User Experience Design

Using LEGO to solve real business problems? Surely not! This is another case study in a series focusing on companies that have used LEGO Serious Play to help solve real business challenges they were facing.

The Brief

I've been a big fan of General Assembly ( and their innovative approach to learning. I recently had the opportunity to work with their Melbourne office to combine my love of LEGO Serious Play and their User Experience (UX) Design Course.

The brief was to take the 18 students from the course through a short session to show them the LEGO Serious Play technique, how it could help the current project they were working on and how it could be used more broadly in their field.

What We Did

The students were working in groups of three on real world design projects from clients connected with General Assembly. As LEGO Serious Play works best with smaller groups we decided to run three separate sessions. Each session had six people in it (3 from one project, 3 from another project) and went for two hours.

We started each session with an introduction to the LEGO Serious Play technique (it's history, who uses it and for what). We introduced the basic steps and the guidelines we use to maximise the technique.

We then launched into the standard warm up activities (called "skills building" in LEGO Serious Play language). This always takes around 40 minutes with a new group and is vital to the success of the workshop.

If you'll indulge me a slight detour from this case study... This warm up does a couple of things. At a basic level it gets people comfortable with touching and playing with the bricks. Reconnecting with that element of play that is in all of us. Showing that it's ok to be playing with LEGO at work.

But on a more sophisticated level the warm up is introducing people to a new language. A more visual language, a metaphorical language, an object-mediated language, a story telling based language.

At the start, people's vocabulary with this new language is limited. In the warm up activities we often get very superficial and surface level conversations happening. But as we progress through the warm up and the main activities, this vocabulary grows. Resulting in some remarkably in-depth and powerful conversations.

But only if you take the time to build up that vocabulary with the proper warm up activities. Detour over, back to the case study.

The first question we delved into was around understanding their clients. The students had just met their clients earlier in the week and received the brief for the project. We got the students to individually build how they saw the client.  What they thought were the client's key characteristics, their stressors, the vision for their company, etc.

After they shared the story of their model, we got the three people working on the same project to combine their models into one shared model of their client.

The aim of this activity was to get everyone in the same project with a shared understanding of the client and it's needs. Some groups were already in close alignment, but other groups had quite different views.  This activity gave the groups a solid, consistent base to work from for the remainder of the project.

The last question we asked of the groups was a little more free form. We asked them to apply this LEGO technique to a part of their project. Here is what they came up with:

  • Current State: One group chose to use the LEGO to explore the current state of the problem.
  • Customer Journey: Another group looked to use it to understand the customer journey in a more visual way.
  • Personas: We had one group build different customer / user personas. Helping them to better understand who they were building this solution for.
  • Think.Feel.Do: A different group combined LEGO with the Think.Feel.Do approach. Building out what they wanted their customer to think, to feel and to do.

We finished off the session with a discussion of other ways to use this technique in the field of UX. Some ideas were: Envisaging solutions / future states; Story boarding; Prototyping; User Research (using the LEGO Serious Play technique on end users to gather more emotional / in depth information).

The Result

It was a very short two hour session, but the students moved quickly through understanding the basics of the technique to how they might apply it to their projects and more broadly in the field of UX.

Of immediate benefit was the increased understanding of their current project. For some of the more high performing teams it confirmed they were on the right track and allowed them to share more nuanced ideas and stories to take the project to a new level.

For other teams who were originally struggling with their project (due to difficult clients or difficult team dynamics) it allowed them to reset and build from a shared base of understanding.

And that's what I love about this technique. Because it is based around having a better conversation it doesn't matter where you start.

You could start with a dysfunctional team or a team that has issues and LEGO Serious Play can help bring them together and refocus their work.

Or it could be a high performing team and LEGO Serious Play just takes the conversation and group dynamics to amazing new levels.

LEGO Serious Play is an exciting, versatile new language for business. I'm really keen to explore it further and see where it can take us...

About the Author

Michael Fearne is the founder of Pivotal Play. An unconventional consultancy helping companies to solve problems and create more meaningful conversations through the power of LEGO Serious Play. 



This is the 2nd post in a series focusing on case studies and companies that have used LEGO Serious Play to help solve real challenges they were facing.


The Brief

Over the last 2 years I've incorporated LEGO Serious Play into the development workshops I run with graduates (through my other company Burst Development). Burst specialises in helping companies fast track their graduate's development, getting them up to speed quicker and laying the foundation for a successful career.

While there was no one brief from a particular company, all my clients are looking for innovative and more effective ways to onboard and develop their graduates. LEGO Serious Play has proven itself an effective additional technique for a particular subset of graduate development needs.


