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Theater Games in Research and Ideation

Posted By Laurie Tema-Lyn, Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Step Back to Move Forward: Developing Customer Journey Maps

 Laurie tema Lyn

Bring the POWER of Theater Games to Your Next Session!

Let me start off by saying I am not an actor, although I’ve had some theater training. I earn my living as a researcher, consultant and innovation catalyst, and I’ve been doing that for decades.
I like to bring PLAY into my work as I see the results are well worth it in terms of ramping up the energy of a flagging team, developing empathy, encouraging candid, uncensored conversations and triggering or evaluating new ideas.

Using theater games builds on fundamentals that all face-to-face researchers/facilitators should have in their arsenal. They include:

  • The ability to build rapport and have fun;
  • Creating a “safe place” so people feel comfortable expressing themselves;
  • Being able to read your group through attentive listening and observation;
  • Being willing to take a risk, knowing that there are no failures — risks lead to opportunities.

Here are tips and techniques to add to your repertoire:

  • Start with an easy game; I call this one Word Salad. It’s a new twist on the tried-and-true technique of Mind Mapping by adding a pulse — a finger snap — as you capture each participant’s words on a flip chart pad. Breathe and repeat each word or phrase that you are given as you chart. It can be a bit hypnotic. Participants stop self-censoring and by pausing a moment as you repeat the words they listen, reflect and connect. A variation is to use a Nerf ball and throw it to participants to respond. Less time for “thinking,” just gut level responses.
  • Experiment with Improvs to illuminate brand perceptions, product or service use, or to inform creative strategy or positioning. It’s good to do a bit of pre-planning to identify some people, places, things or situations that you might want to see “acted out” in your work session. Position the exercise as an experiment.Ask for volunteers and give basic improv guidelines including the use of “Yes, And…” to accept or build on their partner’s offers. Remind participants that you are not looking to them to be funny or clever, just authentic to the character or situations. After you conduct a couple of improvs, it’s important to review what all have learned.
  • Theater of Exaggeration. Try this out to spice up a concept review. You might begin in your typical fashion and then encourage participants to push the boundaries. What are the Most Outrageous Plusses or Benefits to this concept? Conversely, what are the Most Outrageous Negatives to this idea? You just might end up with some new ideas or identify problems that participants had been too polite to suggest earlier.
  • Mouthfeel: Try this out to help evaluate a name and positioning. This is an improv where participants stand up and have a conversation using a new name or positioning. I recently ran a naming session with a colleague for a social services agency. We had six names in the top tier and were trying to evaluate which were the best. One of the name candidates looked great on paper, but when I asked for two volunteers to improv it (one in the role of a crisis hotline operator, the other a client calling for help) we realized it was a bear… too cumbersome to speak when used in context. We nixed that one from the list.
  • Spontaneity based on solid preparation. These games work when you mentally prepare yourselfas facilitator, prepare your respondent team by providing clear guidelines of what you are asking them to do, and prepare your client team in advance so that they won’t be shocked or worried if you include a theater game to your discussion guide or agenda.

These are just a small sampling of theater games and activities you might bring to your next gig. I encourage you to try them out and make up your own, and feel free to get in contact with me.

Links to more articles on this topic:

 

Laurie Tema LynLaurie Tema-Lyn
Practical Imagination Enterprises
laurie@practical-imagination.com

Tags:  QRCA Digest  Qualitative  Research Methodologies  Theater Games 

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