How Role Playing Helps With Problem Solving – Zen Leadership
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how role playing helps with problem solving


If my many years in marketing taught me anything, it was the importance of understanding your customers and prospects. Before any creative project was started, we would develop a “Creative Blueprint” that clearly stated our objectives and goals. The Main Selling Proposition was considered to be the most important part of the blueprint. But what I found to be most useful – not just then, but now in my own leadership work – is getting a grip on Current Attitudes and Desired Attitudes. Here’s how you can apply this strategy to find solutions to many of the issues you face:

Think about a problem you’d like to address. For this example, let’s use something very basic like: “I want Sarah and Tom to work better together.” Grab a pencil. Now it’s time to write in each voice what Current Attitudes and Desired Attitudes exist around this issue. The easiest way to do this is in first person. For example, in imagining Tom’s voice, I might write: “Sarah does most of the work herself so I never feel like an important part of the team.” A desired attitude from Tom might be “My contributions to the team are important and recognized.” Really try and BE that other person – feel what they feel. This kind of role playing brings awareness to the needs and aspirations that are not being met and will give you a broader sense of how to develop a solution to satisfy all needs at hand.

This exercise can be applied to bigger issues as well, like growing a business. It is described in great detail in The Zen Leader, chapter 9, From Local Self to Whole Self. By “casting a wider net,” we are able to see all the players surrounding the issue and the part they play in the desired outcome. Ginny Whitelaw lays it out quite beautifully:
– state your goal
– widen your net
– role play each person. Imagine what if…
– let imagination become reality

“The more I understand perspectives I never would have imagined on my own, the more realistic my imagination becomes,” states Ginny Whitelaw. When we “engage with empathy,” bigger possibilities emerge, or what she describes as tapping into our “whole self.”

Give it a try!

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