What We Did

That fast tracking of a graduate's development begins as soon as they start, through their induction and onboarding. These sessions include skills training (e.g. communication basics, time management) but also include sections where graduates need to express themselves individually and as a group (on personal branding, expectations, self-awareness and company awareness). It is these topics where LEGO Serious Play really shines.

Examples of how it's used in graduate onboarding:

  • Expectations play a huge role in how well a new starter fits into their work environment. Using LEGO Serious Play we get graduates to build their expectations. What will their managers be like, their colleagues, their day to day tasks. This uncovers any potential gaps between expectation and reality, allowing the graduate to manage their expectations instead of getting a rude shock when first joining their team.
  • Personal Branding is an important skill for graduates to understanding as they begin to build their career. We get them to build their personal brand using LEGO. We find the layering of metaphors that LEGO allows fits perfectly with a graduate defining their own personal brand and how to implement it.
  • Understanding the company, it's past, it's present and it's future is vitally important for graduates. We run a group activity where graduates build their understanding of the company with LEGO, assessing their understanding of where it's been, where it's at, but also highlighting the future they will be a part of.


The Result

At the first superficial level, graduates of age 21-25 love using LEGO. No surprises there. So they are definitely engaged. But is it effective?

From my experience delivering the same topic before I used LEGO Serious Play and after using it, the clear answer is yes it is more effective. The concepts, ideas, situations and solutions that the graduates are bringing up and discussing are far deeper and more meaningful than when using other techniques.

From the client's perspective, they are impressed with the discussions that LEGO Serious Play generates. I've also had clients say that over 12 months after their induction, graduates are still referring back to the LEGO Serious Play activities. They find that the concepts raised and the skills learnt are much "stickier", staying with the graduates longer and positively impacting their first year in full time work.

Like with many development activities, it's difficult to empirically quantify the benefits of applying LEGO Serious Play to onboarding. But this case study shows that the three groups involved (graduates, facilitator & client) all believe it enhances the process and promotes more powerful conversations. This clearly leads to memorable experiences that help a graduate to fell more integrated into the team, help them define their place and help them understand the company they have joined.


About the Author

Michael Fearne is the founder of Pivotal Play. An unconventional consultancy helping companies to solve problems and create more meaningful conversations through the power of LEGO Serious Play.

Team Culture

This is the first in a series of posts focusing on case studies and companies that have used LEGO Serious Play to help solve real challenges they were facing.


The Brief

First up is a case study from 2014 that focuses on improving Team Culture. Pivotal Play (the company I run) were engaged by a large Professional Services firm in Australia to work with one of their high performing teams.

The very successful team was facing a new challenge. They had recently lost some of their middle managers and communication between different levels within the team had suffered. It wasn't impacting performance yet, but it had the potential to derail the firm's most profitable group.


What We Did

Working with all levels in the group, Pivotal Play helped define and clarify what the problem was.

We ran a team workshop using LEGO Serious Play with the whole group. As part of the session we asked individuals to build LEGO models that represented their team environment as they saw it at the present moment. We got them to combine and integrate their individual models to get an overall picture of how the team saw the current state. This allowed everyone to have buy in and come to a common understanding of what the problems were.

We also asked them to build the team environment that would empower them in the future. The future state they would like see. Again combining individual models to build a shared vision.

The final step was filling in the gap, building what they needed to do as individuals and as a group to move from their current team environment to that shared vision of their future team environment.

With LEGO bricks we got all these issues on the table, where everyone felt comfortable discussing them. Leaders got to hear different perspectives and juniors got to understand the challenges faced by leadership. In the end the team co-created their own solution and an action plan to make it happen.


The Result

Group wide, positive feedback on how the underlying issues were brought up and addressed. Everyone was engaged and felt they had input in to the solution, creating powerful buy in.

New initiatives were put in place both officially and from a grass roots level. Stronger mentoring, juniors taking more initiative, greater knowledge sharing and group learning, more agile and nimble work arrangements and open communication between levels.

An issue that had the potential to derail a high performing team was instead turned into an opportunity to engage the team and drive even more success.

Team Culture is just one challenge that can be tackled using the LEGO Serious Play method. In future posts we'll look at how it can be used in other areas such as strategic planning, a Lean Start Up environment, for on boarding / induction and in education.


About the Author

Michael Fearne is the founder of Pivotal Play. An unconventional consultancy helping companies to solve problems and create more meaningful conversations through the power of LEGO Serious Play.