← back to all

The ‘investigative rehearsal’ method is based on a technique developed by the clever folks at Work Play Experience. We’ve made some changes for it to work best for the people we partner with and developed our own principles for success.


Principles for success

  • Creating a safe space - this activity requires participants to be vulnerable and ‘act’. Find a space where nosy onlookers won’t bother participants and say no to all cameras and social media
  • Taking the problem seriously, not yourself - play and humility are important parts of the process
  • Create a container for imagination - have participants set the scene with props, furniture, wigs or costumes
  • Use personas - as established characters, stakeholders are more easily able to enact their 'character'
  • Don’t talk, do - learn by doing, not talking about doing
  • Challenge the ‘subtext’ - it’s important to go beyond the superficial and challenge what’s really going on. How do the characters feel?
  • Ask observers to take a particular character's perspective - you’ll get much more targeted feedback on what they thought the experience of that person was like (what worked well, what didn’t, what needs to change)
  • Respect the people who designed the initial service proposition you're testing - be delicate with crushing their hopes and dreams

Vancouver Film School, Some rights reserved 


How do we do it?

The technique is broken down into 3 'scenes'. To set this activity up you'll need:

  • A service proposition to test i.e. a new process map, call centre script, face-to-face interaction, etc. 
  • A director - a skilled facilitator who can run the activity and help to uncover the 'subtext'
  • Actors - people who 'play' service users and service providers
  • Observers - expert listeners, watchers and note takers
  • Props - wigs, costumes - whatever assists in setting the scene
  • A space


Act 1:

Based on the service proposition you're testing, the actors act it out.  

The director helps the observers understand what the characters are thinking and feeling by pausing the act and asking the characters questions. For example:

"How do you feel right now?" or "what is working well for you?", "what isn't work well?", "what do you think about this?"

These things don't naturally come out unless they are challenged to the surface.

Observers write down their observations.


Design for Social Innovation Conference, Auckland 2015


Act 2:

This is the opportunity for the observers and actors to re-design the service.

As the actors run through the activity again, the observers and actors can yell 'stop' and demonstrate how they'd re-design the experiences. It's important everyone shows not just talks. 

The director facilitates the feedback process and helps the group reach consensus on changes.

You need someone/several people capturing the changes to the original service proposition.


Act 3:

After changes have been made, the actors to re-do the service experience - helping the room understand how the original service proposition has changed.


Why use it?

  • Theatre provides a way to model human interaction

  • Engages hearts and minds - creating empathy for customer and staff experiences

  • Brings personas to life - helping stakeholders get to know and use personas

  • Quick and cheap - to test, iterate and prototype services

  • Breaks assumptions down quickly

  • Facilitates honest conversations - providing a safe space for critique.


← back to all