Lego® Serious Play® in Project Management
How Lego® bricks can help find innovative solutions
Imagine being asked to play with Lego® bricks during a meeting. Sounds absurd? Actually, Lego® Serious Play® is a method that has become increasingly popular and has already helped numerous companies to solve problems, develop strategies or promote their innovation and teamwork. We explain how you can use Lego® Serious Play® effectively in project management.
What is Lego® Serious Play®?
Playing to solve business tasks may seem unlikely to succeed. However, Lego® Serious Play® is only partly related to playing. Rather, it is a method that uses playful interaction with Lego® bricks as a means of stimulating creative and critical thinking, communication, as well as problem-solving by addressing different senses. In this way, participants are encouraged to visualize complex concepts or ideas and work on them collaboratively. With the Lego® bricks, stories and models are built to identify challenges or conflicts. Through this simplified representation of complex problems, new approaches to solutions can be identified. Thus, the method can be used in different areas of companies as well as in educational institutions or government agencies.
The Lego® Serious Play® method was developed by Lego® employees Johan Roos and Bart Victor in the 1990s. They wanted to create a method that would enable people to fully unleash their creativity and potential to find solutions to complex problems. In 2002, the method was registered by Lego® as an official method and a year later as a trademark.
Since its inception, Lego® Serious Play® has continued to evolve. One of the biggest changes was the publication of an official handbook version in 2010, which enabled companies and organizations to use the method more effectively. Over time, various models and tools have also been developed that are specifically tailored to certain applications of Lego® Serious Play®, such as strategy development, personnel development, and design thinking.
Another important step in the development of Lego® Serious Play® was Lego’s decision to release the method as an open-source approach to enable broader use in the business world. This led to a strong proliferation of the method and the creation of a global community of Lego® Serious Play® facilitators and users.
In which areas can the method be used?
In the application of Lego® Serious Play®, participants are asked to visualize and share their ideas and thoughts through building models with Lego® bricks. Through collaboration and the exchange of ideas, new perspectives, and solutions can emerge. The result is a shared vision or solution that is supported by all participants. Therefore, the method can be helpful in various areas to solve complex problems, foster creativity and innovation, or support teamwork and communication of teams, such as:
- Idea generation: Lego® Serious Play® can be used to develop a shared vision and strategy for a company or organization or to develop ideas for new products or services. A major advantage of the method is that employees who are generally more introverted and contribute less to other idea-generating methods such as brainstorming can contribute here easily. At the same time, more dominant personalities learn through Lego® Serious Play® to initially step back, as each team member is expected to develop and present their idea. The method can be optimally used in conjunction with a design thinking process in particular.
- Personnel development: The method can also be used to support team building, improve team dynamics, communication, and collaboration, or even support personal development as well as career planning. Through playful interaction, team members learn to get to know each other from a new perspective and see how others approach a problem. This not only improves mutual understanding but also strengthens trust within the team.
- Change management: Lego® Serious Play® can also be used in change management to support communication in change processes by involving employees directly in the decision-making process.
- Project management: It can also be useful in project management to redesign processes, visualize complex relationships, optimize teamwork, or develop ideas to solve emerging problems.
How to use the method
The basic application of the Lego® Serious Play® method in a workshop is simple and works in several steps:
Make sure that all necessary Lego® bricks and materials are available. Prepare the topic or problem to be worked on and set the rules as well as objectives for the session. 1. Also, make sure that enough time is allocated so that models can be built and discussed properly.
Give the participants a brief introduction to the method. Explain the rules and objectives of the session.
Ask the participants to create models and constructions that visualize their thoughts and ideas on the predetermined topic or problem. There are several options to do that:
- Creating individual models
- Creating models in groups
- Designing a landscape
- Building a system
- Playing out different decisions
- Developing simple guiding principles
After the models have been built, ask the participants to explain and share their version. This can take place in a group discussion or in small groups. Make sure that enough time is available for the discussion so that the maximum benefit can be drawn from the participants’ ideas.
