gary shares his journey from a dreamer to an influencer, reshaping how we perceive play in professional spaces. Discover how this maverick challenges the status quo, empowering leaders and corporations to revolutionize workplace engagement.

In honor of Black History Month 2024, Curious Monica is spotlighting Gary Ware and other trailblazing black leaders who are making a positive impact by forging unconventional paths. Follow Gary Ware on social media @GaryWare and explore more about his breakthrough ideas at breakthroughplay.com.

Ready to be inspired?

Subscribe today to Curious Monica by InnovatorsBox, hosted by the dynamic Monica H. Kang. Uncover more at curiousmonica.com.

Episode Shownotes

  1. Title of the Episode: Master Play with Gary Ware

  2. Host: Monica H. Kang

  3. Guest: Gary Ware, Founder and CEO of Breakthrough Play, Author of “Playful Rebellion”

  4. Key Topics Covered:

    • Celebration of Black History Month
    • Gary Ware’s journey into creativity and playfulness
    • Insights from Gary’s experiences at Epic Summit and his humorous content on Instagram
    • Discussion on maintaining mental well-being in the workplace and being an effective leader
    • Gary’s early life and how it shaped his creativity
    • Tips from Gary for enhancing creativity and overcoming creative blocks
    • The role of AI in creativity and innovation
    • The importance of representation in innovation and leadership
    • Recommendations for other black innovators to follow
  5. Highlights:

    • Gary Ware’s love for creativity from an early age and his path to becoming an innovator
    • Strategies for fostering creativity, such as listing ideas and challenging the brain with new prompts
    • The impact of AI on future facilitation and creativity
    • The significance of representation in creative and leadership spaces
    • Gary’s recommendations for other black innovators
  6. Quotes from Gary Ware:

    • “Creativity is problem-solving.”
    • “The practice of being creative is how we stimulate our brain.”
    • “Representation matters… it helps people in the room realize that someone like themselves can be there.”
    • “You can do it and you can do it through action.”
  7. Some people suggested that we should learn from:

  8. Resources Mentioned:

    • “Playful Rebellion” by Gary Ware
    • Epic Summit
    • Gary Ware’s Instagram for humorous content
  9. Contact Information for Gary Ware:

    • Instagram and LinkedIn
    • Website: BreakthroughPlay.com
  10. Closing Thoughts by Monica Kang:

    • Emphasis on surrounding oneself with innovative people
    • Invitation to follow and engage with the guest and host for more insights
  11. Episode Length and Release Date:

    • Episode Length: 35min
    • Date of Release: Feb 6, 2024


00:00

Monica H. Kang
How do you integrate play and creativity into your work and routine? More it’s a question that my friend Gary Ware, the founder of breakthrough Play and the author of the book Playful Rebellion, has been asking for many years. He has over 14 plus years of experience helping corporations and leaders rethink about this as they develop new strategy, team development and leadership. And one of the things you’ll quickly notice is just his genuine curiosity and positive energy of wanting to bring out the best in others. I had the joy of hearing him speak live at the same event. I was also a speaker in 2023 to witness his magic. So today, as we celebrate black innovators for Black History Month, I am so thrilled to have you here. 


00:49

Monica H. Kang
I’m your host, Monica King, founder and CEO of Innovators Box, and you are listening to curious Monica by Innovators Box. Let’s dive in. Excited to have Gary. First question for you is, how in the world did you fall in love with creativity and play? 


01:07

Gary Ware
If you were to ask my mom, she would say that since I could talk, I have always been creative, always been that curious, being very playful and, yeah, so it’s been since the beginning. But focus specifically on me consciously being creative and doing creative things. I’d like to think that it really happened around the age of, like, four or five. Again, that’s usually when kids are super curious and creative. I got in a lot of trouble because I didn’t do things to be malicious or anything like that. I was just like, what do we do here? How do we do this? And so I was the one that was taking things apart, and then I was like, oh. And then putting things back together, I was like, oh, what if we do this? What if we do that? 


01:59

Gary Ware
And so that’s where I got my start. And then as our brains are always connecting the dots, I always ask, well, what about this? What if we did this? And I think that was the catalyst for me being creative. 


