• Joshua Ehrenreich

Losing Sleep over LEGOs®

Recently I stayed up 11 hours past bedtime to participate in a London based workshop on LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. For a couple of days, from 1 am - 9 am, I had the pleasure of joining a small, international group learning to facilitate the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method online. Extra bonus—I got to see a couple of sunrises!

But what is LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, and why would I choose to sacrifice sleep (oh precious sleep) for it?

In their book Serious Work, Sean Blair (the facilitator—Thanks Sean!) and Marko Rillo write 'LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a method that enables constructive reflection and dialogue. During a structured process, participants use LEGO® bricks to create models that express their thoughts, reflections, and ideas' (Serious Work, 62). Using LEGO® bricks to build answers and then sharing those answers creates a highly interactive, auditory, visual, and kinesthetic workshop. Each model, often each brick, represents something for the builder. This custom-built reference is a powerful support to the builder in sharing his or her unique story.

The structured process of this approach is critical. It ensures everyone's participation rather than turning into a loudest-wins-free-for-all. The words may change, but generally, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® follows a process of posing a question, constructing a model in response, sharing the story of the built model, and reflection (Rasumussen & Kristiansen (2014). Well-designed build questions create insight and a shared understanding at the individual, team, or organization level. The three different levels of model builds in LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® mirror this.

  • Level 1 are individual model builds and creates common understanding around individually held views and perspectives. This level is especially useful for goals such as defining values, behavioral norms, or idea development.

  • Level 2 creates shared models—integrating individual perspectives into a shared group understanding through a collaborative model build. Shared models are effective on topics surrounding team building, innovation, or visioning.

  • Level 3 is the system model build, exploring the dynamic factors that exert influence upon each other and the broader organization, process, or landscape. This level is especially useful for questions of strategy and scenario planning.

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is well researched and tuned, both inside academia and the corporate space. In their article discussing the origins Roos and Victor (2018) highlight the emergence of this method from concepts such as 'autopoiesis [systems capable of self-reproduction and maintenance], complex adaptive systems, collective mind, imagination, and storytelling.' If your team or org sees the value of concepts like systems thinking, design thinking, or storytelling, you'll find this methodology sits alongside these practices quite nicely. 

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is an enjoyable and engaging team activity (using LEGOs® to boot!). But, make no mistake—it definitely is work. Even the staunchest skeptics generally become believers after the first one or two skill-builds.

Are you looking for a workshop approach that can be facilitated digitally and is excellent at aligning teams or idea generation? Want to move beyond 'Zoom Happy Hour' to develop your team more effectively? An online facilitated LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® session might be the solution for your team. Let's connect and discuss if LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® could work for your needs.

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