Thursday, March 29, 2012

Summary of Findings (White Team): Role-Playing (4.5 out of 5 stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University on 29 March 2012 regarding Role Playing specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility, its ability to effectively use unstructured data, and its ease of communication to a decision maker.

Role playing is a highly flexible technique that can be used as both a method and a modifier that is typically used to aid intuitive thinking.  It covers a broad range of activities in which participants seek to assume the attitudes, actions, and discourse of various roles, especially in a hypothetical situation to better understand a differing point of view or social interaction. Studies have shown that role playing improves forecasting accuracy when applied to a variety of conflict situations, and is more effective than intuitive thinking and game theory in such situations

  • Role play is an extremely flexible method of considering alternative points of view. It can fit nearly any situation with the right structure and facilitation
  • Encourages outside-the-box thinking and can lead to identifying new hypotheses/situations to consider.
  • Helps to offset analyst bias and to aid brainstorming. 
  • Demonstrated to be a superior predictive analysis compared to chance, unaided knowledge and game theory.
  • Can be used as an aid to other predicitve analytical techniques, such as MCIM.

  • Can require extensive effort and facilitation to provide structure and direction.
  • Can be time-consuming to role play multiple problems or highly diverse groups.
  • Some individuals are unable to adopt an alternative identity for role playing purposes.
  • Can be susceptible to deeply held biases from role players that are unable to forego their own understandings of the scenario.

1.    Define the objective of the role playing exercise.
2.    Assign participant roles and describe scene setting/background.    
3.    Set a time limit for the scene.
4.    Allow role play participants to interact in their assigned roles, each trying to think/speak/act as their assigned identity would.
5.    Hold a concluding discussion to elicit and highlight any findings or further questions raised by the exercise.
Personal Application of Technique:
For the activity, the class was divided into 2 teams – Big Oil Company and Environmental Activists. Each team was given a handout with a brief description of the situation, and given the following instructions:
 1) Create two or three arguments on behalf of your role to be used in an argument supporting yourside.
 2) Anticipate two or three major discussion points the other team will make and prepare brief counter-arguments to them.
Each team then took a short time to identify their own primary arguments as well as try to anticipate what the other team would bring up at the end of the scene. Each team was given 1-2 minutes to brief on their arguments and anticipated counter-arguments. Finally, the facilitator led a brief discussion of the scene, group dynamics, and any questions or comments participants wished to raise.
Instructions given to the teams:
Group 1 Roles/Setting:
You  work for Big Oil Company in the Public Relations division. Your company  is currently seeking to develop several offshore drilling platforms.  Environmental activist groups have raised an outcry against this  project, which is drawing media and public attention to the company’s  activities. As a result, you have invited the most outspoken activist  group to a public discussion with your PR representatives, where you  will allow them to make their arguments while you make yours.  
Your goal is to anticipate 2 major discussion points the other team will make and prepare brief counter-arguments to them.

Group 2 Roles/Setting:
You  are now environmental activists. Your primary concern at the moment is a  large new offshore-drilling development by Big Oil Company located in  the Gulf of Mexico. Due to your outspoken beliefs and some media  coverage, you have gotten the attention of Big Oil Company’s Public  Relations division. They have invited you to a public discussion of the  offshore drilling to allow you to make your arguments while they make  theirs. 
Your goal is to anticipate 2 major discussion points the other team will make and prepare brief counter-arguments to them.
The results of our in class exercise (below) validated the pre-existing vailidity studies. Our results demonstrated that RP analysis is indeed a superior predictive methodology as the two teams quickly established an accurate set of predictions regarding the opposing team's main arguments.

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