02:13

Monica H. Kang
I love that. Love that. And as you know from steps for many of our followers who have been following creativity, we might all have started being creative, but we kind of lose it along the way. And so, Gary, I’m curious, what is one tip for you that continues to help hone your creativity? And if you get a chance to see some of these photos, you can already see a glimpse of the playfulness and including. You’ll see him on stage also, even with wars outfits. So how do you get inspired? How do you keep that interness? Because honestly, throughout the workplace, and I know you’ve worked in different organizations before you became a master facilitator, which we’ll talk about, too. How do you keep with it? Because it’s so often like, I wonder, do you ever even get stuck as well? 


02:52

Gary Ware
I do. I get stuck a lot. And it wasn’t until I started diving into this work and really studying, what does it take to be creative? Did I know, like, oh, this is a practice. This is not just something that, oh, someone just happens to be creative. And look at that. Yes, there is sort of innate creativity that some people maybe are just out of the box or maybe a little bit more creative than others. But I learned that creativity is just problem solving. So I’ll answer the first question, which is, if you’re like, yeah, I want to be more creative and I want to keep it up. Just like when you go to the gym, if you want to get those six pack abs for the summer, you don’t just do crunches one time. You make it a practice. 


03:38

Gary Ware
And the practice of being creative is just how can we stimulate our brain? How can we challenge ourselves to create something new and novel? And so a practice that I do is I don’t do it daily, but I do it often is I get out of journal and I give myself, like, a random prompt. So if you’re just starting this, something simple and just list it out, like, what are ten things that you can do during the summertime? Oh, all right, go to the beach, maybe go pick flowers, something like that. And again, set a timer, see how long it takes, and just boom, boom, write it out. It’s not about necessarily being accurate or right, but it’s just getting your brain in the practice of creating list. 


04:22

Gary Ware
So now you are starting to do that as you get a little bit more proficient in that, make it very challenging. What are ways that we can solve world hunger? And it’s not like you’re going to implement some of these, but again, you are just working your brain in a low stakes environment. Again, no one even has to know about these. You don’t have to share any of these, but it’s very low stakes whether you finish the list or not. No one’s going to be harmed by this, but it’s getting our brains conditioned to start to think sort of outside the box. So that is a way to stay creative. And it’s something that I do, and it’s fun. Sometimes I reflect and go back to these lists to see, hey, this is pretty interesting. Maybe there’s something I can do with it. 


05:08

Gary Ware
But yes, I get stuck quite often as a solopreneur running a business pretty much by myself, often I get in these ruts where I’m just like, yeah, missing. I don’t know that genese qua like, just interacting with others. And I have to remind myself, hey, reach out to someone or go back to the things that you love to do. 


05:35

Monica H. Kang
So many reminders and insights and innovators. As you’re listening, I hope you caught some of the key details right. It’s really key to take a moment to break it down, make it something tangible. Start somewhere where you can. But also, as Gary highlighted, find what is in your groove. It’s okay. Know, experiment. Actually create a room and space where you could experiment. And Gary, to that point, I’m curious if we can actually go back, actually all the way back to your childhood and tell me, who did you want it to be when you grew up and what are kind of. I guess I don’t know, the early memories. I don’t think I remember how I was in four or five years old. You kind of hinted. You kind of did. 


06:12

Monica H. Kang
But I’m curious, how has your early part of childhood influenced the type of innovator you are today? 


06:19

Gary Ware
Yes. It’s so interesting. I really admire the folks that said, when I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a writer and look at people now I’m an author. And this, that the other, when I was a kid, I wanted to be so many different things. This one thing I don’t personally remember, but my mom tells this story, my grandma tells this story, my aunt tells this story. So I’m like, there has to be some kernel of truth. So growing up, my parents worked, so my grandma often took care of me, and we would go, grandmas love to spoil their grandkids. And I was the first grand, thank. 


06:57

Monica H. Kang
You, grandmas out there, right? 


06:59

Gary Ware
I was the first, know, I’m the oldest, like in my sort of cohort. And so we used to go to a store called Kmart. Kmart I don’t even think is around anymore. But I loved going there. I loved shopping with my grandma. And I said to my grandma, I want to work here. I want to be the manager of, you know, as my life went on, I did not do that, but I said all kinds of other things. At one point, I wanted to be a scientist and I wanted to be a teacher. I grew up playing music. So as I got older, I started to really hone in on this thing. At one point, I really thought I was going to go into music and be a music educator, because that was something I was very passionate about. 