Conduct a reflection phase in which the participants reflect on their experiences or insights and share them. Depending on the question, another building time can start afterward, the models can be combined into a common model, or a decision can be made.
Summarize the insights of the session and ensure that the participants have understood the goals and results of the session.
Rules and objectives of Lego® Serious Play®
The rules and objectives for a Lego® Serious Play® session can vary depending on the context and application. Here are some examples:
- All participants should actively participate in the process and build their own models.
- Everyone should be able to share their models and ideas without being interrupted.
- No negative evaluations or criticisms of the models or ideas of other participants should be expressed.
- Confidentiality and openness should be maintained.
- Clear time limits should be set for each phase of the session.
- To develop a shared understanding and vision for a specific topic or problem.
- To promote creativity and innovation.
- To improve collaboration and communication among participants.
- To promote personal engagement and responsibility for the process as well as its results.
- To generate new ideas and solutions.
What materials are required for a Lego® Serious Play® workshop?
If you want to test Lego® Serious Play®, you will need some materials:
- Lego® bricks: The foundation is provided by a mix of Lego® bricks in various shapes, sizes, and colours. This gives participants the opportunity to create individual models and constructions that visualize their thoughts and ideas.
- Lego® figures: Minifigures can be used to complement the models of the participants or to support role-playing.
- Question cards: These cards contain questions or topics to be discussed during the workshop. The questions can be specifically targeted toward the project or problem you want to solve.
- Canvas: A canvas or table on which participants can create and present their models.
Why is Lego® Serious Play® so popular? What are the advantages of using this method?
There are numerous reasons why the Lego® Serious Play® method is currently so popular:
- Creativity and innovation: The method harnesses the creative potential of Lego® bricks to solve complex problems. Participants can gain new ideas and perspectives through building and collaborating with others.
- Effective communication: Lego® Serious Play® promotes communication between participants and helps them share and visualize their thoughts and ideas effectively. This can avoid misunderstandings and create a common vision.
- Holistic approach: The method not only uses cognitive thinking, but also the physical and emotional levels to solve problems. This way different aspects and perspectives are being considered, resulting in holistic solutions.
- Flexibility: Lego® Serious Play® can be applied to a variety of applications and issues, making it very flexible.
- Inclusivity: The method promotes inclusivity, as each participant has the same opportunity to express their thoughts and ideas.
- Deep insights: The method can provide deep insights into complex problems and challenges, leading to new ideas and solutions.
- Team building: The method promotes collaboration and team building, as participants work closely together and support each other.
- Global community: The method has a large community worldwide, with a global community of facilitators and users sharing experiences and developing best practices.
Difficulties in using Lego® Serious Play®
In addition to the numerous advantages of using Lego® Serious Play®, there are also some challenges that may hinder the successful use of the method:
- Time-consuming: The method requires a lot of time to create and discuss models or constructions, making it unsuitable for some projects, topics, or situations.
- High costs: Since Lego® bricks must be purchased for the application of the method, start-up costs are slightly higher. However, once purchased, the same bricks can be used repeatedly.
- No guarantee: While the method has been successfully applied by numerous different companies and organizations in the past, there is no guarantee that the method will lead to the desired results or that all participants will be able to express their thoughts and ideas in this way. Although it is quite unlikely, as most participants have grown up knowing and loving Lego® bricks, some may not be able to use them effectively.
- Limited scalability: The method may not be scalable to very large groups or complex projects, limiting its applicability. This is because larger groups require many Lego® bricks to be purchased, and subsequent discussions may be difficult in large groups.
Lego® Serious Play® is a unique and effective method that can also be applied in project management. It allows participants to visualize and understand complex problems. By using Lego® models, participants can present information in a non-verbal and visual way, making it easier to explain and understand complex issues. In addition, the method promotes collaboration and communication among team members by creating a common language and understanding.
By using Lego® Serious Play® in project management, teams can work more effectively together, define goals, and develop strategies. The method can also help to identify obstacles and find ways to overcome them. The result is a better understanding of the goals, a clearer roadmap for achieving them, and strengthened teamwork as well as a productive and motivating work environment.
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