Strategic Play® Group Ltd. Utilized LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY™ with the Canadian RSA

On March 7, 2012, Canadian Fellows of the Royal Society for the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA) and Friends of the Society met in Vancouver to discuss the strategic direction for the group going forward. The evening was kindly sponsored by University Canada West. “It was a splendid evening that sparked a great deal of solid, forward-looking discussion from everyone,” stated Dr. Charles McCaffray, who helped to organize the event.

Approximately fifty five people participated and Lynn Broadbent, Fellowship Director from Washington, D.C., joined the group for the occasion.  “It was lots of fun and a really interesting approach to creative thinking,” said Ms. Broadbent.

Around the world, fellows are utilizing design thinking to address social issues ranging from prison reform to revitalization of local libraries. LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY™ is a great tool to facilitate design thinking processes.  Stephen Murgatroyd and Charles McCaffray reviewed pressing issues being addressed globally, and narrowed the list to nine hot button topics they felt were relevant today in Canada.

Graphic posters displayed around the room indicated the nine areas for discussion. The groups self-sorted by selecting a topic they felt passionate about for small group work. The topics included:

1. Public Engagement and Collaboration: To enhance neighborhood police services

2. Improving Substance Abuse Services: Through the engagement and support of drug users

3. Making Connections for New Canadians:  Working to ensure a sustainable future

4. Transformation of Local Libraries: Creating business hubs for lifelong learning

5. The Social Enterprising Prison: Creating programs for inmates to give back, while building needed skill sets

6. Rethinking Education: Creating systems and practices that are truly learner centered

7. Easing Social Isolation and Loneliness of Seniors: Through service redesign

8. People Centered Cities: Creating better public space that’s lively, healthy, attractive, sustainable, and safe

9. Energy and the environment: The path forward

Small groups, comprised of five to seven people, were formulated and worked together using systematic creativity facilitated by members of the Strategicplay® Group from Vancouver.  Individually and also in teams, the groups used LEGO® bricks to build 3Dimensional metaphors to gain a deeper understanding of these complex issues.  The facilitated discussions allowed participants to see, hear, and experience rich conversations, to unearth perspectives from all participants.

Clearly, from the participation and energy in the room, there was great interest in the topics. Next steps include the formulation of a planning committee, which will work with the larger group to narrow the focus areas down to three topics with the aim of putting serious action projects together. The group also hopes to attract new members. So if these topics interest you, please review the RSA website and consider joining their next discussion:

For more information on Strategic Play with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY™

In the America’s visit:

In EU visit:


LEGO SERIOUS PLAY and Business Models – Part 2

Rory has now posted his second blog on how we used LEGO SERIOUS PLAY to develop a business model (using the canvas as the structure). It is as well written and informative as the first, I warmly recommend it

You can read it here

In my last post of this two part series I explain why we wanted to build a lean startup with Lego and here I expand on the previous post by looking at exactly how we went about the experiment where we used Lego bricks to build a lean version of the Business Canvas.  I go into the detail of how we actually ran the workshop and how building a Lego Lean Startup helped us to gain a shared understanding of the business model we were looking to test.

Recap from the previous post

I would recommend reading the previous post in order that you might fully understand why we chose to use Lego bricks to build our strategy canvas, as this post will examine how we used it .  However the main points to recap from the last post are:

  • The actual words you use to describe a concept, idea or solution can be important
  • Our language can be interpreted in subtly different ways
  • The Lean Canvas requires you to capture big ideas with a few words
  • Gaining alignment on understanding is harder than it seems
  • Lego Serious Play is a tool that can gain alignment, build a shared insight and focus the team on what needs to be done

So if you read my previous post you will understand why our team felt we needed more than a whiteboard to really get shared understanding of our canvas.

Using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® with the Lean Canvas

The initial part of any Lego Serious Play intervention is the framing of the problem to be addressed and developing a roadmap for the workshop.  Although I am qualified myself in the Lego Serious Play method, I asked a good friend Per Kristiansen to run the workshop as:

  1. It was a new experiment with LSP and I valued Per’s vast experience
  2. I felt we needed an independent facilitator to remove any bias I might introduce if I facilitated
  3. I wanted to be in a team role during the workshop rather than in a facilitator role

As with a lot of things, the preparation for an event like this makes all the difference, so I had a couple of skype calls and emails with Per before hand, where I described what we wanted to get out of the workshop.  We looked at both the Business Canvas and Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas and from that we agreed how we would approach the workshop and what I would like to get out of it.