07:48

Gary Ware
I started playing the clarinet when I was in 6th grade and I kept playing. And when I was in high school, I was in the band. I learned how to play the saxophone, learned some percussion, and because it was so transformative in my life, music and music education, I was like, yeah, that’s something I wanted to do. Matter of fact, when I graduated and I went to university, that was my initial major, was music education. However, what ended up happening, and this is something that in the time, so it all works out. And I’ll tell you how, even though I’m not doing these things, I feel like I’m using the kernel of these things. 


08:33

Gary Ware
One person was talking about what I’m going to school for, and this person just sort of, just as a throwaway comment is like, you sure that’s what you want to do? Be a music teacher? They’re cutting arts funding. There aren’t very many of those out there. You might have to teach other subjects. And because I was so, just wanted to teach music, I didn’t want to teach social studies or math or anything like that, I started second guessing myself. And then I was like, well, what do I want to do? Granted, I’m glad that I was early in my sort of college career, that there was time to make these pivots, but I sort of reflected of like, what do I like doing? 


09:20

Gary Ware
I was like at this, like, I’m like 1819 years old to have this existential crisis of like, oh, I don’t know, what do I want to do? And at the time, like I said, music was a big part of my life. I was in a band. I played in a sca band, if you’re familiar with that music. It’s sort of like sort of pop meets punk meets reggae sort of thing. I played saxophone in that. But at the time, this is the late ninety s, and I was building websites. I was building our website. I was the quote unquote webmaster before that was like a thing, but it was so much fun. I loved sort of creating this and all the elements that went behind this. At the time, there wasn’t really like a major for this. 


10:05

Gary Ware
And so I was talking to a counselor, and at first they’re like, well, is it engineering? Is it know? And all these things. And then fortunate for me, I learned that there was a lived, like I said, I grew up in San Diego, and there was a school in Los Angeles called the Art Institute, and they had a program called Multimedia web design. I was like, that’s so, that’s perfect. Yeah. And so that propelled me on this thing of being a web designer and working in digital media. I know I went beyond your question of what do I want to be when I grow up. So getting back to the point of, again, as a teacher and scientist, I have this sort of belief that the things that we’re curious in sometimes just show up. 


10:53

Gary Ware
So as I said at one point, I wanted to be a scientist. I still feel like to this day, I’m still experimenting. Scientists experiment. They have hypothesis and then they use a scientific method to sort of play these things out. So I’m not scientists in the traditional sense, but I feel like, yeah, a lot of the work that I do is very experiential and I do a lot of experimentation. And as far as teaching, I never stopped having a passion for learning and helping others learn. And so I feel like, yeah, I’m mixing all of these. 


11:28

Monica H. Kang
I love that. So many follow up questions. 


11:30

Gary Ware
Yes. 


11:30

Monica H. Kang
But I think the big part I just want to acknowledge and just highlight here, as our listeners probably might have caught as well, this is the power of you actually taking charge and creating your own career, which I think now it’s become more popular nowadays, but not like just 1020, even 30, 40 plus years ago when somebody was like, hey, I might want a job that don’t exist. It’s like, yeah, what are you talking about? But Gary, you’ve kind of done that and you’re actually inspiring others and reminding others as well that, hey, maybe the job or the type of work that you want to do, it doesn’t exist yet. So experiment, explore. 


12:07

Monica H. Kang
Especially for those who are younger generations who’s tuning in, and for even those who are in their second and third careers, it’s okay, I think, to remember that as a leader, if you’re kind of going through like, but Gary, Monica, what happens if I’m like, in my fifty s and sixty s? I’ve already been leading and done everything? I can’t go back to that type of experiment. I think it’s still okay. And to that point, I think one thing I want to go a little bit deeper, Gary, is one thing we kind of skimmed over as you were sharing that story, is how you build your expertise. Now, it is one thing to say, hey, you can kind of tell the story backwards. Steve Jobs says that beautiful quote on it, but you still have to do it with intention. 


12:46

Monica H. Kang
You can’t just forcibly connect back and say, everything makes sense. You still have to have a clarity in hindsight even, or even as you go forward. And so, Gary, you could still have, as you’re going through all of that journey, to say, like, well, yeah, it’s all connected, but it’s kind of all also half passered and it could look chaotic, but you are able to tie together. And so I’m curious now, for those who know Gary, you’ll see him on stage often. He’s keynote speaking. He’s recognized by a lot of the culture and leaders and really tapping into playing creativity in different way but also thoughtful, practical way. You do want to sit in some of his workshop and have him in your accompanies, but he’s able to do that because of why I want to learn more like Gary. 


