LEGO has become a direct player in a creative learning method that applies everywhere: it is a technique for developing more risky, imaginative, and distinctive entrepreneurial skills, for strategic innovation, and, even though you would never have thought it, even prominent professionals include the use of LEGO in their meetings, events, brainstorming, and so on. We are talking about a reflective learning that puts people at the center of the analysis and an ongoing process, trying to identify problems and seek solutions. A way of learning that rethinks what was already known and which brings about change: in short, a fundamental style for learning in a knowledge society.
A little bit of LEGO history
The carpenter and joiner Ole Kirk Kristiansen created, in the Danish town of Billund, an original wood products business: among the most successful products were toys. LEGO as a name was adopted in 1934, and it was taken from the phrase “leg godt”, which translates as “play well”. From that moment, LEGO began to grow significantly as a company in the manufacture and marketing of toy building blocks with no understanding of what a successful process had just begun.
However, in the mid-nineties, stiff competition appeared from other manufacturers of toys and new forms of entertainment for the younger set, like video games. It seemed necessary to change to adapt to a new market reality. As a result, the company launched a process to find and develop new strategies. After numerous meetings to develop new strategies for the company, the executive director of LEGO, Kjeld Kristiansen – grandson of the founder of the company – announced he was not satisfied with the conclusions proposed. LEGO products were related to the imagination and the results of these sessions, in his opinion, lacked imagination. Moreover, at the same time, two professors from the prestigious IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland, Johan Roos and Bart Victor, were arriving at the same conclusions about the low performance of traditional strategies for arriving at development techniques.
Both parties joined in 1996 and found that they not only shared similar dilemmas, but also agreed on two fundamental values:
- People are the key to business success.
- The strategy has to be something that exists, not something that is put into a document.
What Does “LEGO SERIOUS PLAY” Do?
LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is a technique to facilitate reflection, communication and problem solving; it’s a concept that can use organizations, teams, and individuals in general. It is based on deep research in different fields: business, education, learning, creativity, innovation, psychology, group organization, entrepreneurship.
The process is divided into four basic steps to implement the various techniques for applying the methodology:
- Ask – A challenge, previously agreed to in the group, arises which should not have any right or obvious solution.
- Build – Participants give meaning to what they know and what they can imagine and use the construction of a model with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY.
- Share – Participants share their stories.
- Reflection – Reflection on what was heard or seen in the model
If you were to analyze a bit more, you would find that these steps lead to a rising percentage of very successful actions in many fields of strategic and logical thinking:
- In building business strategies
- In product design
- In developing services
- In areas and situations where it is necessary to encourage creativity and innovation
- In teams where it is essential to create systems to share and agree on visions, goals, procedures or different ideas about labor, economic, educational, commercial, technical, social, cultural issues
- In the selection of staff
- In decisions about entrepreneurship
- In change management
- In confronting a problem
It is just a fact that people use LEGO to develop different strategies which stimulate logic, the way of thinking, planning, analyzing, organizing, and much more – this is nothing else than the reality, and, believe it or not, it is statistically proven: it helps a lot!
The Process Of Developing Strategic Skills With LEGO SERIOUS PLAY
The LEGO SERIOUS PLAY process does not depend on the typical verbal competition which usually takes place in meetings, or to fill “a blank page”. Specifically, active participation is based on the use of a carefully chosen selection of chips and specific elements of LEGO products with a unique and specialized process – led by facilitators certified in LEGO SERIOUS PLAY – inducing participants to “think through their hands unleashing ideas, inspiration and imagination.” LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is an important foundation to the process, but do not forget that play is our natural way to adapt and develop new basic skills. This is what prepares us for the emergence of the emerging and keeps us open to serendipitous discoveries, new opportunities. At first glance, this aspect of the game may seem strange. There will be people who understand the game as something opposed to work, frivolous, an activity to fill the time when we are not dealing with more serious problems. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is a very serious game, now adopted by hundreds of leading companies from various sectors, university and school academic environments, creative industries, social organizations, trade associations – and my suggestion is to just try it to see the results of such an interesting process!
LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology is used in a wide variety of corporations seeking innovative ways to increase the engagement, confidence, and vision of the individuals who comprise it. It has proven relevant in contexts in which we must articulate scenarios and testing, product development and brand teams productivity, and efficiency in the executive; and in the field of creativity and innovation exhibits the power to extract more ideas: shaking up hidebound processes, improving decision making, identifying opportunities, encouraging entrepreneurship, improving leadership, resolving conflicts, etc. It visibly improves communication between teams and individuals. The use of LEGO bricks acts as a catalyst when used for the construction of metaphors and triggers processes that were previously unrecognized. Participants develop skills to communicate more effectively, to commit. It acts as “fast track” to address real problems and allows more decisions better and faster.
Can you imagine how many benefits we can get from a little brick which is supposed to be just a for-kids-toy?