Halloween looms ever closer – have you decided what your costume will be this year? I think Halloween appeals to people not only as an excuse to dress up and eat candy, but as a chance to step into another identity and be someone or something different for a night. And why not? Roleplaying can be a thrilling experience! Taking on an unfamiliar perspective, seeing the world through a different lens … there’s a reason tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons are seeing a renaissance today. Beyond the element of escapism, there’s a healthy psychological benefit to assuming a different persona for a while. That’s also why roleplaying is so beneficial in business as well.
By that, I don’t mean roleplaying in the office as your level nine rogue from your weekly D&D game (although who knows, maybe your business deals in booby-trapped chests). In this case, it’s all about empathy — walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, so to speak.
Stepping into the role of a colleague or customer persona can be an enlightening experience. If that sounds improbable, think again — role-playing is an integral component to forging a stronger connection to one’s coworkers, customers and business partners. It’s also very helpful when thinking with a global mindset, another topic near and dear to my heart.
But why, you may ask yourself, would it be helpful for me to pretend to be someone else? In simplest terms, it gives you an idea of their motivations, their needs and even their frustrations. The better you understand the motivation of other individuals within a system — whether that’s a business, a supply chain, a customer base, etc. — the easier it becomes to negotiate with them, to support their endeavors and to market to them.
Consider an exercise like this: you and your teammates at work take turns with one person role-playing as different customer personas while others negotiate with them, solve problems for them or try to make a sale. Assuming you have a clear idea of your customer persona, your team should walk away from the exercise with a much better idea of how to engage with that customer type, what their pain points are, and so on. It’s so much more interactive than just reading a bulleted list in a slide deck!
The benefits go far beyond sales and customer relations — like I said, roleplaying teaches empathy, and an overall increase in net empathy on your team benefits everyone. Once your team members are comfortable stepping into customers and business partners’ shoes, they’ll be more comfortable seeing things from one another’s perspectives as well. Ideally, they can even take that wellspring of empathy into all aspects of their lives, in and out of the office. How much better would the world be if we could all develop more empathy for people who are different from ourselves, whose experiences don’t perfectly line up with our own?
Amazing to think what can be gained from a little role-playing, isn’t it? Enjoy some Halloween role-playing this spooky season, but once you hang up your costume, don’t stop there. Keep trying on unfamiliar roles and get comfortable with looking at the world from new perspectives. You may find it expands not just your bottom line, but your experience of the world as well.