The design of the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY process is based on an extensive body of research on how people, especially adults, learn and how they communicate. New and emerging research is documenting the real-time value of LSP in a variety of workplace settings. A three-year study of ways to improve group dynamics in multidisciplinary design teams at the early stages of innovation documents a number of successful applications of LSP within project design teams and between the design team and stakeholders and users. This research was designed and led by Louise Møller Nielsen and the Department of Art and Design at Aalborg University in Denmark.
Almost all teams begin projects in high spirits and with high expectations. At the first deadline or milestone, spirit and enthusiasm dampen or completely disappears when it becomes clear that there is a gap between expectations and accomplishments. Are there innovative processes to reduce this gap at the early stages of innovation? The purpose of Nielson’s research project was to document the ability of artifacts (LSP constructions) to (1) stimulate conversation within the team and between the team and project stakeholders and (2) create shared frames of reference within the team at the early stages of innovation.
This three-year research project documents the ability of LSP workshops to increase conversation and establish a shared language for project teams ranging from the team changed with designing the next generation of guitar to teams responsible for improving ground support set-up for early stage disaster relief. The study group included traditional manufacturing organizations (such as Daimler) and social service agencies (such as the Red Cross). Louise Møller finds that a team meeting is less successful when the participants “leave the concrete matter (the bricks) on the table in favor of a more typical meeting-style discussion. This (conversation based process) induced longer dialogues and arguments, with fewer participants involved in the discussion.”
In sharp contrast, when team members grounded their conversations by referring to their LSP models, “there was a more rapid dialogue, which included all the participants at all times. Sometimes, it was even as if the critical decisions were formalized by a consensus assurance in the group, and subsequently the shared model was not altered, until all participants around the table had given their acceptance of the change.”