13:26

Monica H. Kang
Okay, if you can take us behind the curtains, how do you now sharpen your saw, improve your craft? Because just because you happen to have those capabilities doesn’t mean that you’re continuing to be a master. You’re continuing to hone that. So can you share maybe one or two ways how you’re continuing to hone? 


13:42

Gary Ware
Yes. Great point about honing your craft and understanding your why. Before I get into, me specifically, I want to highlight something that you said oftentimes we’re sort of pigeonholed of like, hey, you got to pick one career. You got to pick one thing. And I feel like that is great for a small subset of folks that are just like, diehard. Like, I know exactly what I want to do and I know the exact career path, and that’s great. But for the rest of us that are sort of forced to go in one direction and maybe it doesn’t fit right or sit right, then we just feel like, oh, I guess this is it. This is my life. This is all I have. And so I agree, like what you mentioned, times are changing. 


14:32

Gary Ware
There is less of a sort of focus to have to choose one major. A lot of folks that I’ve spoken know, they go to school to learn media in a specific topic, but keeping it open. I remember it’s called the wayfinding academy, and it’s a more unconventional sort of college in Portland. And they don’t declare their major until they’re about to graduate. You get an associate’s. So the first couple of years, they’re experimenting, they’re exploring so that they can see what fits. So the thing is going back to myself, as I mentioned, my original first career path once I like, yes, I’m in. It was multimedia web design, and I went to the Art institute. And the reason why I wanted to do that was, I’m like, yes, I really love digital media. I love creating in this space. 


15:33

Gary Ware
And because of that, I was just curious and I just went deep and I learned as much as I could, and I applied that to everything. I started making videos, I started creating websites, and I did all these things. And just putting something out there, whether I shared it with the world or not, helped me, as you mentioned, sharpen the saw. And it wasn’t until I was deep in my career where I realized, oh, there’s something else I’m passionate about, and that is creating inclusive teams and things of that nature and innovation and things like that. And once I got over the fact that, like, oh, I can change, I can shift directions, then it’s all about the curiosity. I like to say, follow your curiosity and you’ll never go wrong. 


16:25

Gary Ware
And because of that led us to connecting, because that’s how I found the epic conference. And it was just I wanted to become. At this point in my career, I’m a facilitator. I do keynotes, I do things in training. And so I’m always thinking about, all right, how can I get better? What are the bare bones that allow me to be masterful in my career, and how can I practice that? 


16:54

Monica H. Kang
So I want to dive deeper into that, though, because there’s probably facilitators and trainers. It’s like, okay, that all sounds great, but what is it then that makes Gary, do you like to practice reading? Or is it like, do you? As I mentioned at the very beginning of our conversation, you put a lot of content, which also takes a lot of work. He does a lot of funny jokes as well, follows Instagram. And how do you have the time to do all of that? So I’m curious if you can share some practical insights. I don’t know if it’s too secret. No, but I would love to know because I think it would inspire other facilitators who might be a little overwhelmed to know, how do I stand out? How do I hone my craft? 


17:32

Gary Ware
Yeah. So the thing I got over very quickly is trying to be everywhere all at once. I may give the impression that I am everywhere all at once. However, especially with social media, digital, every day there’s a new medium. There’s be real, and now there’s threads and Twitter’s x, and we have YouTube. And what about TikTok and LinkedIn? And so I, as a content creator, really focus on just a couple of areas. Yes, Instagram is one of those, LinkedIn is another. Those are like my core sort of area. Yes. If you want to see me in social media, those are the core areas. Yes, I am on other platforms, but I’m not as regular on those. But the main thing that I want to do, and this is what I learned from a good friend of mine and colleague. 


18:26

Gary Ware
Her name is Stephanie Garcia, and she talks about the rule of thirds. How can you celebrate the things that you’re know, humble brags, whatever it is, how can you celebrate the industry by sharing knowledge? And then how can you celebrate people? How can you elevate people, whether it’s colleagues, customers, and things like that? And so that’s what I take into consideration when I’m posting. So I am not trying to spend all of my time, but as far as my practice comes from, it’s something that I pull from a lot of different places. The first thing is my daily practice. Now, some folks would say you need to get up at 04:00 in the morning and blah, blah. That’s for you, great. If that’s not for you, whatever you get up is whenever you get up. 


