The Techniques of Rolestorming

Posted by in Customer Service

Rolestorming is a simple exercise in brainstorming techniques that was invented by Rick Griggs in the 1980’s. It was then described by Dr. Auther VanGundy in his 2004 book, “101 Activities for Teaching Creativity and Problem-solving.” This technique involves members of a team or group of employees to take on other people’s identities and then sharing ideas. By pretending to be someone else, a person's ideas can be brought up without concerns of what other people may think of the presentation. This technique can be very helpful when brainstorming in a meeting of say, customer service representatives, when discussions are on how to improve quality and service. How is it done?


  1. First of all, brainstorm the obvious ideas to get them out of the way. This will not only generate some good ideas, but also free up participants to open up and then push boundaries. Explain during this phase the purpose of Rolestorming. Pass out blank cards and ask the participants to figure out who their role will be. People can role-play as anyone they want, as long as the person isn’t present. This exercise should build confidence, because shy or less assertive people will be more comfortable speaking up. Rolestorming can be fun, and it's also a great way to make team members feel more at ease about sharing ideas that they may not have otherwise. 
  2. Next have them think about the role they are going to become for this exercise. Have them answer the following questions:
    • What kind of perspective would this character have on this problem?
    • What are this person’s strengths and weaknesses?
    • What characteristics would this person need to solve a problem like this?
  1. The more that is understood how another person feels and thinks and what motivates them, the better the ideas will be presented by the employee representing that person. Enough information should be known about the person for the employee to take on their identity for a short time.


Brainstorm in character. When everyone is feeling comfortable with their character (role), start brainstorming ideas using this new perspective. Have everyone use the phrase “My person or my character,” when speaking. This helps people to disassociate themselves and lets them speak freely. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak and share ideas. Repeat the exercise as often as necessary with as many different identities as needed so ideas can be generated. This can provide better ideas since the problem is worked on from different angles.


Since the whole theory behind this idea is to pretend to be someone else, your employees are more likely to be open to the suggestion. By taking on a role, it distances them from owning an idea, expands their thinking and pushes boundaries. In return, it gives you new ideas to choose from, revitalizes employees and offers different perspectives on the problem. It’s a win-win situation on all sides.         


Photo courtesy of Master isolated images / 


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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Rick, we're always happy to share ideas that help our community. It's a great concept! Thanks so much for sharing it with us!
  • Rick G
    Rick G
    Great write-up of my Rolestorming concept.  Thanks for spreading the word!. Rick \
  • lindaruzicka
    I hope it does help you get a job Tonya!
  • tonya b
    tonya b
    I think it will help me get a job

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