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  • Writer's pictureEndring

The Power of Play: Why Building LEGO® Together Isn’t Just Fun and Games

Work is mostly serious.

It can also be seriously fun.

Remember when you used to play with your friends as a kid? Using your imaginations together to create alternate worlds, complex made-up games, or big sagas of challenge and adventure?

As adults, we often marvel at the creativity, intricacy, and coherence of what kids can come up with when they play together.

Actually, there's a whole lot of science behind the power of play. Especially how useful it is for developing new insights, building connections between people, and exploring complex problems.

We really should be using play more strategically.

The good news is that an established and proven method for applying play to the world of business and organizational work exists: LEGO® Serious Play®.

LEGO® Serious Play® can be used in countless ways, but here are just a few examples:

  • Strategy Design

  • Future Culture Design

  • Employee Experience Design

  • Project and Transformation Planning

  • Team Effectiveness and Team Building

  • Social or Community Challenges

Today we’re going to talk about what makes LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP) so powerful, and why it really works.

You're Immersed in The Flow

One of the main reasons play unlocks creativity is that you get deeply absorbed in the act of playing.

In LSP, it’s called being in The Flow.

You get in The Flow because you’re presented with interesting questions that have to be answered by building 3D models. You have a challenge to tackle, and you’re doing it in a fun and engaging way with your peers.

And connecting your hands with your mind is a big part of it. When we talk, we’re engaging 15% of our brains. When we use both of our hands to build something, we engage 80%.

Now, sustaining this level of engagement doesn’t happen a lot in day-to-day work, even in team meetings.

But an LSP workshop is constructed to keep you in The Flow: it starts with simple tasks to ease you in, and then gradually increases the difficulty of the ‘build challenges’ to make sure you stay fully engaged.

This filters out all distractions, and you tap into a mindset driven by learning, social connection, emotional expression, and healthy competition. Your imagination has to ‘run the show’, and that helps ideas emerge more freely.

You Are Thinking In Metaphors

A great thing about play is that it helps us to make complex concepts easier to understand, combine, and communicate.

LSP does this really well because it requires you to think in metaphors.

You’ve got an idea in your head, but you have to construct something out of LEGO® that expresses it. So, with the bricks you have in front of you, you start to piece together something that represents that idea.

Because it’s visual, you have to explain it to people - why you built something the way you did, what the overall design means and what each of the parts of your design means. Even why you chose particular colours.

When you build what you’re thinking about into a 3D model, the layers of meaning you embed are startling. You’ll surprise yourself at what you can learn from one of your builds, and how it can create radical new ways of understanding things.

You learn things about yourself as an individual.

You learn how to combine your individual strengths through teamwork.

And you can think more creatively about relationships between groups, systems and functions in your organization.

You Tell Stories

One of the most fascinating parts of the LSP process is how it gets people telling stories.

Everyone’s a storyteller.

And when people share their builds and explain their metaphors, they do what comes naturally when humans learn and play: they relate it to something they have seen or experienced.

Like any good story, it usually inspires new, related thoughts and questions - which everyone is invited to share with the builder.

People will open up, build on someone’s story or reflection, and make a personal connection to what others are building. It’s just natural.

Out of this comes deep insights - and the insights are more memorable. We all know that traditions and history were passed on through word of mouth for much of human history, and always in the form of stories.

The great thing when you combine storytelling with problem solving is that you are building ways to explain the problem, the solution, and everyone’s role in it through stories. So when you leave the session, you can really bring it all to life.

Everyone Is Heard

Play creates a non-threatening environment that lets people talk and think more openly. Rules aren’t hard and fast, there is a sense of being able to shape and change things, and there is a focus on learning and exploration.

LSP is structured to make sure people feel safe using a few key principles:

  • Everyone Builds, Everyone Tells. There is no sitting on the sidelines. Everyone in the workshop (other than the facilitator) participates in building the models, and describing or telling stories about their model. This puts everyone on the same playing field and on the same journey.

  • The Model Has The Answers. After each person builds and tells their stories, there is an opportunity to ask questions or share thoughts. But it can only be about the model. You can ask: Why is the person facing away from the centre of the model? or Why is the building blue and green? What you can’t ask is something like: Why do you feel that this part of your job is more important than this other part? It keeps everything objective and safe.

  • You Build What You Want. There are no wrong answers to a question. There is also no advantage over having a lot of skill in building or not. What you feel the model should look like, and what you feel it means, is entirely up to you. Also - if you are stuck, you're encouraged to just start building. Your hands know what you might not consciously know.

When you get people in a playful mindset, you are more likely to get the best ideas from everyone, and strengthen the trust between everyone in the room.

Summing It All Up

LEGO® Serious Play® is one of our favourite tools to help teams through complexity, explore solutions together, and strengthen trust and connection.

You can tackle serious business, organizational and social challenges together, and you can do it in a fun and engaging way.

We think it’s so powerful because of these key factors:

  1. When we use both of our hands to build something, we engage much more of our cognitive strength.

  2. When you build what you’re thinking about in 3D, the layers of meaning you embed are startling.

  3. Everyone is a storyteller. And stories are 22x more 'sticky' than the most compelling fact.

  4. When everyone builds, shares their story, and listens generously, breakthroughs happen.

  5. Hard work can be incredibly fun. You just need to play hard.

And last, but not least: One of the things that makes us human is our capacity for play. Don’t we all need more human in our work these days?

If you enjoyed this issue, feel free to subscribe and/or reach out to us.

Thanks for reading. See you again next week!

Whenever you're ready, there are more ways we can help you:

  1. Run a LEGO® Serious Play® workshop with your team.

  2. Help you with Strategy Design to define your next innovative and winning strategy, or Future Culture Design to shift your culture and transform experiences with your people.

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