LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®
Lego® Serious Play® is an interactive thinking and communication method, that allows groups of people to explore complex problems in a playful way, creating a safe space to share personal perspectives.
Lego® Serious Play® follows a simple process:
1. The facilitator poses a question. The question is clear but open, so that many different answers are possible, all being correct at the same time.
2. Everyone uses the LEGO® bricks to construct a representation of their answer.
3. One by one, the answers are shared with the group, while pointing at the bricks that represent the meaning.
4. The group, guided by the facilitator, reflects on the answers.
The combination of constructing with bricks and following a clear structure brings many benefits. In the overview below you see a summary of these benefits. Following I will walk you through them step by step.
Exploring complexity with confidence
Complexity can often lead to frustration and make people feel overwhelmed, unable to make decisions. The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method combines multiple beneficial characteristics, which together allow anyone to explore complexity with confidence.
Easy to learn for anyone
Anyone can build with bricks, no matter the amount of previous experience. At the beginning of each workshop, a number of skills building exercises give the participants the experience they need to become confident constructing with and giving meaning to the bricks.
The method encourages a playful mindset. This can open up new ways of thinking and makes us more resistant to frustration. When we play, we are open to try new things and do not expect everything to work perfectly immediately.
When confronted with a blank page, we often get stuck, not knowing where to start. Sitting in front of a pile of bricks, we can easily see many possibilities. And in case someone does feel stuck, just getting your hands on the bricks and starting to build usually does the trick.
Reduction of workload
Sometimes we struggle holding on to and structuring our ideas in our mind. Building physical representations of our ideas reduces the workload for the brain and allows us to manipulate the ideas.
Construction of new knowledge structures
By experimenting with the physical representations of our ideas, moving them around and discovering new relationships, we construct new connections between these ideas in our brain.
High information density
We are able to give a lot of meaning to the bricks. Compared to written language, the information density is a lot higher. We are therefore not forced to oversimplify our ideas and can instead honour the existing complexity.
Looking at the physical model allows us to easily retrieve the corresponding meaning. Not only for the models we build ourselves, but also for all other models on the table, whose stories we heard.
State of flow
The structure of the workshop allows to match the difficulty of the challenges to the capabilities of the workshop participants. The questions are difficult enough so that no one is bored, but not too difficult, leading to frustration. This allows the participants to remain in a state of flow. When we are in a state of flow, we feel challenged, but confident and motivated to overcome the challenge.
Focus on question
The clear structure keeps the focus on the main question of the workshop, avoiding the danger of getting lost in tangents.
Step by step increase in complexity
The process creates a cycle between structures in the mind, constructing structures in the world and storytelling. This allows to increase complexity step by step. The gradual build up of complexity avoids the feeling of overwhelm that can arise when having to face the full level of complexity at once.
Constructing, storytelling, listening and looking at models engages multiple senses. With each sense, we process information in slightly different ways, leading to a deeper understanding when combined.
Explore relations and connections between answers
When everyone has build their personal answer, the relations between answers can be explored by giving meaning to the placement of the models in relation to each other and by adding the existing connections between answers to the model.
Model the system, play through scenarios
A model of the system can be built, by adding additional components to the initial answers and characterizing the connections between components. Is the connection strong or weak, stiff or flexible? What flows between components? Information, energy, materials? All participants cooperate to create a model of the system they are part of, increasing the complexity step by step.
This systems model can then be used to play through scenarios, exploring how the system reacts to specific events. After the influence of the event on the system has been played out, the participants decide what actions they would take in this situation. Are actions needed to restore the function of the system or are there opportunities to change the system? After playing through a couple of scenarios, the underlying principles that guide their actions start to become clear. In the future, these guiding principles can help to make decisions when faced with real events.
Accepting and combining differing perspectives, honouring responsibility
We often struggle to see that our differing opinions on how to act are based on the fact that we all see the same situation from slightly different viewpoints and therefore come to different conclusions. This can lead to conflict, arguing about whose conclusion is right, while unable to see that everyone's conclusions contain valuable pieces of the puzzle. If we could instead listen to and combine our perspectives, we could construct a more complete understanding of the situation. The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method facilitates this process.
Answer detached from messenger, discussion about ideas, not people
Building a model makes it possible to detach the answer from the messenger. The discussion can therefore focus on ideas instead of people. This makes the discussion less confrontational and conflicts less likely to escalate.
Combine individual answers to build shared understanding
The individual answers can be combined to build a shared model, which represents the groups answer to the question. It is very easy to see if specific aspects have not been included in the group model, since all personal answers remain on the table. When the group comes to an answer together, instead of having a solution imposed by a manager or boss, they feel more committed to the answer and are more likely to take on responsibility.
Same role for everyone
Throughout the entire process, all participants have the same role. This makes it easier to leave behind hierarchies and focus on thoughts instead of titles.
Focus on listening when others share
After posing the question, everyone gets time to formulate and construct their answers. This means that when the answers are shared in the next step, everyone can focus on listening, instead of thinking about their own answer. With this focus, the participants are much more likely to understand and relate to each others perspectives.
All answers remain on the table
Throughout the entire process, the models representing everyone's answers remain on the table. This means that no ideas can be forgotten or ignored.
Accessing a wide range of information
When interacting with complex systems, it can be difficult to access all the necessary information to get a clear picture of the system. Often systems are being analysed by experts separated into artificial silos and it is difficult to access the information from the people who are part of the system. The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method helps to bring together people with different experiences, creates a safe space for everyone to share their opinions and helps people to access subconscious knowledge.
Access subconscious knowledge
Through experience, we have gathered a lot of knowledge about the world, but we can not always retrieve all of this information. Using our hands to construct models with bricks helps us to access some of this subconscious knowledge.
With this method, no one leans back and zones out. Everyone gets their hands on the bricks, builds their answers and shares their story.
Everyone is heard
And everyone's story is being listened to by everyone else. This way no valuable information is lost. And because everyone's existing knowledge structures are different, they will come to different conclusions after listening to a new story, adding additional information.
Safe space to share personal opinions
Everyone has the same role, everyone shares, and the answers are detached from the messenger. This creates a space in which people feel safe to share their personal opinions and thoughts.
Time to think before speaking
Everyone gets time to think before being asked to speak. No one needs to think and listen at the same time. This means that the answers are deeper and more complete.
Personal answers, not influenced by others
Before sharing, everyone gets to think about their personal answer to the question. Therefore the answers are not influenced by each other, leading to a wide range of answers.
Can Systems Mapping and
Lego Serious Play be combined?
You can read my exploration of this question in the article below, which was first published in The LSP Magazine.