19:19

Gary Ware
As I’m sort of further along in my career, I’m realizing more importantly than getting up, is making sure that you’re rested, and so whatever that means to you. But in the morning. Now, I have two kids, one of which is 16 months. So I’ve learned to be flexible. But this is like things that I tend to do that allows me to be the best version of myself. So I have a meditation practice, and I’m not the type that meditates for hours at a time. That would be nice. But if I’m lucky and I have the space for it, I’ll have ten minutes. But sometimes it’s just two minutes of just focusing on my breath, just sitting quietly. 


20:02

Gary Ware
And I’m not here to give a lesson on mindfulness, but that practice of just silencing yourself, and it’s not like you can be completely, of course, thoughts and stuff show up, but of just practicing of like I’m thinking and going back to the breath, allows us to just be a little bit more focused, allows us to have more empathy. A lot of great benefits from that. The next thing that I tend to do is I have an affirmation. What is something that allows me to be forward thinking. My affirmation is one of two things. It’s like a statement that rings true to me, that it’s something that helps me sort of identify myself or something to focus on. And I have an Evernote thing with all kinds of affirmations. And I’ll pick and choose some, but I’ll say an affirmation. 


20:55

Gary Ware
But affirmations for me are sometimes also in the form of a question. And I learned that if you ask a question, especially to yourself, you can’t help but to think about the answer. But your brain is always searching for the answer of that question. And so one of the questions that I ask on the daily is, what is it? What amazingly awesome things will happen today? 


21:23

Monica H. Kang
Yes, we’re going to definitely put that as a quote, as a reminder for everyone else to think about it. Thank you for sharing that. 


21:29

Gary Ware
Yeah, thank you. And it’s just a way to sort of prime the brain to look for the good. Look for the good out there. Again, silence, affirmation, moving the body. And again, it doesn’t have to be like go to the gym. Sometimes it’s just putting on some music. 


21:49

Monica H. Kang
And just for those who are missing the video version, you’ll have to revisit the video version where Gary is dancing for us, showing us live, and it. 


21:58

Gary Ware
Gets the endorphins fluid. It brightens up just in doing that in 3 seconds, I feel like the room’s a little bit brighter. 


22:09

Monica H. Kang
Oh yeah, we’re going to have to put a little sparkly fix too, right? And just to tie all of that because those are a lot of great nuggets. And thank you, Gary, for sharing it. I think a lot of our listeners might be taking a lot of notes and good reminders. And what I love most about it is just how holistic your insight sharing has been. It’s not just about this is the one thing or I loved. Even in all the questions, you kind of reminded that hey, it’s going to depend. Some of you might be early birds, some of you might be late evening folks. And I think it’s okay to find what that craft is. 


22:42

Monica H. Kang
I want to kind of channel this all back to briefly on, of course, our kind of topic that everyone has been talking about, AI and how that is also already influencing creativity and innovation. For those who might have also tuned in to my other show, dear workplace, we are doing a lot of research and sharing at how AI is changing in a lot of different industries. So check out that show too. But in regards to Gary, because of your expertise, do you ever feel like you’re mean first quick yes. And like are you worried that there might going to be now an AI facilitator instead of like a Gary facilitator on like should we worry about it? And are there other types of areas where you think AI actually helps versus hurt so quick. Yes and no. 


23:23

Monica H. Kang
And I’m curious if we can on that. 


23:26

Gary Ware
There might be. I’m not concerned about that. 


23:29

Monica H. Kang
Not the same as Gary, though. Never the same as Gary. 


23:31

Gary Ware
Well, that’s the other thing of the human element, the human to human element, because as a master facilitator like yourself, you know that. And actually, if I could just share it, a story, like when we met at Epic and you had your session that I sat in and I thought it was amazing. 


23:51

Monica H. Kang
Thank you. 


23:52

Gary Ware
You were able to read the room. You were able to read the room and adjust accordingly so that we can have a very personalized experience. The thing about artificial intelligence and the AI, it depends a lot on the prompt, it depends a lot on what we’re feeding out. And it’s very static. It will be interesting to see if it can be dynamic and on the spot, understand the people. That’s great. Sure. But I’ve learned that with AI, it’s only as good as the inputs that it receives. In addition to being a facilitator, one of the other things that I’m very passionate about is the other AI, which is called applied improvisation. 


24:39

Monica H. Kang
Great spin. 


24:40

Gary Ware
Yeah. And that is using techniques that improvisers use to help them create stories on the spot, on the stage, in other contexts. And applied improvisation is all about collaboration. So I see AI as a collaboration tool. So I’m answering your question with that. I’m happy to dive deeper with that, but I’m not too concerned. 


25:02

Monica H. Kang
No, thank you for sharing that. And I think, again, we’re still only at the crisp of it, I thinking about how vastly the Internet has changed the way we interact, even just like pandemic time where we relearned about remote working and all the hybrid experience. I think hopefully when we have Gary back on the show in many more years, we’re going to have maybe a different AI related facilitator conversation. But I think to Gary’s point, it’s important to note where things are and continue to hone your craft, which is why we did focus on learning about how Gary’s honing his craft. One thing also, Gary, I’m curious, is that we touched upon this at the very beginning, but separate from even know. 


25:41

Monica H. Kang
It’s no stranger that I think for those who are familiar with innovation and creativity and even leadership, that when either me, Monica, or Gary walks into the room, we are still one of the few. We’re celebrating Black History Month right now. And so I’m curious, when you think about representation, is that a key aspect that you think about when you show into the rooms and anything else you want to add in what you want to see more in creativity world? 


26:05

Gary Ware
Yes. Representation matters for multiple reasons. It helps the people in the room realize, like, oh, someone like myself can be there, and it can maybe inspire someone to following your footsteps. And it was one of the interesting things. Growing up and not seeing a lot of people of color in sort of educational roles and stuff like that, it just became the Norm. And I just thought, it is what it is. But when I had my first teacher of color, it was different in that there was just something more familiar. They didn’t necessarily treat me any different than any other teacher, but I just felt like, oh, all right, I belong here. And now that I’m thinking about it might have been the fact that I started to see other black educators that unconsciously made me believe that, oh, I can do this too. 


27:10

Monica H. Kang
Very important. And to build on that, I do want to make it actionable for our listeners. If they’re like, I’m guilty, I don’t know enough black innovators that I can learn from. Gary, could you shout out some people that we should learn from follow that you would recommend? Of course. Gary’s one of them, but we want to make sure we expand on the list. 


27:30

Gary Ware
Yes. So the first person, and I want. 


27:33

Monica H. Kang
To just add, it’s innovators who happen to be black. I think that distinguishes. Very important. So one of the things I often like about innovators who happen to be a female, I think the emphasis is that everyone comes. Right. 


27:43

Gary Ware
Okay. 


27:44

Monica H. Kang
Just a little plug in on that because I think it’s really important on the nuance. 


27:48

Gary Ware
Right. So the first person that comes to mind is a gentleman. His name is Eric Bailey. 


27:56

Monica H. Kang
And I’ll follow up on the spelling later with him. So don’t worry, folks. 


27:59

Gary Ware
Yep, later. It’s probably there is an author, he’s a facilitator, and he wrote the book cure for stupidity. And I’m just going to leave it at that. It’s an amazing book, but it’s all about getting us to think about coming together, think about our biases. If you are able to see Eric live, oh, my gosh, you will learn so much. You will be entertained, you would educate. He’s blown my mind. Been someone that I admire and look up to. And so I have three specifically. So Eric is number one. And there are women in this space as well. Denise Jacobs is another one that comes to mind. Denise is also a facilitator. She’s an author, and she talks about helping you banish your inner critic so that you can be the most creative version of yourself. 


28:59

Gary Ware
And that is very essential because we all have those thoughts. We all have inside of our head, the thoughts like, oh, I’m not good enough. And she has an amazing framework to help you do that and amazing practice that. Not only can you banish your inner critic, but you can know, thrive from that. So those two, and then I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the first brown people I saw talking about play. And his name is Kevin Carroll. He has an amazing podcast. You know, it’s Kevin because he looks like one of boys to know he wished best. But more specifically, he has this red ball and he invites us to play. He used to work for Nike. Now he is advocating for play and playfulness. 


29:54

Gary Ware
And when I saw his talk, again, representation, I was like, oh, yeah, all right, I’m on the right track. And on top of that, there are space for so. And one last person. I know I said three, but we’ll take it. 


