Lego Serious Play

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Lego Serious Play in action

Lego Serious Play, an official product of the Lego Group, is a form of business consultancy with the aim of fostering creative thinking. The objective is to have team members build metaphors of their organizational identities and experiences using Lego bricks. Participants work through imaginary scenarios using visual three-dimensional Lego constructions, hence the name "serious play".

The Lego Serious Play website describes the method as "a passionate and practical process for building confidence, commitment and insight". The approach is based on research which suggests that hands-on, "minds-on" learning produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its possibilities. It is claimed that participants come away with skills to communicate more effectively, to engage their imaginations more readily, and to approach their work with increased confidence, commitment and insight.

[edit] Origins of Lego Serious Play

Around 1996, two professors at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland – Johan Roos and Bart Victor – were looking for alternatives to the conventional outcomes of strategic planning. At the time they were working with the chairman of the LEGO Company, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, who needed a strategy process for his company and invited Victor and Roos to develop this process. Robert Rasmussen of LEGO and another professor - David Owens - were also then invited to join the team that eventually led to the creation of the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY company and product. Roos brought in the strategy background, Victor the organisational behaviour, and Rasmussen the learning and development theories, while Owens did product development and process refinement. Together they theorized that the solutions for Lego Company could be found within Lego itself - they believed they could use the LEGO bricks as a tool for working through organizational problems. Roos founded a research arm to provide intellectual support for the group - the Imagination Lab Foundation in Lausanne Switzerland - while Victor led the development and consulting business near Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN. The result was the first application of LEGO Serious Play: Real Time Strategy. In the following years, LEGO Serious Play was developed into a consulting method used by companies other than LEGO, including Daimler Chrysler, Roche Pharmaceutical, SABMiller, Tupperware, Nokia and Orange. It has also been used in non-profit/NGO groups (e.g., SOS Children's Villages), as well as in government (e.g. Danish Patent and Trademark Office).

[edit] Foundational research

A booklet entitled The Science of Lego Serious Play sets out some of the basic research on which the approach is based. This research can be divided into three themes:

  • Play - Play is defined as a limited, structured and voluntary activity that involves the imaginary. That is, it is an activity limited in time and space, structured by rules, conventions or agreements among the players, uncoerced by authority figures, and drawing on elements of fantasy and creative imagination.
  • Constructionism - Based on the ideas of Seymour Papert, which built in turn on the Constructivist theories of Papert's colleague Jean Piaget. Papert argued that learning happens especially well when people are engaged in constructing a product, something external to themselves such as a sand castle, a machine, a computer program or a book.
  • Imagination - Throughout history, the term "imagination" has been given many different cultural and linguistic connotations. While all share the basic idea that humans have a unique ability to "form images" or to "imagine" something, the variety of uses of the term "imagination" implies not one, but at least three meanings: to describe something, to create something, to challenge something. From the point of view of Lego Serious Play, it is the interplay between these three kinds of imagination that make up strategic imagination – the source of original strategies in companies.
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