One of the first questions people ask me about LEGO Serious Play is: What does it look like? Do you just dump a bunch of LEGO in front of people and say go for it? Is it building models together from instructions?
This brief video shows a LEGO Serious Play workshop in action. Take a look and after it I'll talk you through what actually happens in a session and why it's so powerful.
Two things to note from the video: As you can see this is the LEGO you remember from childhood. Lots of random bricks and you get to be creative and imaginative and there is not an instruction booklet in sight!
The other important thing to note is that the LEGO is just a tool to open up conversations. It's not about how "well" you build. If that weird looking thing you build is a representation of the strength you bring to the team, or a representation of your team/company/supplier/customer then it is! It's about the story you tell, the knowledge you unlock, not how it looks.
So the process...
LEGO Serious Play works best with a group of between 4 and 10 people.
There are a couple of warm up activities that get people used to playing with LEGO.
Then we take everyone through a serious of rounds each consisting of:
- Question: The facilitator poses a question.
- Build: Each person builds an individual model in response.
- Share: Going around the group, everyone shares the story of their model and how it relates to the question.
- Reflect: People reflect and question people on their models, leading to deeper and richer insights.
The facilitator then asks the next question that delves deeper into the problem, using the response from the previous round to fuel the next round of insights.
Question. Build. Share. Reflect.
Much like the bricks themselves, this basic format is extremely versatile. You can delve into more advanced variations where you get people to combine models or map out huge business landscapes. As you saw in the video towards the end, you can then get people to tell the story of these shared models, creating that shared understanding.
You can also combine this with other tools like scenario planning, building guiding principles and the Business Model Canvas. The method can adapt to fit what you need to solve the challenge in front of you.
Businesses are in a constant struggle to think of new and better ways to service their customers, sell their wares, be more efficient, do more with less, be innovative, save the world and oh by the way do it all sustainably while bringing all yourshareholders stakeholders with you on the journey.
We ask our employees to think and work differently to achieve this. But are we creating the conditions that allow our people to do that?
LEGO Serious Play is a chance to break out of our usual, limiting work patterns and spark creativity, innovation, new ways of communicating, thinking and problem solving.
There's a lot of reasons why this technique works.
- You escape the "flatland" of powerpoint, documents and the verbal jousting that characterises so many meetings.
- The problem and potential solutions get built right there on the table in front of you! It's amazingly powerful to see.
- It engages and utilises 100% of your team 100% of the time.
But ultimately it's about changing the dynamic. The LEGO brick and the act of building taps into different parts of our brain not normally engaged at work. It encourages us to think differently, making new connections, seeing things in a new light.
It's the ultimate creative tool for kids, why not for adults?
A few months LEGO revamped their official LEGO Serious Play website (www.seriousplay.com). It does a good job of talking at a high level about the method, it's benefits, it's history and the research that backs it up.
It also strongly recommends the use of an experienced, certified facilitator to get the most out of the technique. That's us!
It's not about dumping a pile of LEGO in front of people and seeing what comes out. There's a lot of preparation that goes into understanding what the problem is and crafting a series of questions and activities that hone in on a solution.
And in the workshop the LEGO is just the tool that allows us to get to the real value: the knowledge, the stories, the connections and the new insights. An experienced facilitator helps to maximise that through keen questioning, challenging and crystallising.
If you have a moment, I encourage you to check out the official website.