30:11

Monica H. Kang
Please. 


30:11

Gary Ware
My brain keeps going. I just like, oh, yeah, we’ll just. 


30:14

Monica H. Kang
Say one more for now, but yes, please. 


30:15

Gary Ware
This last one. This last one. His name is Jeff Harry, and he is someone that I personally collaborated with and one of the most innovative and playful brown folks that I know. One of the things about Jeff, when he was younger, he and his friends in his basement would create their own versions of board games. They would mash them up. And I think that’s really cool that you can take something old and put it together and you have something new. So he’s always reinventing himself through the magic of play. So that’s it. 


30:50

Monica H. Kang
I’m going to stop that right there. No, I love that. Thank you so much. And Jeff, shout out back here as well. We had Jeff in the show last season, so if you missed his conversation, go back into it. But I’m going to tag in our little podcast notes again, findblog innovatorsbox.com. If you can’t find it, just email us at [email protected] just give you many different ways you should follow them if you’re following me on LinkedIn. Also, I’m going to be tagging all these folks to make sure I get that from Gary because we want to learn from more people, which I think is part of the key, not just this month, but every single day. So very important to note, we’re almost wrapping up. Oh, my gosh. I feel like we’re just getting started. 


31:26

Monica H. Kang
But you do, of course, have to follow Gary to learn more from his expertise. Have a lot more exciting things coming from him in the horizon. But first, Gary, we touched upon a lot of different themes. Any final words about wisdom, advice? If they forget everything, what is at least one thing you want them to walk away with when they think about anything, whether it’s play or AI, changing world, or one advice. 


31:53

Gary Ware
I feel like the main thing is you can do it and you could do it through action. A lot of times we think about things, but my invite to you is what is one small thing, I mean, teeniest of things, if you think about something small and it’s still too daunting, how can we make it smaller? But what is one small thing that can start to put you on that path? To be an amazing innovator, which in turn will make you be the best version of yourself. Because regardless if you are a stay at home mom or a CEO of a company, we all need to be innovators. Because innovation is key to us thriving and creating a better world for ourselves and the people around us. 


32:38

Gary Ware
So, yeah, maybe it’s the thing that I mentioned, or maybe it’s something completely different, but it is a practice start. 


32:46

Monica H. Kang
One thing at a time. And hey, if you missed any of the insights, you know, you can always rewatch this conversation, and that is part of the fun. And you are missing out on Gary dancing. So you better want to check out the video version when we share that. Gary, thank you so much. One final thing is, what’s the best way people can stay in touch with you? I think one hint you already shared is Instagram and LinkedIn, which we will share it in the notes. Any other things we’re waiting can reach out to you and stay in touch. 


33:12

Gary Ware
Yes. And before I say that, I want to take a moment and acknowledge you. Monica, thank you for having an amazing platform to highlight and elevate other people in this space. Rising tides raise our ships, and we need more folks like you. And if you were curious about anything that I said, yes, find me on social media. Also go to my website. I answer all of my emails as fast as I can, but it is not. It’s not AI or anything like that. I love to chat with you, maybe, right, Gary Bot. 


33:47

Monica H. Kang
But it’s Gary for now. No. Thank you so much. This was Gary Ware who joined us, founder and CEO of Breakthrough Play and author of Playful Rebellion. So that’s another hint, right? You can check out his book as well if you were a reader. But Gary, thank you so much. Really excited to celebrate Black History Month. And again, for folks who are new, please continue to remind yourself that we are the average of the five people we spend most time with. And so please, I hope you’re surrounding with more innovators and new insights. So thank you so much. We’ll see you again. Thanks so much for tuning into today’s episode. Your support means the world to us, so we’re so glad you’re here. Want to do a little shout out for those in the team who made this possible. 


34:30

Monica H. Kang
Thank you to everyone at Innovatorsbox Studios. Audio engineering and production is done by Sam Lehmart, Audio Engineering Assistance by Ravi Lad, website and marketing support by Kree Pandey, graphic support by Leah Orsini, Christine Aribal, Original music by InnovatorsBox Studios and executive producing, directing, writing, researching and hosting by me, Monica Kang, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox. Thank you for continuing on the journey of how to build a better workplace and thrive with creativity. Visit us at innovatorsbox.com and get some free resources at innovatorsbox.com. We look forward to seeing you at the next episode. Thank you and have a wonderful day. 

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