Opinion: Lego Serious Play is a way of thinking, communicating and problem-solving for use by organisations, teams and individuals

What do you think about when I say Lego? Your mind might first think of playing with colourful bricks as a child, building brick creations with children or grandchildren. You might simply remember the recent pain from stepping on a stray brick left lying on the floor. Most of us will however have some memory of the satisfaction of seeing our own creative vision being built by our own hands, brick by brick.

Would you believe me if I told you that you by using a couple of Lego pieces could bring about reflective individual, team, or business "hand knowledge"? Lego Serious Play method is a thinking, communication and problem-solving technique for use by organisations, teams and individuals. It draws on extensive research from the fields of business, organisational development, psychology and learning, and is based on the concept of "hand knowledge".

From RTÉ Archives, a RTÉ News' report on how trainee teachers in Mary Immaculate College Limerick are using Lego in the classroom

The idea of the Lego Serious Play originated in 1996 when 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 of the value of employees and the concept of an evolving, adaptive strategy, that included using Lego elements as 3-D models of business issues and challenges, named Lego Serious Play. 

As a Lego Serious Play facilitator, I see it happen first hand every time I run a workshop or apply it in my one-on-one coaching practice. In February 2019, for example, I conducted several short unconscious bias workshops for educators attending the two-day long I Wish exhibition in Cork aimed at encouraging more your girls to consider a STEM career.

Lego Serious Play: A Duck Story

I used the so-called Duck exercise as a way of making the concept of bias more tangible as a topic. Bias can be defined as a prejudice in favour of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another usually in a way that’s considered to be unfair. Biases may be held by an individual, group, or institution and can have negative or positive consequences. They can be conscious (also known as explicit bias) or unconscious (also known as implicit bias).

All participants in these unconscious bias workshops were given a bag with six identical Lego bricks and were asked to use all of the bricks to build a duck. Over the two days, I did not see one duck creation that was identical to another. I then used the created ducks as a metaphor not only for how we as individuals are like those ducks, as in we are all made up of different building blocks in the form of individual skills and competencies, but also in order to stress that is the role of parents, educators and career counsellors to help encourage the development of those building blocks in the first place.

I went on to stress the importance of educators learning about all the new ways in which individual skills and competencies in particularly STEM subjects could be combined and not letting any personal biases get in the way of encouraging young girls to explore non-traditional educational programs or careers.

From RTÉ 2fm's Eoghan McDermott Show, an interview with Jordan David Scott who has designed Lego for movies Star Wars, The Hobbit, Jurassic World and The Lego Movie

The Lego Serious Play method can be used for a variety of purposes in workplace settings. These include team-building or strategy building workshops, or as a way to brainstorm new creative out-of-the-box ideas around product or service development. In entrepreneurial settings, Lego Serious Play can be used for ideation, strategy scenario planning or even mapping out the competitive environment for a new start-up. 

Apart from its many applications in workplace settings, the methodology has also successfully be used in one-on-one sessions for individual life or career coaching, for therapeutic purposes in treatment of anxiety and depression, and applied in various educational settings. 

In summary, Lego Serious Play methodology can engage individuals or teams in hands-on creative play in a multitude of contexts allowing for self-reflection, engaging storytelling and dynamic problem solving. The impossible can indeed be made possible when individuals or work teams are invited to engage, to tell stories and to share insights. Looking forward to continue unleashing human creativity – brick by brick.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