At first glance, hearing the words 'serious' and 'play' side by side might strike you as contradictory. But in a world where traditional problem-solving methods are often found lacking, the LEGO® Serious Play® approach has emerged as a powerful tool for organisations seeking to enhance communication, creativity and teamwork.
In this article, we take you on a unique journey through the lens of our marketing agency's recent hands-on experience with this method. And of course, along the way, we will dive into the intriguing origins and evolution of LEGO Serious Play. So, sit tight, for this is going to be a LEGO trip, not just for kids, but for child-at-heart professionals who dare to think differently!
The Adventure Begins – Embracing LEGO Serious Play
Having successfully navigated the sudden shift to remote work in the pandemic and having new team members who had never been in the office, we recognised that we now had a new challenge – how to get to know each other better so we could build our connection and collaboration skills effectively. That’s when LEGO Serious Play came to our rescue.
Coming together for an in-office team day, LEGO bricks in hand, we indulged in a method that's defined by a blend of childlike creativity and responsible problem-solving. What we discovered was a labyrinth of fresh perspectives, innovative solutions, and deep-rooted insights, all masked under the guise of 'play'. The process was riveting, participatory, and above all, doubly productive.
Now, before we dive deeper into our experiences let's journey back, to where this playful method first saw the light of the day.
The Making of LEGO Serious Play
Believe it or not, the root of LEGO Serious Play harks back to 1995, when LEGO was seeking innovative ways to internally strategise under the looming 'Kids Growing Older, Younger' phenomenon —where children were shifting their preferences from traditional toys to video games. In this dire context for the company, the LEGO CEO spurred a compelling initiative - drawing from the expertise of his own team. And thus, Serious Play was born.
Engineered by professors Johan Roos and Bart Victor, this tactic flipped the convention of businesses turning to external experts on its head. It breeds on the belief that solutions lie within the company team itself, paving the way for every member to lend their voice to strategic decisions.
Since its formal launch in 2001, LEGO Serious Play has grown in sophistication while maintaining its basic principle — fostering the sharing of ideas, communication and problem-solving. Many users have hailed it as truly transformational, a testament to its potential in cultivating creativity and innovation in organizations. As times change, LEGO Serious Play evolves, maintaining its relevance and usefullness for teams plagued with complex problems.
"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."
Field Notes from our LEGO Serious Play Workshop
As we ventured into the uncharted territories of LEGO Serious Play, the journey began with a blend of curiosity and mild apprehension.
From building LEGO towers that embodied our passions, to chiselling out an on-the-spot story from a random word, the session was an enjoyable and creativity-stimulating exercise. It opened a window into how each of us perceives work and the unique challenges we face, allowing us to see each other in a new light.
We worked with a trained LEGO Serious Play facilitator who provided a LEGO set for each of us and guided us through a series of exercises that were designed to enhance our collaboration skills and knowledge of each other's role at Maverick.
The shared experience of building, explaining and understanding each other's models fostered openness, empathy and mutual understanding. The beauty of this approach is that you are describing your ideas through the LEGO model you built, giving you a sense of detachment and helpful distance from any personal biases.
"Some of the tasks felt like a stretch initially; like how do you build a model that represents the challenges in your role? But once you start and just do it, it’s very interesting what you discover."
- Sharon Tighe, Director of Marketing
From our first-hand experience, we saw the value of how LEGO Serious Play fosters a sense of connection. It amplifies the essence of creativity, team values, and collaboration, and helped us to share challenges and experiences with a smile. It was fantastic to see that the team members who claimed to be the least creative, built some of the most intriguing LEGO models.
All said and done, the authenticity of LEGO Serious Play lies in its name – a serious method that promotes strategic thinking and problem-solving, all while playing with a handful of LEGO bricks. If you ever find your team stuck in a conundrum don't hesitate to reach into the toy box and let LEGO Serious Play take over!
Our LEGO Serious Play workshop was facilitated by Máirín Murray from the Digital Doddle.