Role Playing as a Creative Problem Solving Technique

Role Playing

1. Authors

Rick Griggs, Michael Michalko.

2. History

Role Playing as a group brainstorming method invented during the 1980s by business guru Rick Griggs. Later Michael Michalko suggested a similar method Hall of Fame (Michael Michalko. Thinkertoys. A Handbook of Creative thinking techniques. 1991)

3. Description

In the role-playing technique, the participant can take on a personality or role different from his own. This is about taking on a different identity, whether an invented persona or someone you know.
If there’s a particular problem that you’re trying to solve, you can role play what it’s like to be in the situation that you’re trying to resolve.
Assume that identity or refer to the fictitious person as “this person would suggest . . . ”. This will allow you to suggest out-of-the-box, creative ideas.

4. Main functions

1. Role play allows them to think about the problem or opportunity in a new way—and, often, to come up with new and creative ideas.
2. This technique allows you to change your perspective by getting you to role play a different person and see how they would approach the problem.
3. Role play is useful in preparation for unpredictable situations and testing new ideas.
4. As the technique is fun, it can help people reduce their inhibitions and come out with unexpected ideas.
5. Role playing improves creative abilities, empathy, role-playing skill and
the social atmosphere of the group.

5. Theoretical grounds

It’s extremely helpful to view a task from different angles and to see the world from someone else’s point of view.
This will help you to think outside of the norm and, like the role playing technique, will allow you to express ideas that you would not normally express.

6. Main rules

1. Describe their character’s personal qualities and motivations.
2. List their character’s strengths and weaknesses.
3. Speak in character, using “I” when referring to their character.

7. Basic steps

1. Identify your main problem and reformulate it into a question.
2. Form your own group of fictional and real characters, create a list of famous people.
This technique is built around different types of personas. It can be anybody you like, including people from history, people from fiction, people you admire or even cartoon characters.
For example, participants might become:
1. expert or a person who is related to the problem you have
2. completely different person, it will help you find radically different ideas.
3. figure from history with a strong reputation for a particular type of thinking
4. fictional figure with a particular type of thought process;
3. Choose a role.
4. Get used to the character that you play.
Think about the character, see it acting in the way they normally act. Think his thoughts and feel what he is feeling. Be the person.
5. Ask that person how they would respond to the questions and proposed solutions. Have discussions between characters about the problem.
What would he do?
How would he see the problem?
How does he think?
What action would he take?
How would he solve the problem?
6. Choose another character-adviser and look at the problem from his point of view.
7. Record emerging ideas.
8. Select the most promising ideas from the resulting list and try to develop them and transform them into a solution to the problem.

8. Variants

1. Superhero or the Napoleon Technique

1. Description

This is a similar technique in which participants pretend to be fictional superheroe–such as Superman, Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, Batman, James Bond, Wonder Woman, Sherlock Holmes, and so on–and use their ‘super’ characteristics to trigger ideas.
All superheroes have skills and capacities that are outside ‘normal’ behaviour, which allows you to think outside the norm and to express unusual ideas from the safety of your super-hero persona.

2. Main steps

1. Choose a role
2. Pretend to be a fictional (or real) superhero and use your ‘super’ characteristics to generate ideas.

2. Hall of Fame

(Michael Michalko. Thinkertoys. A Handbook of Creative thinking techniques. 1991)

Main steps

1. Create your personal Hall of Fame. Select those people, living or dead, real or fictional, who appeal to you for one reason or another.
For e[ample: Some of the members of my personal Hall of Fame:
Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, George Patton, John F. Kennedy, W. Somerset Maugham, Winston Churchill, Diogenes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sigmund Freud, Peter the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Schweitzer, Jesus Christ, Julius Caesar, Plato, Aristotle, William Shakespeare, Sun Tzu…
2. When you have a challenge, consult your Hall of Fame. Select an adviser and choose a favourite quotation.
3. Ponder the quotation. Write down your thoughts, regardless of appropriateness to the challenge. If you think it, write it, and try to use these thoughts to generate more relevant thoughts. The basic rules are:
• Strive for quantity.
• Defer judgment.
• Freewheel.
• Seek to combine and improve your thoughts.
4. Choose a thought of the combination of thoughts that hold the most promise. Then restate it.
5. Allow yourself five to ten minutes to come up with new ideas. If you produce nothing significant, select another quote or go to another adviser. Keep consulting your Hall of Fame until a quote or passage provokes a train of usable ideas.

 Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is a fantasy board of powerhouse business leaders and innovators who will assist you in overcoming your business challenges. Imagine having at your disposal the experience, wisdom, and know-how of Thomas Edison, Douglas MacArthur, Alfred Sloan Jr., Lee Iacocca, Thomas Watson, John D. Rockefeller, Bernard Baruch, Sam Walton, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Donald Trump, Ted Turner, or whomever you admire most, living or dead.

Main steps:

1. Select the three to five business movers and shakers, living or dead, whom you admire most.
2. Get photographs of your Board (these could be photocopied from magazines), and pin them on your wall in a prominent spot. These photographs will constantly remind you of the talent at your disposal.
3. Research your heroes: Hit the library, read their biographies and autobiographies, read what their critics say about them; in short, read everything about your heroes that you can get your hands on.
4. Take notes on your favourite passages, perhaps about obstacles and how they overcame them, or anything that strikes you as relevant and interesting. Pay particular attention to the creative techniques they employed to solve problems, their secrets, what made them stand out, what made them extraordinary, and so on. Keep a separate file on each hero.
5. When you have a challenge, consult the members of your board and imagine how they would solve it. How would Henry Ford resolve a labour problem? Can you think of the ways Thomas Edison would suggest looking for new products or services? How could you use Thomas Watson’s sales techniques?