Innovation Skills
90 minutes

Looking at a problem from different angles or vantage points can change how it is perceived and interpreted. This might mean taking on a different persona, or changing your thinking style slightly. We can use an "Empathy Mapping" template and a "Personality Swap" worksheet to help with this.


By putting themselves in the shoes of their customers, stakeholders or colleagues, gaining empathy by seeing the world through their eyes, participants are quickly able to see their work from a variety of different perspectives. This leads to new insights and innovative ways of solving problems.
In Detail
“There are no facts, only interpretations.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Often if we’ve been working on the same thing for a long period of time, it can be difficult to see things differently. We can’t understand a situation clearly because we’re too involved in it. We’re too close to it – we can’t see the wood for the trees.

We might also be too emotionally attached to a particular method or style of work, perhaps because it’s served us well in the past. We might end up rehashing previous ideas or shoehorning a new project into a favoured way of working – simply because we’re tempted to remain in our familiar comfort zone. But despite our faith in these methods, and our temptation to use them again, they might not be suited to this particular challenge.

Often it takes an outsider or newcomer to provide the fresh perspective we need. But what if we don’t have the luxury of such a person? This is when we need to force ourselves to shift our perspective, or change our behaviour to provoke new ideas and solutions.

Role Play

Take any person you admire, or who has a strong personality, and view the issue from within their shoes. See what a different perspective will do to the way you think about something.

First of all, how would the target market think? By imagining yourself in the shoes of your customers, you can start to see things from their perspective. Two people could role play the act of selling an idea to a difficult client, thus revealing potential weaknesses or successful selling techniques.

You could inject some more realism into this scenario by imagining the customer is your neighbour or someone you see on your commute. This helps overcome vague generalisations that don’t lead to specific observations or solutions.

Or you could role play dealing with a customer complaint, carrying out a negotiation, or simply give two people a scenario to see what arises. It’s a great opportunity to observe what might happen in the real world when people grapple with your product, service or idea.

This works best when participants let go of their inhibitions and push their characters. Get into it as much as possible – the best ideas will come when you are really inhabiting the role you are playing. Stand up, where everyone can see you, and really immerse yourself in the exercise. Don’t be self-conscious or try to ‘perform’ – the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.

For those viewing the role play – be as observant as possible, take notes. Do the interactions go as you’d expected? What ideas do they throw up for future iterations of your project?

Personality Swap

Imagine how different personalities would approach your problem. What would a different generation think? Imagine how your grandparents would view it, or a young child. How would their perspective differ from yours?

In the same way, how would someone from a different country or culture think? Even if they’re not the desired market it can help to look to other cultures for ideas and influences.

You could also think about how iconic figures might view your project or brief – for example how would Steve Jobs approach it? Or imagine if Elon Musk joined your team. How would the massive scale of his ambition impact your ideas and projects?

You can do this with any person or personality – the wilder and more unusual the better, like Winston Churchill, or John Lennon, or Lady Gaga. Imagine you had a new starter in your team: Mick Jagger. What do you think life would be like with him around? Would things be a bit more rock & roll, loud and wild, expressive and flamboyant?

You can also combine personalities. So you could choose 6 people you admire, and list their qualities, skills & behaviours. Combine them to make the perfect creative genius. How could you take on this persona and how would it change your thinking?

You could also take on the persona of a different company. What would Apple do with your project or brief? How would a top advertising agency think about it?


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