LEGO Serious Play

Background…

I have just finished a 3 part, 3 hour LEGO SeriousPlay course run by my colleague Chrissi Nerantzi. This is what the LEGO people say:

“The idea of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® originated in 1996 when the two professors Johan Roos and Bart Victor at IMD in Switzerland and LEGO Group CEO and owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen were exploring alternative strategic planning tools and systems. They developed an understanding about the value of employees and the concept of evolving, adaptive strategy that included using LEGO elements as three-dimensional models of business issues and challenges, which later became known as LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.”

What we did (briefly)…

The sessions format was for an initial discussion around resources provided (the homework) and then most of our time spent using LEGO bricks to build models and discuss them as a group.  The applications for this technique that we experienced were as a reflective tool (from personal to focussed on an external issue) and also as a tool for creativity and ideas generation.

18500504013_66262552a1_nTypically, we, the LEGO players, built models from different perspectives, and then explained ourindividual models to the group (6 in total) at which point the strength of metaphors becomes apparent as an important vehicle for conceptualising and exploring issues.  This was sometimes taken a step further by requiring players to then combine their models resulting in a higher level of abstraction about the particular issue or topic at hand.

For example, one task required us to: 1. build three models that show, a) how do other people see us professionally, b) how do we see ourselves professionally, C) what would be like to become professionally?  We were then asked to place a green block on which of the models was most important to us and then explain ourselves in turn to the group.  A discussion then followed with the aim of creating a combined model that represented how we saw the attributes of an effective academic.

What I learned (tentatively)…

  • when there is a high degree of trust in the group, a high degree of disclosure about personal feelings can be quickly arrived at
  • when questions address topics that an individual has though extensively about previously, there is a temptation to explain a position rather than develop new thinking
  • to be effective the play activities need locating in a wider process that captures ideas and insights and moves on to use or implementation.  Depending on the purpose, just being creative in the moment doesn’t feel valuable enough!
  • the poorer the ‘quality of model’ the greater the use of metaphor and the need for imagination by all, this may be an advantage
  • as players become more practiced there is a greater need for more thoughtful structuring of activities and asking of questions.  If this ins’t the case, the sessions run the risk of being superficial
  • there is a fine line between enthusiastic participant and disengaged outcast, this requires skilled facilitation and awareness by all participants of the risk posed by dominating conversations – listening skills are very important
  • participants need to be clear about why they are playing with LEGO, what is the purpose behind it

Conclusions

In my mind, there is a connection between these workshops and the kinds of learning we see in early years in schools around Continuous Provision in that they are based on the principle of structured and purposeful play.  I am also reminded of the work of Ultralab where we used the loosely defined concept of delightful learning as a benchmark evaluative term to apply to our projects and activities, and Richard Millwood’s analysis of the work of John Heron on delight is particularly useful as a framework for thinking about approaches such as LEGO play.

What I plan to do next…

I enjoyed my time on the course and can see that there are applications in my own work.  I will sign up for the next series of workshops that explores this and other approaches to play in learning further, and use these experiences towards a negotiated learning module (FLEX – LEGO play) using the conceptual framework developed by Millwood, based on the work of Heron.

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One thought on “LEGO Serious Play

  1. Chrissi Nerantzi

    Hi Stephen,

    Finally just read your post. So pleased this classroom visit turned into something more explorative for you and you decided to stay with us for the whole course. You make some interesting observations. I am especially interested in the potential challenges you have identified and am wondering if you have any ideas how some of these could be overcome.

    Looking forward to reading more about the discoveries you will make with and without LEGO.

    Chrissi
    p.s. Now that I have your site, I will have a good look around 😉

    Reply

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