LEGO Serious Play Method for Creative Thinking - Good1 Consulting

In an introductory exercise to Seriously Playing, Marko Rillo1), a LEGO Serious Play facilitator metaphorically suggests that our hands act as search engines to our minds. He claims that fiddling with different objects as we think gets the thoughts flowing. Rillo tries to demonstrate this by reminding us of that friend that clicks a pen while trying to work or think.

From Rillo’s submission, it can be deduced that action and thought are bedfellows and to arrive at the best decisions in a contemporary workspace, an experimental activity like LEGO Serious Play would be an effective method.

What Is LEGO Serious Play?

LEGO Serious Play, also known as “LSP”, is a management method of communicating and solving problems with techniques that involve representing ideas and identifying solutions with 3D models of LEGO bricks.2) Its conceptual framework revolves around kinetic learning that gives participants a broader insight into what is being discussed. 

The LEGO Serious Play is a workable, highly adaptive process of strategizing that can fit into any industry. It has been used by various companies since its inception to arrive at decisions using an “all-hands-on-deck approach” as opposed to a “laid-back approach”. Some companies that use LEGO Serious Play in consulting and planning include; Orange, IKEA, Nokia, Daimler Chrysler, Mastercard, Unilever, TeliaSonera, The Home Depot, Yahoo, NASA, FedEx, Tupperware, etc.3) They have succeeded in using this process to arrive at quicker and broadly inclusive decisions.

The LEGO Serious Play was first introduced in 1996 by Prof. Jan Roos and Prof. Barn Victor of the Institute for Management Development as an experimental process for management to communicate, develop and challenge ideas and views of their business.4)

This methodology of communication, creation and analysis has been further expanded upon in subsequent articles by management experts which eventually resulted in a structural evolution that adopted the LEGO toy models as material for Serious Play.

Why Do We Use LEGO Serious Play?

Some of the primary reasons for incorporating some LEGO Serious Play into business activities are:

Engagement

Any wholesome activity that allows management to engage productively with its leaders and workforce should always be encouraged. During LEGO Serious Play, all members of the team are to be on their feet, to assess and tackle challenges, analyze situations and criticize ideas as they are presented with representative materials or LEGO bricks. This is the sort of healthy engagement that brings about thorough sensitization on organizational goals.

Understanding

When creating models in LEGO Serious Play, the other side of the field lies in interpreting and understanding it. Participants get to understand the creations and ideas of the facilitator after interpretations have been disclosed. With time and regular practice, interpretation of the models will come easier and swifter because participants are already in sync with the views and mindset of the facilitator.

Remembering

Representing ideas with LEGO models enables participants to remember problems and the steps to their solutions more vividly. It serves as material for a process that teaches by learning. Due to its constructive nature, the knowledge acquired from a LEGO Serious Play session can easily be remembered in similar situations where references can be made to decide other problems or to add to other ideas.

Some benefits of Seriously playing include:

  • Regular practice of LEGO Serious Play allows participants to be able to recognize metaphors easily. For example, a piece of green LEGO block could be used to identify an asset, and a red LEGO block could mean a liquidating asset or a liability. Other colors of blocks could mean competitions and their sizes could be used to identify the differences in their worth. 
  • Seriously Playing also enables different point of view to be presented from the issues that have been communicated in LEGO Serious Play models. Since ideas and problems are represented using physical models, participants can see them from different perspectives and make suggestions from those clear angles. For example, if a participant creates a LEGO model of a well-protected brick, it could connote a valued asset that is strong and guarded against any vulnerabilities. However, it would take visualizing and collaborating not to miss identifying this point of view.
  • LEGO Serious Play helps in nurturing the creative side of participants because it stimulates their creative thinking and problem-solving abilities.
  • It brings diversity to decision-making. Usually, the conclusions arrived at using an LSP model appear to be well-grounded due to the diversity of opinions that formed it.
  • By simplifying complex processes, it ensures that every one that is involved in the implementation process may have a chance to contribute to the conceptualization of what they are creating.

