Lego Serious Play (LSP) is ideal for developing solutions within a team to tackle complex issues. What will your future world of learning look like? How do we want to learn in our organization three years from now? Anyone pursuing a conventional approach to discussing these or other strategic issues runs the risk that not all employees will express their ideas. This is not the case with LSP. The colored bricks ensure every team member can contribute their thoughts, with a big picture emerging at the end – a shared vision supported by everyone.
Basic rules of Lego Serious Play
To ensure a level playing field for sharing ideas and overcome the boundaries of conventional discussion methods, all participants should agree on the following rules at the start of the workshop (see Blair/Rillo: Serious Work. How to Facilitate Meetings & Workshops Using the Lego Serious Play Method):
- You build as you want!
- Think with your hands and trust your hands.
- Reached a dead end? Build something!
- It’s YOUR model.
- Only YOU decide its meaning and story.
- There are no wrong answers.
- Your Lego model is your answer to the question.
- Everyone builds, everyone tells.
What materials do we use?
Lego offers custom-packaged boxes for workshops with specially designed bricks that many LSP facilitators swear by. Alternatively, though, workshops can also be held with childhood Lego bricks.
However, we’ve achieved excellent results even without time-consuming pre-sorting. Pouring the bricks into the middle of the table produces a colorful smorgasbord that makes the participants even keener to experiment.
That’s why we run our workshops with LSP Starter Kits mixed with sets of regular bricks bought on eBay. The important thing is to have enough boards, figurines and connecting elements – those items in particular are often lacking in boxes from the attic.
What is Lego Serious Play?
Level 1: Individual models
After the group has formulated the problem they would like to explore in the workshop (in our example, this is “How do we want to learn in our organization three years from now?”), we get each individual to initially focus on working on their own model by themselves. This ensures attention is paid to each idea at the end and that all suggestions are equally valid. No employee can jump ahead, and hierarchies are leveled out.
A Lego Serious Play facilitator supervises the group throughout the day, explains the basic rules, sets the tasks and makes sure the allotted time is adhered to. Once the first phase has finished, each person in the group presents their model. They explain the meaning of their design and respond to any questions. In the true spirit of an approach that values other people, the other participants should not voice any criticism, so that everyone can present their ideas unimpeded.
To ensure the core messages of each suggestion remain in people’s minds, it’s worth writing them on Post-it notes and sticking these to the relevant models. The whole group then reflects on and discusses the models. What similarities are there? What new ideas emerged during sharing? What should the group build on? What is at the heart of the various ideas?
Level 2: Shared model
Ultimately, however – as in our learning strategy & design workshops – the aim is not just to make individual views visible but to develop visions that each participant has helped shape. That’s why our method then moves into the second phase of the workshop.
The group begins to combine the individual models into a shared group model. As producing the shared vision isn’t a straightforward task, a facilitator should carefully monitor, support and, if necessary, reflect on this process. Is the model simply an amalgamation of individual positions? Does it merely show the lowest common denominator? Or are all positions taken into account?
This phase frequently leads to very lively discussions that may justify extending the allotted time. After all, relating the individual models to one another and the associated intensive exchanges can give rise to innovative ideas. To ensure these are still visible at the end, we recommend working with Post-it notes in this phase, too.
Level 3: Documenting the vision, and the next steps
Finally, we ask the group to explain their vision in a video. In this video, participants present the collectively devised vision in the form of joint storytelling – this is how we imagine our future world of learning.
Yet creating and documenting the vision is not the end of the process. In the days that follow, we analyze the shared vision more closely and depict it in a clearly arranged canvas diagram – in our example, this would be the Learning Strategy Canvas. This is where we describe how we plan to position staff development, learning & development and the Academy within the organization to realize our vision as best we can.
The lasting impact of Lego Serious Play
The results that are developed in Lego Serious Play are as varied as Lego bricks themselves. An organization may have untapped potential – for example, because certain relationships or information channels are not utilized. One major advantage of visualization using LSP is that such potential is highlighted. This is particularly true when relationships and stakeholders are consciously factored into an additional stage.
What’s more, the shared vision remains anchored in participants’ minds. And so it is that, even later on in the Learning Strategy & Design workshop, when we’re already working at completely different levels, our thoughts turn back to the LSP model.