Basically what I was looking for was a deeper shared understanding amongst the team of each of the elements of a canvas and how the team saw that the elements fitted together.  This I hoped would overcome the issue I sensed whereby everyone on our team did not have the same picture in their mind of how all the elements of our current model fitted together and more importantly the relative importance of each element.

Introduction to Serious Play

Per started out the workshop, as always, by introducing the team to Lego Serious Play and how to use the tool.  This is like learning the language of Serious Play and through a series of quick exercises the team learned the four core steps in Lego Serious Play:

  1. The facilitator poses a question.  The participants in a workshop are asked to build with Lego and create stories in response to a carefully posed question.  The question is clear but is very open ended.
  2. Individuals build a model.  Each participant builds their own 3D model in response to the question that has been posed.  Participants works with the special set of Lego bricks that are designed to inspire the use of metaphors and story telling.
  3. The Individuals make a story.  Each participant shares his or her’s model’s meaning and story with the rest of the team.  It is critical that every person shares their story as this enables 100% participation during the session which builds a commitment to shared action
  4. Questions and Reflections.  The facilitator and participants crystalise key insights that are arrived at from the process by asking clarification questions of the models.  The facilitator sums up surprises and connections.

Tackling the Problem


Once the team had completed this stage we quickly got down to business with the team individually building the core of what was to them.  Stories were told about these individual models and the shared understanding of what the team believed about the organisation was unveiled.

Customer Segments

The next step was we simply worked through the elements of the canvas that we had identified as important. So for example we spent particular time on customer segments which was an area that we were struggling to get a handle on which segments were appropriate for the current business model and to get a feel for their relative importance amongst the team so we can test our hypothesis.

“Speed and ease of use”

Again the team built models representing the segments they felt were most important, and interestingly each member of the team built a model representing a different segment.   For example one of the team built a race car to signify that the medium sized business segment was all about speed and ease of use of the service.  So when all the models were revealed it became instantly obvious that we all had different channels at the top of our mind.  The next exercise involved us voting on the relative importance of the channels by using a finite number of bricks, this exercise was completed as a team and it forced us to discuss the relative importance of each of the channels and to trade between options with a clear small business segment rising up as the most important.  This action now allowed us to see that the collective wisdom was that this channel was important to test and we then prioritised our experiment to prove or disprove this assumption that the small business channel was the one with the most potential.

What to Tackle?

An important point is that we also did not attempt to complete the full canvas but simply took the elements that we were having some difficulty with and the ones where we thought it was appropriate to work on.

In the end we built out those elements in a landscape that attempted to show the scale and relative relationships between the models.  This was done by simply placing the models we had created where it felt they made sense and where they related to each other whilst taking into consideration the elements and relationships of the canvas.  The result was a very powerful 3D picture of our business model, built by the team where they all felt they had input, they had shared their insights and have a sense of real ownership of the results.  More importantly we were quickly able to prioritise the next set of experiments that were required to test these hypothesis and the great thing was we had an unanimous agreement on what needed to be done.  The workshop also brought the team closer together in sense of understanding of what needed to be done in order to prove or disprove the current business model.

The Results

So did the experiment work?  Our initial workshop was very powerful, worthwhile and helped us a great deal to understand what the rest of the team was thinking.  We got a greater alignment and a much stronger understanding of the business model element we were trying to put together.  I think the Lego Serious Play / Lean Canvas mashup is a very powerful combination and is certainly well worth considering if you have the same issues.

Lessons Learned:

  • Using Lego Serious Play with the Lean Canvas is a powerful tool
  • You must prepare well for the workshop
  • It’s not necessary or perhaps even advisable to complete the canvas in the workshop
  • The ROI is best realised when faced with complex and challenging issues
  • Get an experienced facilitator to set you up with the LSP skills

Redesigned Website

Our Serious Play Pro community website celebrates its 2nd birthday. Starting up as a small website for a few enthusiasts a year ago the average number of daily unique visits to the website was just 10-30 hits. In the past 3-4 months we have reached the average of 50-60 daily hits. Since the beginning of 2012 there have already been several days where more than 100 unique visitors have been to our community website. Not bad!

