Build to Lead!

Photo: personal collection.

The Lego® Serious Play® methodology was designed as the response to a very important challenge that LEGO Group encountered in the mid-nineties. The challenge was recognized in video games that completely changed the way children played, including their general needs. These changes had a strong impact on the LEGO business.

LEGO’s CEO at the time, Mr. Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, tried traditional ways for developing a strategy with his leaders. When this took them nowhere, he started working with professors from the IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland. They started from the fundamental idea that employees were crucial for every organization and that they wanted to and were able to contribute to changes; they thought that each employee depended on a strategy rather than a written document. They began research and development of tools and systems for strategic planning. They introduced LEGO elements as a 3D model of real business problems and challenges. In 2002, the Lego® Serious Play® methodology was officially launched and it became available and applicable to business.

Imagine a meeting or encounter with employees where you need to establish the direction of your business for the following year, including product placement, or together examine the competition, or endeavour to build your team’s vision – and imagine that you do all of these important and demanding tasks by playing with Lego® bricks. Yes, it is possible! Especially if you want all your employees to be fully involved in this process, to present their ideas freely and to express their creativity while enjoying the very process at the same time.

If you can recognize yourself here, you are in the territory of the Lego® Serious Play® workshop.

The Lego® Serious Play® methodology is a structured workshop for strategic thinking, teamwork improvement, decision-making and problem-solving in a business environment, while the results are in accordance with business goals of the company.

Lego® Serious Play® is different from training, coaching, or team building. This is a process where a facilitator (not a trainer!) designs the whole process and leads the participants, never altering, helping, or summing up as a trainer does. The facilitator needs to understand the clients’ demands very well, to create questions that will lead the participants, and design techniques for achieving the goal (all 7 of them).
One more difference lies in the fact that the Lego® Serious Play® method does not require the participants to follow instructions. This would be too simple and it would not stimulate our imagination. If everyone followed the same instructions, nothing new would be built. We do not build anything new that looks like something that already exists. Lego® Serious Play® is not created so that everyone present agrees with the decisions made and is a yes-man; rather, they should create new knowledge for problem-solving.

Perhaps it is more important to know when to use the Lego® Serious Play® methodology than why to do so! It is the most effective when there is a possibility for more than one answer and when all the acquired knowledge should be used along with the employees’ commitment. When this is considered to be a starting point, it is easy to find its use.

The workshop always starts the same, by wiggling the fingers, and getting used to LEGO® blocks. During the structured process the participants use 3D LEGO® elements to build models that support their ideas and thoughts, always in the same order, first building the individual models, and then the shared model. The actual strength of this process lies in this row because it ensures sharing new, original knowledge and everybody’s involvement! The ideas are actually there, in the middle of the desk. They can be seen. Building shared models is a point that calls for “fun frustration“. This is the place where all the participants should agree, reach a consensus, and act according to what has been mutually decided, although they do not need to agree fully. After all, a consensus is the most precious investment in business. Consensus, commitment, better communication, mutual understanding and sharing values are just some of the benefits of a Lego® Serious Play® workshop.

  • In a Lego® Serious Play® workshop everyone is involved 100% and everyone makes their own contribution. Regardless of the topic of the workshop, none of the participants will have an excuse not to participate.
  • Consequently, the participants are committed to reaching conclusions that can be applied in real life situations.
  • A Lego® Serious Play® workshop creates understanding and a shared framework where all employees can work together.

It is easy to fall in love with Lego® Serious Play® since you always wonder how many stories are yet to be told.

About the author

Milica Stojanović holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and she is a certified Lego® Serious Play® facilitator. She likes implementing new and unusual methods of working with teams so that they can obtain new insights and therefore, treat each other and do things in a different way. She truly believes that everyone can become a better version of themselves.

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