This article explains role storming by Rick Griggs in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful effectiveness tool.
While during information-gathering meetings it is about the quality of the submitted ideas, in brainstorming sessions it is all about quantity. The more ideas, the better; at a later stage the best ideas are separated from the poorer ones. Still, many participants feel inhibited during a brainstorming session and they are afraid to express themselves indiscriminately. In order to break through this inhibition, Rick Griggs developed the role storming method in the 1980s. Over the years, role storming has developed into an excellent method to arrive at creative brainstorming.
Many people are embarrassed to volunteer creative ideas in a group. They are afraid that they will not be taken seriously. But it is these creative ideas that often make a fantastic contribution towards excellent solutions and with ‘out of the box thinking’ people bring about positive changes. It is therefore very important to stimulate employees to tap into their creative mental abilities and use these.
At a Distance
Griggs discovered that people are not so much ashamed of their creative expressions when they put forward ideas in the name of someone else. That is the reason why this has become the starting point of his role storming theory. By speaking for someone else, people are encouraged to participate actively during a brainstorming session and share their ideas with other people. In theory, they pose as someone else and they play another role. This is how they distance themselves from their own ideas and as a result they are able to discuss more freely.
Using Role Storming
When a problematic situation is examined, the lateral thinking abilities are especially stimulated. It is easier to look for solutions from someone else’s perspective. Role storming is therefore experienced as fun and pleasant. In order to use role storming correctly, Griggs developed a step-by-step plan:
1. General brainstorming
By initiating regular, general brainstorming sessions, employees get used to thinking creatively. As a consequence, obvious ideas will receive more attention.
2. Identifying roles
By deciding in advance who takes on which role, it is easier for employees to identify with one another. A choice can be made from individual roles or collective roles. It goes without saying that this happens in consultation with the group of employees. The role that has been chosen must not refer a member in the group. In order to arrive at a good identification, it is considered advisable to have some information on the character. The role does not necessarily have to be associated with the problem that needs to be solved.
3. Putting oneself in someone else’s shoes
In order to relate to the role, it helps to focus on the chosen figure/character for a few minutes. The following questions could be helpful in this:
- What could this character’s personality be like?
- What is this character’s perspective of society?
- How would this character solve problems?
- What are this character’s strengths and weaknesses?
4. Role storming
This is the stage at which everybody starts brainstorming together from their respective roles. From their new roles, they will feel free to suggest ideas and look at problematic situations from new and different perspectives. By speaking in the ‘I’ form they are encouraged to do so: “my character does not see a problem but an opportunity”. It is important however, that every participant will get an opportunity to speak during the role storming session.
When the sessions have produced insufficient creative ideas, it is advisable to repeat the entire procedure with various ‘new’ roles. In addition, continuity is important. For employees to get used to role storming, it is recommended to initiate such sessions at regular intervals.
Points for attention using Role Storming
Role storming is a simple way to have employees tap into their creativity and share this with a group without feeling embarrassed. It is of the utmost importance that during the role storming sessions the roles are played in a respectful manner. When it concerns someone in the organization that people know well, this situation should be handled very carefully. There should not be any chance that certain character traits are used in a damaging manner and/or come to light in a damaging manner.
- Bonet, D. & Griggs, R.E. (1989). Quality at Work: A Personal Guide to Professional Standards. Publisher: Crisp Learning, ISBN-10: 0-931961-72-6 en ISBN-13: 978-0-931961-72-4.
- Griggs, R.E. (1985). A Storm of Ideas. Training Magazine.
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