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Explaining the science of LEGO® Serious Play® and its benefits
Ah LEGO, that familiar old toy with the colourful bricks. It probably provided you with many happy memories as a kid, if not you then certainly someone you know. But did you know that the classic toy is also used in meeting facilitation? This usually takes the form of a methodology called LEGO® Serious Play®, which you may already be familiar with. If not, or you are curious about what it can bring to your organisation, don’t worry. We will explain the science of LEGO® Serious Play® and all its potential benefits over the course of this article!
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®
The concept started to take shape in the 1990s when two professors at the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland. At the time, they were working on alternative strategic planning tools the head of the LEGO® Group. It was this process that started the building blocks of what would become LEGO® Serious Play®.
The idea behind LEGO® Serious Play® is that you can use the bricks to illustrate problems faced by an organisation, and then use them to try and resolve the issues. For LEGO®, their thinking was that if children use the bricks to imagine things, so can adults. The application might be different, but the crux of LEGO® is to create and that is part of the science of LEGO® Serious Play®.
The science of LEGO® Serious Play®
LEGO® Serious Play® is unique in its approach for a variety of reasons, and not just because it differs so much from a regular day at work! Every aspect of the approach has its own benefits, and it has been regularly developed to optimise these benefits. With that in mind, let’s delve into the science of LEGO® Serious Play® and what it can do for you.
Engagement across the board
The nature of LEGO® Serious Play® encourages everyone to engage in the process and ensures that everyone is heard in equal measure. As mentioned in our last article, meetings can sometimes have an imbalanced dynamic. The process of LEGO® Serious Play® requires everyone to build something and to share their interpretations of their creations. Whilst in a regular meeting you may not hear from each participant, LEGO® Serious Play® sessions guarantee that everyone provides an input. On top of this being good practice, it can also offer everyone a fresh perspective from someone that they don’t usually hear from. If your organisation is participating in a session, the chances are that you are looking to change something, meaning that having alternative perspectives is an opportunity to find your solutions.
Of course, one of the additional benefits of hearing from everyone is that everyone is heard. This is an important distinction to make, as it shows that the listening participants aren’t the only ones getting something out of the session, but also means that the presenter feels heard, understood and valued in their contribution.
Thinking with the body
Research has shown that creating something and then talking about it can lead to more insightful and honest discussions. With that in mind, during a LEGO® Serious Play® session, participants are creating builds in order to respond to what the facilitator has asked of them, which is typically based on the organisation’s goals. The process of building requires participants to reflect internally on their own perceptions of the issue at hand. Furthermore, the fact that all participants build at the same time means that there can be no external factors to influence their perceptions. It is perfectly natural for people to go with the flow in regular meetings, but this stifles alternative perspectives and creative solutions. With LEGO® Serious Play®, the building process allows people to form their own ideas and then helps to cement them by transforming them into a construction.
The beauty of the science of LEGO® Serious Play® is that on top of this, participants then share their ideas. By encouraging everyone to share, the session gets participants to articulate their conceptions in a way that the rest of the room understands. They must also use their model to illustrate this, thereby creating a strong connection between the building process and the ideas they articulate. LEGO® call this use of craft and reflection the ‘hand-mind connection’ and as you have probably noted, this is a common benefit running throughout LEGO® Serious Play®.
Creativity in its simplest form
For most of us, LEGO® is mainly synonymous with bricks and therefore rectangular shapes. However, many of the sets that you can buy contain all sorts of shapes – from flags to palm trees and people of course! In LEGO® Serious Play® facilitation, the sets are specifically designed to enable creativity and have a combination of bricks and other shapes so that participants can build with freedom.
The freedom of creativity is also complimented by the fact that LEGO® does not require much technical skill and many of us grew up with it. Even if someone isn’t familiar with the concept, they can pick it up with relative ease. This ease of creation and the application of LEGO® to describe things lends itself to creative metaphors that help organisations to think outside the box.
The science of LEGO® Serious Play® explained
There are clearly numerous benefits to LEGO® Serious Play®. At its heart, this is a creative facilitation method that encourages creativity, participation and cooperation. It provides an alternative to the monotony of regular meetings and helps to empower organisations to find their own solutions in their own way. If you think this is the sort of thing your organisation could benefit from, contact us for a free 30-minute consultation!
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