by Fabrizio Faraco, written with Simona Orlandi and Ercole Renzi

Making an organization successful is extremely difficult. It’s hard to achieve success with a company where people have strong ties (working relationships, careers, etc.). With a volunteer association could be a nightmare, considering that people have very weak ties with it.

Girl Geek Dinner LOGOGD, i.e. Girl Geek Dinners, “is an informal organisation that promotes women in the Information technology industry. Girl Geek Dinners has 64 established chapters in 23 countries. Girl Geek Dinners was founded in London, United Kingdom in August 2005 by Sarah Lamb (nee Blow) who was tired of being the only woman at technical events” as perfectly described by Wikipedia.

The Rome chapter went through a generational change last April. A new breed of young women gathered together in a plan to revamp one of the most successful GGD chapter in Italy. Time passed by from the 2005 where there were few girls populating the technical scene. So just gathering together is not enough to promote the association goals.

That’s why the group of active GGDs of Rome decided that was the time to build a shared identity to the group and for doing properly they choose to undertake a Lego® Serious Play® workshop.

Our team, me (Fabrizio Faraco) and Simona Orlandi, both certified Lego® Serious Play® method facilitator, with the assistance of Ercole Renzi, psychologist with an analogical approach, designed a workshop to make the group of Rome GGDs to build and share a strong group identity (we also set up a specific Spotify playlist for the workshop). We choose such an interdisciplinary team to explore different facets of this challenge:

  • I focused on the organizational aspects
  • Simona Orlandi on the coaching aspects
  • Ercole on the personal aspects

Our team decided that Ercole should not look at the workshop from outside (in a typical focus group way), but to be an active observer being part of the workshop. Following the rule that everybody in the room shall build, Ercole builds models and told stories.

LEGO SERIOUS PLAY Warm Up by Fabio Faraco

LEGO SERIOUS PLAY Warm Up by Fabrizio Faraco

At the beginning I gave a brief introduction about the foundations of Lego® Serious Play® methodology. Simona was the main facilitator of the workshop. She started with the usual skill building. As Robert Rasmussen stressed “the skills building part, are critical for your success. Skills building should help participants gain insight into what the Lego® Serious Play® method is, be confident using it, and committed to using it to gain insight and action steps relevant to the workshop topic. The Skills Building process is all about making the participants ready to dive in and handle whatever complex issue they address.”

In the last part of the skill building phase, she introduced some elements useful to defining the team identity. The focus was on fears: the teammate characteristics that each one is afraid of. In this way, participants let spontaneously and somehow unconsciously emerge what scares them in the group dynamic and what they want to avoid when working together.

LEGO SERIOUS PLAY Case Study Individual Identity Model by Fabio Faraco

Individual Identity Model

The core challenge of the workshop was to build an individual complex identity model to use for the final shared model. Simona started from challenging the participants to build an individual model. In the story making phase each one had the opportunity to introduce the attributes she cares most and for all of them to reflect on how wide and complementary such attributes are.

Than it came the moment of the public identity exploration: each one of them built a model of a teammate without saying explicitly the name in the story making step. This allows everybody to reflect on how each one is perceived and transmitted a sense of appreciation. Both models were linked together forming a personal model.

Finally using the “red brick techniques” each one of the GGD identified her core identity and, during the story making step, explained why she had chosen it. Only part of the chosen core identities came from individual model, few came from the model built by the teammate. Then, it came the moment to use a large platform to build the shared model, the one representing the team identity and as a last step a story was told to which everybody agreed. It was the story of the GGD team.

Shared Model

Shared Model

Beauty, freedom, networking and risk-taking were the team keywords. But beyond keywords there were a sense of belonging which dramatically enhanced motivation to participate to the GGD activities. And this is a key result for making a strong team.

The use of the Lego Serious Play methodology demonstrated that the breaking of the conventional schemes of communication, leads people to unlock knowledge and discover the hidden side of itself and of the others. In particular, thanks to the focus on the model and its metaphor, accepting the position of the others becomes smoother.

Rome Geek Girls Dinner team Giulia, Valeria, Michela, Giulia, Diana, Paola, Francesca, Elena and Eleonora

Rome Geek Girls Dinner team Giulia, Valeria, Michela, Giulia, Diana, Paola, Francesca, Elena and Eleonora

Once this aspect has been reached, everything in the team involved in the workshop and in their relations begins easier with results that, often, exceed the expectations. And you can see this change directly in the eyes of the colleagues and how they interact and look at each other, even if, only few minutes before, certain problems seemed without solution.

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