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Using Role-Play Simulations. Interview of Dan Li by Sara Reeves. Overview. Role-play simulation benefits “Olin Life in China” Logistics Resources. Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand. COMMONLY ATTRIBUTED TO CONFUCIUS, CIRCA 450 BC.

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using role play simulations

Using Role-Play Simulations

Interview of Dan Li by Sara Reeves

  • Role-play simulation benefits
  • “Olin Life in China”
  • Logistics
  • Resources

Tell me, and I will forget.

Show me, and I may remember.

Involve me, and I will understand.


role play simulations
Role Play Simulations

Why use role-play simulations?

  • “…effective learning occurs when students are more actively involved with an experience and then reflect on that experience” (Frontczak& Kelley 2000,p. 3)
  • Increased student enthusiasm (Dabbour 1997)
  • Increased performance on assignments (Perry et al. 1996)
  • Higher levels of self-confidence (Anderman & Young 1994; Ramocki1987)
  • Enhancement of learning (Hamer 2000; Lawson 1995)
  • Enhancement of creativity and social skills (Livingston & Lynch 2002)
  • Improvements in critical thinking and problem-solving skills (Abson 1994; Gremler et al. 2000; Zoller1987).
role play simulations1
Role Play Simulations

Student feedback

  • “This simulation really opened my eyes and gave me a perspective I've never had before......”
  • “[O]ne of the most useful exercises I have done during my college career. I went into it thinking this was just a way to get points in one of my final classes, but left with an abundance of knowledge I did not have when I entered.”
  • “It was definitely the most valuable aspect of this class because although I learned many useful things from the lectures, activities in class, and the textbook, this simulation really showed me how it can be in a real life situation. ”
  • “When I initially found out that we had to "role play" a Chinese team meeting with an American team, I wasn't exactly thrilled. I expected everyone to go through the motions without much learning. I was dubious that this negotiation could really be worthwhile. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised when the meeting actually took place.”
  • “I remember thinking to myself that a successful negotiation would only require some careful research before the session. This simulation has shown me just how complex, delicate and close to impossible effective cross-cultural negotiation can be, no matter how well-read you are on the opposing culture, or how much you have practiced your speech. This role-play did not only help me understand the intricacy of negotiations, but it also taught me about Chinese culture, history and the state of business in China, as well as the challenges for foreign companies trying to enter the country.”
  • “As a Chinese student, I never thought I would get much out of this. Surprisingly, I was quite a bit shocked about the way business negotiation was conducted in China and learned many thing including Chinese' view on contracts and expected behaviors during negotiation.”
olin life in china an american insurance company enters china
Olin Life in China: An American Insurance Company Enters China


  • Role-play simulation designed to teach cross-cultural negotiation strategies
  • A fictional, but fact-based, negotiation scenario.
    • Olin Life, an Ohio insurance corporation wishing to expand into China, sends three of the company’s top officers to Shanghai to begin the negotiation process with the China Insurance Regulatory Commission.
  • Simulation packet includes 8 roles: three members of the US delegation, three members of the Chinese delegation, and two observers.

Course Information

  • International Management course
  • Junior and senior undergraduate students
  • Prerequisite: International Business Environment
  • Class size varies from 60-80
  • Majority of student are American. 10-15% international students. 2-5 Chinese students.
  • Administered near end of semester


  • Purchase all simulation roles for more control over information distribution
  • Develop detailed guidelines
  • Reserve needed rooms
    • Pre-negotiation: 1 classroom per delegation
    • Negotiations: 1 conference room per negotiation pair
  • AV equipment
    • 1 video camera for each group


  • Introduction
    • Situation, rules, and expectations
    • Assign roles; adjust by class size
    • Distribute role packets
    • Distribute guidelines
  • Pre-negotiations
    • During class
    • One delegation and observer(s) per room
    • Important role of observer(s)


  • Negotiations
    • One negotiation pair per conference room
    • Video taped
  • Debrief
    • Discussion between role players and observers
    • Discussion among role players
    • Faculty provides feedback
  • Reflection
    • Report on experience and lessons learned

Fortgang, Ron S., Subramanian, Guhan, & Wheeler, Michael (2000). Analysis of negotiation programs at schools of business and management. In Sara Cobb (Ed.), Negotiation pedagogy: A research survey of four disciplines (pp. 63– 84). Cambridge, MA7 Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Lewis, Maureen Maguire (2011). Olin Life in China: An American Insurance Company Enters China. Cultures Crossing. Retrieved from:

McAndrew, Ian, and Phillips, Virginia (2005). Documenting play: Using videotaped interviews to debrief collective bargaining games. Human Resources Management Review (pp.214-225). Elsevier Inc.

Sojka, Jane Z. and Fish, Mark S.B. (2008). Brief in-class role plays: An experiential teaching tool targeted to generation Y students. Marketing Education Review. Vol. 18:1.

Sutcliffe, Mark (2002). Simulations, games and role-play. The Handbook for Economic Lecturers. The Economics Network. Retrieved from:

Sutcliffe, Mark (2002). Using role-play to teach undergraduate business students: Challenging the teacher, supporting the learner. Retrieved from:

Volkema, Roger J. (2007). Negotiating for Money: Adding a Dose of Reality to Classroom Negotiations. Negotiation Journal. Harvard College.

Other simulations

Cultures Crossing:

Harvard Business Role Plays: