Everybody knows Legos. Who hasn’t played with Lego bricks as a child? The bricks, tires and mini figures appeal to the imagination in such a way that even adults can’t resist creating when there are Legos lying around.
What is Lego Serious Play?
Lego Serious Play is a method using Lego bricks to answer questions, to create solutions to challenges and to explore each other’s minds and thoughts. A certified facilitator asks the participants a series of carefully considered questions. In reaction to these questions, all participants start creating a three-dimensional model that they subsequently individually present to the group.
Why Lego Serious Play?
We have all been there; meetings and brainstorm sessions that are dominated by 20% of the participants for 80% of the time. Questions like “What am I doing here” come to mind. Secretly, everybody knows the outcomes up-front and it is also clear who will ventilate the input. This is what Lego Serious Play calls a “Lean Backward Meeting”.
Lego Serious Play proactively motivates a “Lean Forward Meeting”, where every single participant is fully engaged during 100% of the meeting by actively introducing their own ideas, insights, opinions and solutions. The idea behind Lego Serious Play is to make use of the integral know-how of the entire team instead of allowing the loudmouthed minority to set the strategy.
FireWare supports this brainstorming method. We use Legos to get a better insight in each other and to tackle issues. The Lego Serious Play methodology is an effective means to an end in improving our internal processes, during brainstorm sessions with customers, but also with relations outside our own branch. Why? Because it is effective!
How does Lego Serious Play work?
A Lego Serious Play session is moderated by a certified facilitator who presents a few “warming up” questions to get everyone to speak the “Lego” language. Once everyone gets the hang of it, the play gets serious. The basic routine of a Lego Serious Play session is always alike: introducing the question, then building, then sharing and finally reflecting.
- Introducing the question: The success of a Lego Serious Play session largely depends on careful consideration, like which questions to ask and what order to ask them in. Which phrasing will contribute to the best possible result? Once the question is asked, the group starts building its response.
- Building a response: Neither aesthetics nor the creation’s ingenuity is the purpose of building a response. Lego Serious Play is all about expressing your thoughts and ideas by means of Lego bricks. And the fun part is you never go wrong. By using metaphors, the same Legos can be reused to answer other questions, varying from “Which tasks do you always put off until the last moment?” to “Build your perfect day at work”. In some responses a Lego brick can represent a computer that cannot be logged on to, in other responses that same Lego brick symbolises a cup of coffee. Every Lego brick helps the constructor to tell a story. And all participants are free in constructing their own individual models.
- Sharing: All participants take turns in sharing their stories behind the model. While in the process of sharing, the participant sometimes discovers that his or her construction has more, another or an even deeper meaning than anticipated. This process is called “hand knowledge”. Since the participants all both share and listen, all constructions and their underlying motivations are presented.
- Reflecting: Upon explanation of a model, the facilitator motivates the other participants to ask questions. These questions provoke other, sometimes sharper insights with both the constructor and the other participants. This is one of the most valuable assets of the Lego Serious Play method. The facilitator sees to it that only questions pertaining to the model are, leaving the constructor as an individual unaffected, thus creating a safe environment for sharing thoughts.
Is it only about building your own model?
The individual model is the basis from where we continue building. Depending on the results sought, the available time and the phrasing, other forms of construction can be used as well. There are seven of those within Lego Serious Play:
- The individual model. This is how a session always starts: every participant builds his or her own model.
- The collective model. The individual models are put together to create a single model that appeals to every participant.
- A landscape. The individual models are arranged by the participants. This method creates insight in the mutual relationship between the different models.
- Connections. Special Lego bricks are introduced into the session to allow the models to be connected and relate to one another.
- A system. This form of construction is the sequel of making connections and highlights the mutual dependencies.
- Events and decisions. By means of simulation, this form of construction explains how decisions and events influence the system.
- Simple Guiding Principles. This form of construction helps identifying certain guiding principles that the team or organisation can depend on in the process of making difficult (strategic) decisions.
This provides the facilitator with a broad range of interchangeable methods to create a customised Lego Serious Play session.
When to use the Lego Serious Play methodology?
The FireWare team uses the Lego Serious Play method to determine strategies, for product development and improvement plans, for organisational issues and concept development. However, the methodology serves a much broader purpose as well; it is an excellent tool for conflict management, teambuilding and perspective development. As our first experiences with this method have been so positive, we like to fall back on it. And of course, we will be happy to share our experiences with external parties as well!
Answers to practical questions
How many participants can be included in a Lego Serious Play session? - That really depends on the goals. Sessions within FireWare include between 2 and 12 participants. Larger groups are possible, but it would be wise to use a second facilitator.
How long is a Lego Serious Play Session? - Most sessions are organised for one or two parts of a day. There are also sessions of several days. The duration depends on the desired result, the time available and the number of participants.
Which Lego bricks are (being) used? - The Lego bricks that are included in the sets used are the result of thorough reflection. During the first phase of the session, everyone has a “private” set. Depending on the complexity and the duration of the workshop we opt for the Lego Serious Play Exploration Kit (art. no 2000409 ) or the Starter Kit (art. no. 2000414). As the session proceeds, more Lego bricks become available to the participants. We use amongst others the Identity & Landscape Kit (art. No. 2000430) and the Connections Kit (art. no. 2000431). There will be more than enough building material to express your thoughts, that is for sure.
Will the session be moderate exclusively by certified facilitators? - Only facilitators who have completed an intensive training given by the founders of Lego Serious Play in Copenhagen are certified to moderate a Lego Serious Play session. Within the FireWare team, Sef Hendrickx is a certified Lego Serious Play facilitator. If there is a request for larger groups, we turn to close certified facilitators.
What are the costs for a Lego Serious Play session? - The investment in a session depends highly of the number of participants, the duration of the session and the time needed to prepare the session. On average, the costs of a session amount to 800,- € per part of the day, excluding preparation, travel expenses, lodging and costs for material. Lego sets can be rented or purchased with FireWare. Please contact us for a customised offer.
Are there things that I should consider? - We aim at the highest possible result. Therefore, there are a few basic rules that each participant needs to respect. The most important condition / rule is to ban mobile phones from the meeting. All participants need to partake for the full 100%.
Where could we set up a Lego Serious Play session? - Basically everywhere, as long as there are a few large tables to work on. We have had sessions at the beach, in hotels, in fire houses, meeting rooms and even on a sail ship in the middle of the Dutch Ijsselmeer lake. Privacy and non-distraction are of major importance, though. For those who are considering a session at an external location, the FireWare offices have installed a dedicated brainstorm room for this purpose.