Previously in the Funny Business series, we looked at how reversing a situation can not only be amusing but ignite new creative perceptions and solutions to challenges.

Here we’re going in with a slightly different slant and looking at how role reversal can lead to new and creative ideas.

Role reversal is a long-standing comedy technique. If you’ve ever seen the films Trading Places, Freaky Friday, Vice Versa or Big, you’ll already know all about it. These films are all great examples of films of roles being switched, followed by the unfolding of ludicrous situations.

So let’s apply role reversal to our running Funny Business challenge of ‘making training more memorable’.

Here’s your blueprint:
1. Identify the subjects involved in the situation- their qualities, typical behaviours and attitudes.
2. Make the switch. Take an aspect you’ve identified and replace it with something right at the other end of the scale.
3. Elaborate on the incongruities of the new situation to make the situation come to comic life.
4. Find the elements of truth in the new situation and apply this to create new logic.

Example 1 = the pupil becomes the teacher.
Just imagine school kids taking a class of head-teachers. Maybe they are teaching a seminar on practical jokes, pranks and homework excuses. The truth here is the head-teachers are closely identifying with what really drives the kids. And the creative lesson is to figuratively ‘get down with the kids’; identify with the needs and desires of the people you’re working with and don’t alienate them by sticking too closely to the rule book!

Example 2 = the participants are alert but the trainer is bored.
With a small leap of imagination, you could up the ante on boredom and invent a scenario where participants craftily place sleeping pills in the trainer’s coffee to run the session their way. The truth and creative lesson here is that the most effective information doesn’t always come from official sources and personal experiment and feedback are just as necessary.

Example 3 = the audience is struck by nerves instead of the presenter.
That age-old classic advice, ‘imagine them in their underwear’ might be given to the audience to help them relax around the super scary trainer. The truth is an audience can sometimes be apprehensive over training- just watch heads go down when the question ‘who will volunteer to be in the role play’ are uttered! If people are intimidated, there’s a slim chance lessons will be remembered. So maybe a trainer should turn up in their metaphorical underwear and really focus on ensuring people are relaxed and can contribute openly.

Have a go yourself and apply this technique to your own challenges.

Next up in the Funny Business series is by far and away the most exciting post to ever be written online… that’s right, the technique of exaggeration!

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Simon Jack

Creative Re-Director at Creative Encounters
Jack of all trades... master of a few too!

Creative communicator and consultant who likes to do things differently and empower others to come up with winning ideas and create a major stir.
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