Author: Daniel Rodellar, PMP

Daniel Rodellar 100x100

Deep dive and hands on with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® online

On Wednesday, August 26, 2020 we had a very playful and interesting online session about playing with Lego® bricks to solve serious problems.

Jens Dröge is Lead Trainer of LEGO® Serious Play® Methods and Materials for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and German author of the standard-setting book “SERIOUS WORK – How to facilitate meetings and workshops using LEGO® Serious Play®”. He guided us during the workshop, together with Rolf Bielser, CEO of Computare GmbH, a Swiss-based management consulting and training company, and he is Certified Facilitator of LEGO® Serious Play® Method and Materials.

Usually, after 10min on a meeting, people start surfing. It is not the case when doing meetings or workshops with LEGO® bricks!

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Let's start from the definition of what LEGO® Serious Play® is...

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The rules about how to participate in such meetings are easy to understand: we want to know and vehiculate the meaning, not to challenge the choices of the bricks. Participants are invited to express themselves with the models, they are not judged, there is no right answer. They are asked to respect time constraints: having few time pushes them to think with their hands since they do not have enough time to design the model before building it. And it offers value and benefits on people and communications, strategy and organisation and on innovation and product development.

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 The first thing we did was a tower, only using orange and green bricks, with a black baseplate, finishing with a flag. And we had to do it in a limited time (01:30).

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Then we could present and discuss the different realizations. We could discuss about structure and stability (solid and firm base), the selection of other colors (to fit, alternation of colors). It was important when building the model to keep time in mind and be efficient. We had some people that tried to use as many bricks as possible, that tried to do the highest tower possible with the bricks available, and also that put emphasis on simmetry of the model.

There were 20 versions of the same initial requirement. We do not justify our choices, and we should not judge. It is a truth that we construct.

The core process is shown on the following picture:

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1. challenge: the facilitator poses the building challenge to the participants.
2. building: the participants build a Lego model representing their reflections on the building challenge.
3. sharing: the participants share the meaning and the story that they have assigned to their own models.

These 3 phases are repeated several times, beginning with a simple task and gradually up to more complex tasks.

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In this workshop we have worked on Individual Models

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The workshop was divided into two parts: session 1 and 2.

Almost all people had the LEGO® bricks, but some used other things they had at hand, and it also worked. Basically the bricks are better suited because they fit to each other and they stay compact.

Session 1: The working environment after Covid-19

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The participants build and shared models on how they felt during the lockdown times.We talked about fear and feeling anxious about uncertainty and deaths, and people that lost their jobs. We shared that it was an unexpected series of events, and how people adapted quicly to work online and digitally.

There was also very positive feedbacks about the joy by going to the forest and recover the Nature contact and doing exercise (almost) alone.

What stroke us most during this first session was that:

  • everyone had positive things to tell
  • Nature was very important for most of us
  • there was a clear focus on working
  • we felt more humans
  • the difficult exercise of keeping the work-life balance in equilibrium

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What could a red brick be? You need to atach a meaning to the brick.

Take 3 bricks and connect them. Explain the words with the bricks. We asked participants waht was different on using bricks as methaphors, and the answers were that is was very free and open, that the other people see different things from what I see, and it is easier to memorize for most of the participants.

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It was touching that everyone could go into an introspection into their lives and get to take some distance from work to try understand what is important for each of us, in life.

Session 2: What’s required by today’s virtual leader

The second session was dedicated to the soft skills of a virtual leader.

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We had to put ourselves in the employee's shoes and say what was expected from good virtual leaders, and then from the leader's point of view.

The main take aways on the discussion and presentation of the models were:

  • the turning wheels that represented the fact that at work things need to keep on turning and people need to have this feeling that things do not stop working.
  • nice envionments were depicted, a virtual leader has to make the others feel confortable.
  • the leader must drive to targets that are special and give clear directions where to go.
  • all people's goals need to be aligned (and kept aligned all way through).
  • there is a strong requirement to synchronize with everyone, as we are all connecting remotely.
  • transparency on goals.
  • celebrating success and giving credit to each and everyone that contributed.
  • empowering, represented by a ladder on the models, to help people to get better.
  • trust on people and making all levels work together.
  • having a positive attitude and being relax
  • leading in a sustainable way.

We had to modify the model to meet the requirements expressed for the virtual leader, and this showed just small changes but specially adding professional tools that needed to be provided to execute these tasks and the request tha direction are not changing too often, and some sense of stability.

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As mentionned before, we just did the Individual Model for this introductury workshop, but the next levels of this training include Shared Model (a team building the same model all together) and the System Model to represent the more complex systems.

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The Shared Model needs very good communication between participants, an online (or in person) facilitator, and a good environment (light, connectivity, etc).

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As a final remark, this workshop fulfilled the original goals to show everyone the power of using LEGO® Serious Play® method to solve complicated problems and difficult concepts.

It is always open, and if you remember working with Lego® bricks as a kid, there is no barriers, everything can be represented and "materialized". It is most suitable for cases where "I have the problem, but not the answers".

To end up, we thank Jens for such great introduction and we were curious to play again, to foster our creativity and in fact, we realized that even for complicated models, not too many bricks are required.


Teaching Aids:

For this workshop we used the Starter Set of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® with 46 parts.

The needed LEGO® parts are pictured here.