In order to improve the website performance for this increased number of visitors we have spent some hours during past couple of weeks in redesigning and streamlining. To the outside you may see that the difference is minor. Only the layout looks somewhat modernized. Most changes have happened to the engine that is located in the server side. However, these changes also affect a couple of issues at the front-end.

  1. We have disabled the Facilitator Database page because of a security vulnerability. I.e. for the time being we won’t have a public list of who is certified facilitator and who is not. If you want to know where somebody could come and help you then just go ahead and ask us. And for our certified facilitators – I hope that this will call for more active and interesting contributions – as this will be your chance to shine and attract more attention of the clients. :-)
  2. To increase the speed of the website we disabled a module that allowed picture gallery slideshows. However, it is still possible to use photos on individual posts and on profile pages.
  3. We have revised the events module. Those of you – certified facilitators who have the right to add events: after logging just go to: and select “Add an event” from the bottom. Fill the blanks (Title, Description, Date/Time, Location), press Publish and voila!
  4. From the previous individual posts of LSP-related library we have generated a single page of LSP-related books: – Should you have some good ideas what books to add then just comment for the community.

Let us know what do you think!

LSP-Powered Stakeholder Consultation Workshop on Energy Efficiency Policy in Indonesia

Case study: Using LEGO SERIOUS PLAY in a multi-cultural, multi-lateral stakeholder engagement context

Energy Efficiency Workshop
Energy Efficiency Workshop

GIZ/PAKLIM and DANIDA/EINCOPS are development cooperation programmes respectively funded by the German and Danish governments, supporting the Indonesian government in its efforts to address issues related to climate change, particularly through improving energy efficiency, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Many institutions in Indonesia are also involved in mitigating climate change effects. Apart from Denmark and Germany, a number of international donors including AUSAID, USAID, AFD (France), IFC/World Bank, JICA (Japan), and the Dutch development agency. In addition, a few professional development and certification organisations are promoting competing Energy Management standards. Academic and research establishments are also conducting programmes to further knowledge about the causes, impacts, and mitigation approaches for greenhouse gas emissions. All these parties, depending on the exact nature of their activities deal with a variety of government ministries: Strategic Planning, Finance, Environment, Industry, Energy, and Education, to name a few. All of these institutions are typically seeking recognition for their own work and are reluctant to recognise the value of the contribution of others.

Previous attempts to document all of these activities have resulted in partially-completed tables in Microsoft Word or Excel, quickly obsolete.

When Dr. Joyce Miller, certified LSP facilitator, took over the leadership of the GIZ/PAKLIM’s Industry Component, she knew that an LSP-powered workshop would help to develop a clearer vision of what each actor was doing, and with luck, it would create a dynamic for community building and collaboration, rather than reinforcing the prevailing one of competition. Moreover, she suggested that the workshop itself be seen as a demonstration of a collaboration between GIZ and DANIDA. As Joyce wished to contribute fully to the proceedings and get to experience LSP as a participant for a change, I was asked to design and facilitate the workshop.

The Event
The GIZ/PAKLIM-DANIDA/EINCOPS Stakeholder Workshop on Energy Efficiency was held at the Méridien Jakarta Hotel on 21 November 2011. A last-minute change in rooms (requested by the hotel to accommodate another client) meant that some of the participants were a little confused, but this venue, which was on the same floor as already communicated, gave us some extra space, which definitely made the facilitation of the workshop easier.

No one, apart from Joyce and one colleague on the PAKLIM side, knew anything of the methodology or the process.

The workshop ran according to the following programme:

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TED Talk on Role of Introverts in Groupwork

Susan Cain Video at TED

Over the last 50 years we indeed have gained much new knowledge about how we as humans develop and learn best. From new understandings of multiple forms of intelligence, various learning styles and how our different kinds of personalities work and collaborate. And where Lego Serious Play shows its distinct qualities and ability to embrace these. I recently ran a educational LSP workshop with 5-6 years old children. One of them showed typical signs of being introvert (not being shy) and the LSP process created the space he needed. This link focuses on the different characteristics of being “introvert or extrovert”.