The objective of this study was to identify the effect of group dynamics and role playing on forecasting accuracy. Although businesses increasingly use groups of employees to create consensus sales forecasts, little research has been done to determine the accuracy of these group forecasts. The participants in this study were divided into role-playing (RP) groups and non-role-playing (NRP) groups in order to see how role playing affected forecasting accuracy of the groups.
Researchers split the group of participating MBA students into 13 groups of three, seven of which were assigned to be RP groups, and six of which were NRP groups Students in the RP groups were randomly assigned roles as forecasting executives, marketing directors, or production directors, and depending on their roles, they were given varying descriptions and instructions about the products used in the role playing exercise. They were also given initial model-based forecasts, and researchers tracked how each group adjusted these forecasts.
Although the RP groups showed consistently higher accuracy than the NRP groups, researchers did not find any statistically significant results, possibly due to the small sample and group-specific factors, such as extroversion and expertise.
Researchers did find that RP group members were less likely to agree with their group’s consensus forecast. When asked individually after group discussion, only 44 percent of RP group members gave answers that matched their group forecasts, compared to 78 percent of the NRP group members.
The study also showed that role-playing influenced the likelihood that a group would adjust the initial model-based forecasts. RP groups made far fewer adjustments to the initial model-based forecasts than the NRP groups. Groups that did not have roles or scripts adjusted 92 percent of their initial forecasts, while only 67 percent of RP groups adjusted the initial forecasts.
Conclusion & Comments
At several points throughout the paper, the researchers highlighted the fact that more research needs to be done on group forecasting. While it is becoming a prevailing method for organizations to create forecasts, there is not research supporting the accuracy of using groups. Although the researchers seemed primarily interested in findings related to group forecasting accuracy, the study produced several interesting findings about how the role playing technique influences groups. It would be helpful to see more research done on the topic using more participants, and more discussion about the implications of the differences between RP groups and NRP groups.
Onkal, D., Sayim, K.Z., & Lawrence, M. (2011). Wisdom of group forecasts: Does role-playing play a role? Omega 40 p. 693-702.