Unleash hidden knowledge and gain shared vision through LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method
I participated couple of weeks ago to LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator certification program in Berlin. It was program approved by the Association of Master Trainers in the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology and it was led by superb trainer Michel Cloosterman. After intensive four days, my backpack was full with new ideas, insights and experiences. And of course, great overview and knowledge about the method itself. I would like to share some of my thoughts and experience about this methodology.
In short – What is LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method?
Method was developed around mid-90´s by LEGO company. They were facing challenges and there was need for solid method for internal strategy development. Through various iterations and different people involved in the process, it formed to be method for facilitated thinking, communication and problem-solving technique for individuals, teams and organizations. It is based on several research studies from fields of business, organizational development, psychology and learning. Legos themselves are used as metaphors, means for communication and contribution and as a tool for deeper story-telling.
Unleashing hidden knowledge
At first, I was a bit sceptic towards the statement that this method will unleash the hidden knowledge. I was wondering that how this can increase the knowledge? What if great team spirit and culture already ensures that everybody shares all the information they have in their meetings and workshops? Well, little did I know.
The magic behind the method is that while you express your opinions and insights through Lego bricks you can express yourself in 3D. You can express yourself using different shapes, colors and dimensions. You might give different meanings for different bricks and show your opinion with much greater detail. For example, if I just write down on post-it sticker that for me it is important to have great leadership in workplace, it leaves still some question marks. How important that is? How important that is compared to other things? Is it somehow aligned with other important topics? But if I build a model with Lego bricks I´m able to express the importance of good leadership in much greater detail. For example, I can emphasize the leadership with burning red bricks, I can make it much higher than other bricks or I can set it as a solid baseline for other topics within my Lego model. After that when I share my story about my model to other participants, they get much more information, insight and knowledge about my thoughts.
Okay, I got impressed about the method´s power to spread impressively more information to other participants within the same table. But what about having the same goal? Sharing the same vision even though having different opinions? The one who has loudest voice gets his/her insight as most dominant one? Well, little did I know.
After sharing individual models, participants are supposed to share common understanding where each individual model is presented or it includes important parts of it. Shared understanding can be considered either as “landscape” or “shared model”. At the beginning of our workshop, I was really impressed that within 15 minutes, 10 people around the world, never seen each other before, was able to build and agree common understanding about the topic. Everybody were involved in the discussion and decisions and different insights were easy to adapt through models built with Lego bricks. You can try to beat that with only discussion or writing post-it notes.
Visualizing connections and events
Once common vision, direction or agreement has been created, it is possible to visualize the connections and events with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method. As we know, world around us is more and more connected and it is in constant change. For example, company strategy that you defined year ago, might need to be changed because of emergence of different events. Different events have different impacts on your company or the connections around company. I think in this part, the method showed that it can build truly powerful emotional connection. Even though we were building imaginary company and placing imaginary events, it felt quite intensive to show and visualize the results of the events within the company. We had to physically break some connections with customers, move fans away from our company, make distortion inside the teams and lower the fun. However, by doing so it showed clearly what will happen if for example demand rises up to 200% in one night, we lose certain customers or we don´t produce appealing products anymore.
All in all, I was really impressed about the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology. Way how it moves people, makes them think, unleashes their knowledge, forces them to share the insights, builds the shared understanding and visualizes different events and impacts, is rather impressive. They are only Lego bricks but by taking the leap and trusting the method you are able to imagine, express, share and decide lots of great things.
Tuukka Martikainen, tuukka.martikainen (at) headstart.fi
Certified facilitator of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method