Perspective-thinking to successfully face challenges of an emerging future

By Simon Dutton — “Is this time to make some final notes (thanks for the photo Carlo Spellucci) now that this year’s LEGO Serious Play conference is over and thoughts turn to drive 1,386 kilometers from the Home of the Brick in Billund back to home?”

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is prospective-thinking that enhances creative confidence. Thinking, communicating and solving problems building a 3D model before any participant has already expressed his or her position, really takes our insights and ideas to another level. It provides a safe space and an efficient and focused process, igniting possibility through play and exploration. It allows all participants to benefit from diversity. LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY helps to generate more visible and detailed ideas, more elements to react to and better meanings.

One of the best thing for a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator is to immerse 3 days into the annual LSP facilitators global community meeting in Billund. During those days we really share and learn from each other focusing and thinking about LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. The learning is formal through refresher sessions offered by the Trainers and through presentations into the conference program. A big part of the learning is informal through the chats with other facilitators gathering from all the world.

#LspDays18 all facilitators participating to 2018 global community meeting in Billund (thanks Erik Rondeel for the photo)

Last year I started to realise it (and run experiments accordingly) while this year I really got aware that we have reached the tipping point that shifted our profession to another level. This is the way I coined the term “perspective thinking”. This term has its roots in:

Photo by Laurence Sato of Robert Rasmussen slide

We all know (reading on newspapers, listening on the radio, TV, podcast, and following on the internet and social media) that we live in a more complex world to just take it with the usual linear way of thinking. Supranational institutions like the European Union, the World economic forum, tell us that the skills needed to live the present and the imminent future are very different from those we have learned in the educational and training paths of the past. Though we continue to have schools, university and work-based training employing the same model of the past: a teacher telling and participants listening. Space is still those used at first in the German churches of the post-reform: just resembling churches, with “banchi” (benches) and “cattedre” (church chairs).

Jilian Gilbert told us about what does it means teaching to Millennial and Generation Z, Wendi Dykes told us about the need for managers and entrepreneurs to move from linear thinking to creative confidence and Edgar Barron told us about the urge to co-create among people with different point of view, to benefit from the diversity and perspective taking. All of them with the experimental works of Juha Ruuska, Simon Bourdeau and Alice Shipman demonstrated that LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® possess the values to make this shift in education, dialogue, and co-creation happen. To explain this let me express it through my small talk with Masao (with as a matter of fact happened just after the morning session, the last day of the conference in Billund).

Edgar Barron introducing his presentation and those of Jilian Gilbert and Wendy Dykes

During the 2017 Conference, in the open space technology part, I met with some facilitators to discuss the use of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® with Scrum, indisputably the most spread framework in the Agile Software delivery industry, nowadays.

Based on that dialogues, in iterative collaboration with Michael F. Forni, we decided to validate our common ideas with a first experimental workshop, where we empowered Scrum sprints using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (we named it “ScrumLSP”) addressing the hands-on/mind-on activity purposely to a mainly “non Agile minded” audience (Journalists, Teachers, forward thinkers besides startuppers and consultants).

After that first one (in Rome at the beginning of November 2017) we organised and facilitated 4 new workshops, where we validated other aspects of ScrumLSP. Our work on Scrum and LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® was the topic of my talk with Masao. He was interested to know what a real-world experience thought me as a facilitator.

Me, Michael F. Forni and Andrea Romoli in a ScrumLSP workshop in Milan

Our experience made us focus on 3 different areas where LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® can be used effectively within the Scrum framework:

  • Product Backlog emergence and prioritization
  • Sprint review (reasons behind “not Done” items inspection)
  • Sprint retrospective (RetroLSP as a possible variation of the central 3 phases)

Besides the technicalities of Scrum and of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshops, the following are the main lessons learned.

In product backlog (an ordered list of everything that is known to be needed to add value to the product, the single source of requirements for any changes to be made to the product) the use of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® it really “helps to generate more visible and detailed ideas, more elements to react to, better meanings” (Simon Bourdeau).

In sprint review, too, a more detailed representation is reached, but beyond this, the “interpersonal safety (psychological safety) is added to the equation” (Wendi Dykes). In particular if in the sprint some task couldn’t be accomplished, the use of the LEGO® model as an intermediate allows to focus on details and tasks, rather than on the person. Using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® in the sprint review really allows to easily employ perspective taking by all participants. The application of the technique n. 3 “Landscape” of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology allows to move forward and combine individual achievements into a common highly detailed story.

The Sprint Retrospective is where LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® actually unfolds all the qualities needed for:

  • Generate a detailed statement by all participants (the inherited feature to be a 100–100 meeting)
  • Produce a “safe place, a multisensory approach with an efficient and focused process that really ignites possibility through play and exploration, allowing all participants to benefit from diversity. This takes participants insights and ideas to another level” (Alice Shipman)
  • Thinking, communicating and solving problems building a 3D model before any participant has already expressed his or her position allow:
  • To easily employ perspective taking by all participants (Edgar Barron)
  • A level of comfortability with uncertainty (Wendi Dykes)
  • Deeper learning through mental challenge and visual artifact (Wendi Dykes
  • Enhance the creative confidence in the participants, i.e. having the freedom and courage to fail/take creative risks and the knowledge that all of the ideas you create have value.
Alice Shipman final slide

On top of that, repeated experiments of RetroLSP© run in diverse cultural (Swedish, British and Italian) and Industry (Big data, Fintech, Software development) Scrum teams have indisputably shown the power of the LEGO® approach in facilitating the emergence of insightful and meaningful issues, among which one (the “emerging kaizen”) would have been agreed to be tackled in the very next Sprint (Michael F. Forni).

Talking with Masao we shifted from the initial assumption of using our experience to validate the potential of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® in enhancing Scrum results, to what does it take to introduce Scrum ceremonies into an organization. This is where the power of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® comes into power as a way to sustain innovation and co-creation. From a methodology to a strategic plan, we should be able to facilitate the shift from ceremonies to a series of workshop and practice, that will allow a “proper agilized” organization to move in a shift of procedures and way of working together.

But this is another story, ops Epic and I’ll maybe write it in the future together with Masao.

All this said, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is perspective thinking because it goes beyond perspective taking and perspective getting (Tal Eyal, Mary Steffel, and Nicholas Epley on Harvard business review blog), unfolds the full potential of a generative dialogue, that in a safe space takes full advantage of diversity in order to co-create an emerging future.

The wording “perspective thinking” came out from my lips during my small talk with Jette Rasmussen, who always inspires me in my profession and contributions to the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® community.