The Value of Role Play in Executive Education

Camilla Johnson is Executive Development Consultant at Cranfield University School of Management “When one of our telecoms clients needed to support their senior programme directors to develop more strategic influencing skills and be more effective in an increasingly complex environment, we felt that interactive role play would meet the requirement well.

In addition to role play, the programme had a large element of self-awareness and stakeholder management built in. The role play really made the learning valuable and directly transferable to the workplace. The delegates were very experienced and at the outset, a bit cynical to the idea of role play.”

Impromptu worked very closely with the client to research and prepare scenarios that would have high face validity and feel ‘real’ to the delegates. Through role play we demonstrated “What good looks like” giving the delegates the opportunity to self-assess aspects of the role that they wanted to practice. During firstly, the 1:1 role plays the delegates had the opportunity to explore handling complex situations and getting a good outcome before moving on to a group simulation that further increased the complexity.

Professional role play works because it recreates a realistic environment without the same risks. It becomes realistic by engaging hearts, minds and body. The emotional connection is in many ways what makes it so realistic.

That connection comes through well structured sessions and scenarios as well as through the skill, flexibility and emotional intelligence of the role players. Impromptu manages to balance their business-like approach, with flexible and innovative methods and a deep understanding of the client’s need and cultural context.

The outcome for the client was excellent and although uncomfortable at first, the delegates fed back that “actually once you got into the role play it felt very real”.