Conversations in Lego

When I mentioned to my friends and colleagues at Thirst Studios that I had planned a lunch & learn session with Lego, I was met with both excitement and confused looks. I fielded some curious questions, but mostly anticipation of fun and pizza.

LEGO® Serious Play® facilitator, Michael Fearne shared his playful methods with our team at Thirst Studios this week.

LEGO® Serious Play® is a methodology to bridge and harvest an organisation’s collective intelligence to solve problems and improve decision-making, actively engaging every participant.

With multi coloured tools-of-the-trade, Michael’s clients get to explore problems, ideas and team dynamics (among many other things) using a very familiar yet different medium.

Our workshop was an introduction to the language of Lego. In Michael’s own words, it introduces a “visual language, a metaphorical language, an object-mediated language, a story telling based language”.

Being asked to rummage through a utopia of varied lego pieces to construct a story was a fun experience (obviously)! It connected with the inner child (not that we needed much help with that, but picture intense concentration and tongues-out as teammates constructed a tower to represent themselves). Each of our unique storytelling styles emerged as we were asked to share the story of our creations.

A raucous discovery was that we were able to connect with deeper meaning through metaphor. Details such as the position and relationship of pieces presented an opportunity to communicate meaning (like a ladder to climb the tower, for example).

But, how does this apply to UX? As UX designers, we spend a lot of time thinking, talking and walking through ideas, problems and solutions.

The discovery phase of our projects regularly utilise client and stakeholder workshops to explore opportunities, gathering business and user requirements and synthesise research findings.

As a team at Thirst, we regularly have internal workshops or “creative thrash’s” with our team to leverage diverse talents and perspectives for new projects, to unpack existing projects or opportunities and to review our work in progress.

Quite accustomed to the whiteboard, post-it note and quick-fire ideation sessions, Lego feels like the perfect addition to our suite of collaboration (& participatory design) methods.

Applications we begin to see this complementing include:

  • Current state analysis- What does the current landscape look like?
  • Customer journey mapping- How does the user navigate through an experience with your product/service? How do we represent the emotion and complexity of the various touch-points they encounter? How/Who does the user interact with?
  • Persona development- understanding the behaviours and characteristics of our users. Empathy mapping.
  • Storyboarding- How does the user experience the problem we are designing for?
  • User research & research synthesis- with users, internal and business stakeholders
  • Prototyping products and services

Design is communication. I have seen some fantastic talks on presenting design and demonstrating the value of design. In particular, a great presentation described design as translation.

Lego as a visual and tangible language provides the perfect opportunity to communicate with people in a broad and meaningful way.

We are user centred designers. Our first user is our client. By practising what we preach, in facilitating our clients through a process of empathy for their users we are empathising with our client to understand the way that they experience their business and their customers.

By engaging our clients with methods like Lego Serious Play, we become co-creators of solutions, ideas and stories.

It would seem we could then bid farewell to the idea of pitching the value of design to these clients, as they become co-creators of the story. They create the value- we just facilitate it.

Looking forward to sharing some stories of how we have used Lego to workshop with our own team and clients.

Originally published at on February 24, 2017.

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