3 Ways LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Will Transform Your Meetings & Workshops
Have you ever sat in a meeting where lots of people talk about something, but each person talks about something different but tangentially related, and at the end of the meeting nothing happened or was captured?…Not to mention half the room is leaning back in their chairs arms crossed and tight lipped. Can I get a show of hands by clapping for this post?
This is how I felt in a lot of meetings I’ve attended and so when I discovered LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (LSP) as a facilitation tool I was really excited. Could we actually have a meeting or a workshop where everyone was engaged and actively participated? Yes. Yes we can. In comes LSP.
I spent 3 days in Whistler, BC with Strategic Play® learning to use LSP as a facilitation tool. The basic structure of LSP is fairly simply. A challenge/question is presented to the group, everyone builds a model responding to the question, and then everyone shares the story of their model. Through this seemingly simple format we enable conversations through the models to uncover tacit knowledge, new ideas, and shared understanding. And with a series of increasingly complex activities from this 3 step process we can facilitate things like team alignment, brainstorm creative ideas, or even play out a business strategy. Besides the fantastic outcomes of a LSP session, here are 3 reasons why I think this methodology is so powerful:
1. Providing space to tell your story
I’ll admit it. I’m not the BEST facilitator. My weakness has often been to manage the voices in the room and provide equitable time for all to speak (seems like a thing facilitators should be good at!!!). Or at the least, enable everyone to participate in a meaningful way. LSP provides the structure to create a level field for everyone to express themselves. In LSP, everyone builds a model and everyone shares their story.
The models themselves are not necessarily the interesting part of the process, it’s the metaphors and meaning we apply to them, and the stories we create to explain the model. For example, a mini-figure with no head might represent a thoughtless leader, or signify chaos with the team “running around with their heads cut off”. The stories we apply to simple models create powerful metaphors to share with the group.
Everyone builds a model. Everyone shares their story.
In the telling of these stories, LSP creates the time and space for each participant to share. This lets everyone in the room have a voice in a very equitable way. No one gets the option to sit back and watch, and no one gets the chance to dominate the conversation.
2. Build your thoughts, speak your truth
Attempting to articulate your thoughts and feelings can be difficult. Words are clunky. What’s even more difficult is to have a room of people speaking about a topic and at the same time trying to create alignment and a shared understanding. LEGO® bricks enable you to build a model and attach meaning to that model rather than simply talking. Your thoughts become committed to a physical representation, which literally remains on the table for everyone to see. And because everyone builds a model about the same topic, everyone is able to see the different perspectives in the room.
The physical act of building the model is also a critical element to this tool. The mind-body connection of translating our thoughts into physical models unlocks new ways of thinking through the manipulation objects. They say if you can’t think of anything to build, just start building and let your hands do the thinking. It’s a process you have to experience to understand, but I can say from first hand experience that it truly does unlock something in your brain.
Let your hands do the thinking.
One of the foundational tenants to LSP is that your model is what you say it is. There is no refuting the meaning someone applies to their model. If I put 5 red LEGO® bricks together and call it an elephant, then it’s an elephant. It doesn’t matter if it looks like one, because I’ve applied meaning to it that’s what it becomes. It’s OK to ask questions or seek clarity about what was built, but participants question the model, not the person. In this way, everyone gets to speak their truth without their words being manipulated or misconstrued in someones mind.
3. Overcoming the creativity barrier
People are afraid of drawing. At some point in our lives we were told (or told ourselves) that we couldn’t draw or were bad at drawing. No matter how often we try to convince people that it only takes a few simple shapes to communicate a concept, getting over this internal narrative is hard. Building with LEGO® blocks provides a set of safe constraints and boundaries to build our thoughts while remaining almost limitless in our creative potential of block combinations. The fear of something “looking bad” is eliminated because everyone understands that nothing built with LEGO® is going to look like a true representation of something. There is an inherent abstraction that LEGO® affords. This abstraction creates the perfect balance of creative expression and rational thought to explore tricky subjects like corporate strategy and team alignment. In theory, the foundational structure of LSP could be applied to any medium (drawing, Play-Doh, collage etc.), but the ease of building complex ideas within a constrained medium is why I think LEGO® surpasses any other form of modelling.
If nothing else, playing with LEGO® is fun! And we could all use a bit of play in our workplace.
After spending 3 days of facilitation training in Whistler, BC I’ve only scratched the surface of learning. I’m keen to apply LSP to policy making and co-design processes.
Have you used LSP in your work? Let me know your experience!