What Is Rolestorming? Rolestorming In A Nutshell

Rolestorming as a term was first mentioned by personal development guru Rick Griggs in the 1980s.  Rolestorming is a brainstorming technique where participants pretend they are other people when sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Understanding rolestorming

Griggs developed his approach to address several shortfalls of a traditional brainstorming session. These include:

  • A tendency for people to support the first or most obvious idea.
  • A tendency for one or two individuals to overshadow quieter types during the ideation phase.
  • An inability for some individuals to consider other perspectives or think creatively on-the-spot, and
  • The anxiety some feel when suggesting ideas in a group setting or to those they do not know well.

Rolestorming is used to help a brainstorming team overcome their inhibitions during a meeting.

In theory, each team member is more likely to generate creative ideas while pretending to be someone else. 

Lastly, it is important to note that rolestorming is not an idea-generating process on its own. Rather, it should be incorporated to complement existing brainstorming approaches.

Rolestorming types

The identity each team member assumes will largely depend on the task at hand. For example, a participant may play:

  • A senior member of corporate management.
  • A superhero, supervillain, or another fictional character with a well-understood character type.
  • A troublesome or demanding customer or client.
  • A prominent historical figure.

Whichever identity is assumed, each participant must be able to describe the personal qualities and motivations of their new character. They must also understand their real or imagined strengths and weaknesses and refer to themselves in the first person when speaking.

Implementing rolestorming

The most creative rolestorming sessions occur by focusing on opportunities first, preventions second, and problems third.

Creative ideas should be written on a large sheet of paper or whiteboard.

Rolestorming is then graphically represented by a bulls-eye in the middle with outer rings like an archery target.

The largest and most outer ring houses creative ideas, with the second-largest ring displaying the winners from the first vote of ideas.

Immediately adjacent to the bullseye is the third ring, which displays the winners from the second vote. 

To be voted on, each creative idea must answer the original profile statement in terms of opportunities, preventions, and problems.

The center circle shows the idea representative of group consensus.

To incorporate rolestorming into a typical brainstorming process, follow these steps:

The facilitator gives each team member a few minutes to think about their role and get into character

As mentioned earlier, the individual needs to consider their new identity’s personality, worldview, strengths, weaknesses, and problem-solving ability.

With everyone assuming the identity of someone else, the facilitator begins the first stage of ideation

Everyone must be given a chance to speak from their unique perspective, with a jovial and somewhat informal atmosphere encouraged.

If appropriate, the facilitator can encourage individuals to interact with each other.

The facilitator then begins a second and third round of rolestorming, with new ideas written next to existing ideas in the outer circle

To keep things fresh, participants may choose to adopt a new identity for each subsequent round.

The list of generated ideas should then be analyzed. Which are the most relevant to the profile statement?

Which ideas are actionable, feasible, and attainable in the timeframe specified?

Key takeaways

  • Rolestorming is a brainstorming technique where participants pretend they are other people when sharing their thoughts and ideas.
  • Team members engaged in a rolestorming session can assume any identity provided it has some relevance to the task or problem at hand. These identities include a senior executive, irate customer, superhero, or prominent historical figure.
  • Rolestorming is not a standalone ideation strategy. Instead, it must be incorporated into one of the many brainstorming frameworks available to businesses today.

Connected Brainstorming Frameworks


Starbursting is a structured brainstorming technique with a focus on question generation. Starbursting is a structured form of brainstorming allowing product teams to cover all bases during the ideation process. It utilizes a series of questions to systematically work through various aspects of product development, forcing teams to evaluate ideas based on viability.

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciate Inquiry (AI) is an organizational change methodology that focuses on strengths and not on weaknesses. Appreciate Inquiry was created by management professors David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in the 1980s. The Appreciate Inquiry is also known as the 5-D Cycle, an iterative cycle describing five distinct phases, made of define, discover, dream, design, and destiny.

Round-robin Brainstorming

Round-robin brainstorming is a collective and iterative approach to brainstorming. Brainstorming is an effective way of generating fresh ideas for an organization. Round-robin brainstorming is a balanced approach, employing an iterative, circular process that builds on the previous contribution of each participant.

Constructive Controversy

Constructive controversy is a theory arguing that controversial discussions create a good starting point for understanding complex problems. A constructive controversy discussion is performed by following six steps: organize information and derive conclusions; presenting and advocating decisions; being challenged by opposing views; conceptual conflict and uncertainty; epistemic curiosity and perspective-taking; and reconceptualization, synthesis, and integration.

Affinity Grouping

Affinity grouping is a collaborative prioritization process where group participants brainstorm ideas and opportunities according to their similarities. Affinity grouping is a broad and versatile process based on simple but highly effective ideas. It helps teams generate and then organize teams according to their similarity or likeness.

The Fishbone Diagram

The Fishbone Diagram is a diagram-based technique used in brainstorming to identify potential causes for a problem, thus it is a visual representation of cause and effect. The problem or effect serves as the head of the fish. Possible causes of the problem are listed on the individual “bones” of the fish. This encourages problem-solving teams to consider a wide range of alternatives.


Rolestorming as a term was first mentioned by personal development guru Rick Griggs in the 1980s.  Rolestorming is a brainstorming technique where participants pretend they are other people when sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Reverse Brainstorming

Reverse brainstorming takes advantage of the natural human tendency to more easily see problems than solutions. What’s more, many individuals when placed in a traditional brainstorming environment will find it difficult to become creative on command. Reverse brainstorming is an approach where individuals brainstorm the various ways a plan could fail. 

Lotus Diagram

A lotus diagram is a creative tool for ideation and brainstorming. The diagram identifies the key concepts from a broad topic for simple analysis or prioritization.

Futures Wheel

The futures wheel was invented in 1971 by Jerome C. Glenn while he was studying at the Antioch Graduate School of Education.  The futures wheel is a brainstorming framework for visualizing the future consequences of a particular trend or event.

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