When talking about LEGO, you immediately think of playing: some may remember playing hours with these small bricks years ago, while others regularly use them with their kids. But few of us would spontaneously think of using them as a business tool for workshops.
And yet! It would maybe sound iconoclastic, but the LEGO company has been using the small bricks in a professional context for more than forty years now. It even generated specific products named“Lego Serious Play” (LSP).
How it works
Echoing the constructivism movement, that its founder Piaget defines as followed:
“knowledge is not a copy of reality but an accommodation to reality”,
the LSP methodology consists in using LEGO bricks to deal with serious matters (strategy definition, personal development) whilst playing.
Workshops with LEGO help participants build their mental outline in 3D and feel really involved. Each exercise must be accomplished individually before being shared to others, so that makes this methodology slightly different from other more “classical” co-construction methods. It increases engagement among all participants.
However, to move from a LEGO model to a strategic plan, one major component is missing: metaphors, that make complex topics look simpler while still going deep into the subject.
Here are a few examples of LEGO constructions using visual metaphors:
Angel Investor : Associated with a plant that grows thanks to money stored inside a bowl.
Freelancer Collaboration : Associated with a warrior on a space shuttle to underline its freedom and independence.
Operating Model : Associated with bricks of different colors to point out the different processes of a company.
How to use it
The LSP methodology was born and spread into companies, working on the principle that a company is not only a structure with people inside, but a wider set of interconnexions and interactions, that graphics and diagrams can represent with difficulty.
It is mostly used for real-time strategy that must answer the question “what should we do now?”. In fact, large-scale project planifications (usually called “roadmaps”) are rarely straight and continuous lines you can see in commonly represented models. This is why it is impossible to have a reliable vision of the project at such a long term.
Every model is made of three main parts:
- Core Identity : what defines you/your company?
- External Identity : how are you/is your company considered by others?
- Aspirational Identity : what does you company/do you aspire to become in a close future?
Once this multi-iterated model is built, it is possible to build a landscape with the three identities in the middle. All around are the agents related to the model or having an impact on it. These agents have more or less strong connexions with the model.
After working sometimes several hours or even several days, you normally get a 3D panorama that describes the company’s complex environment with all the different interconnexions.
It is then time to write scenarios and visualize the impacts on the model. An action plan will then be defined to absorb the different scenarios.
One of the first things you get is a physical 3D representation of the environment that shows interconnexions between all components of the set.
Moreover, each participant is active since she/he uses bricks to build his personal representation, but she/he also interacts with the other participants to collaborate or experiment with their constructions as well.
This increased involvement makes a great difference with more classical workshops.
Manipulating bricks helps building and expressing mental concepts more easily and faster than by writing them. It also helps users focus their attention: “You think with your hands”.
In average, these kinds of workshops produce between 60% and 70% more than classical meetings.
Using metaphors helps going deeper into problematics and makes everyone use a common language, which is more than necessary in multicultural and globalized organizations.
So do not hesitate to try new methods and experiment the LEGO Serious Play. You will probably discover new ways, for your group and yourself, to express yourself whilst sharing strategic concepts that were hard to communicate until now.