How To Facilitate LEGO Serious Play

LEGO Serious Play is a very simplistic concept. At the very core of this concept is a methodology for planning that uses models to make complexities simple. However, one key ideal to learn before facilitating LEGO Serious Play is that work does not negate play. Playing does not mean that you do not work. Contrary to that, playing is a pure natural activity that could be applied to many routines to add creativity and originality. 

There are several workable techniques and methods for implementing LEGO Serious Play. These techniques are usually overseen by someone known as a facilitator. It is this person that regulates the LSP session and ensures that everything goes in accordance with the rules to achieve reasonable goals.

There are four steps to playing seriously as outlined by Marko Rillo in his introduction to LEGO Serious Play.5)

Steps of Playing Seriously

Step 1 – Asking a question

The session begins with the facilitator posing a question to the participant. It could be a question like “Where do you see this product in 4 years?” The questions to be asked should be specific and should be designed with the idea of clarity so that its meaning is understood by all.

Step 2 – Construction

It is at this step that the participant begins to construct answers using the materials or LEGO bricks provided.

Step 3 – Sharing

The participant exhibits his created model to the other participants and begins to explain his representation.

Step 4 – Reflection

This is when the facilitator asks for different interpretations and critiques of the answer, and there is a deliberation of the model that has been presented. A LEGO Serious Play session will be effective only if both participants and facilitators understand their roles. Participants are meant to construct models using LEGO bricks, materials, and their creative imagination. They are also meant to make sense of their creation using metaphors to describe their meanings. On the other hand, facilitators are meant to present challenges to participants so as to provoke problem-solving ideas.

Rules to LEGO Serious Play

There are certain rules to playing seriously that must be regulated by the facilitator. Some of these rules are:

  • The facilitator should always follow the steps as outlined above. He may instruct the participants to build individually or as a team, but building should always be followed by sharing and reflecting.
  • There are no right or wrong answers in LEGO Serious Play. One of the benefits of LSP is to emerge with the most diverse point of view. As such, sentiments like wrong or right do not pass when judging interpretations. The ideas that don’t seem welcoming are only from a different perspective and does not mean they are invalid.
  • Facilitators should ensure that there are no bystanders during the LSP session. LEGO Serious Play is not a laid-back interaction where one person is active and the others lag off or are unresponsive until it is time to make a vote. It is a hands-on process, and as such, the facilitator should ensure that all hands are involved. If anyone declined participation then that person should be allowed to leave.
  • Facilitators should ensure that participants focus their criticism on the model and not its creator. It is very important to note this because attacking the creator might deviate from the goal of the LSP session. Attacking the model on the other hand allows participants to see the situation clearly and objectively.
  • The facilitator should take note of the time of the session. If the LSP goes on for too long then the participants might burn out and get bored, and all progress may be futile at the end.
  • The facilitator should also monitor and maintain the flow of the LSP and make sure that participants do not feel under pressure to present an outstanding idea or solution.

Conclusion

LEGO Serious Play believes that one of the best ways creative solutions can be arrived at is when the collective wisdom of an organization is harness. This way, it ensures that every team is effective through creativity and innovation.   

References

References
1Serious Work Pro. What is LEGO Serious Play. Retrieved on August 11 2021. https://seriousplaypro.com/what-is-lego-serious-play/
2Lego Serious Play Method. Retrieved on August 11, 2021. https://www.aveapartners.fr/en/lego-serious-play-method
3Marko Rillo. May 3, 2016. What companies use LEGO Serious Play? Serious Play Pro. Retrieved on August 11 2021 https://seriousplaypro.com/2016/05/03/what-companies-use-lego-serious-play/
4SERIOUS WORK. February 16, 2017. A very brief history of LEGO Serious Play. SERIOUS WORK. Retrieved on August 11 2021 https://www.serious.global/Blog/?post_id=3&title=%E2%80%8Ba-very-brief-history-of-lego%C2%AE-serious-play%C2%AE
5Serious Work Pro. What is LEGO Serious Play. Retrieved on August 11 2021. https://seriousplaypro.com/what-is-lego-serious-play/
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