LEGO Serious Play Methodology, Sustainability and Business, A Threesome to Dance Together

Javier da Vincente posted the following interesting case study on applying LEGO Serious Play methodology on his LinkedIn page

How can we define what a sustainable value proposition is? How can embrace the diversity of stakeholders and their needs around my business? How far do I have to take into consideration the interconnections between my business and the world and society? These are some of the questions that emerge when the possibility of mixing together sustainability and business is set out.

In past February, @Climate-Kic gathered 25 expert business coaches from 10 different countries,  for a workshop on sustainable business using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology, that I had the pleasure of facilitating. The objective was nailing down the conditions that a sustainable value proposition should to fulfill in order to be considered as such. With that daunting aim, with the cultural variety on the stage and relying on quite different backgrounds, the discussion promised to be long, deep and hot.

when it comes to build sustainability into business the discussion can easily turn into real conflict. Whereas there are advocates for different ways and levels of introducing sustainability, others consider business and sustainability as a kind of oxymoron impossible to combine. In recent years, new tools and approaches such as flourishing business canvas or circular economy try to make it easier to combine the two concepts, but answering those wicked questions remains difficult and almost impossible.

Sustainability is one of those touchy words that stir minds and feelings in many different ways, not to mention the complexity of the concept itself.

That is, we have a complicated problem, entailing high complexity concepts and encompassing multiple perspectives and feelings. This is the perfect context for  LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method, a tool specifically oriented to unravel the inherent complexity of systems, to bring up everybody’s perspective and to constructively and literally build a solution or a plan for the future.

After a warm-up time in which coaches got familiar with the methodology, they first worked on building and sharing how they embrace sustainability in their current businesses as well as how their clients perceived their stance.

By building with bricks the deep connection hands-brain comes into play and conscious and unconscious knowledge is unleashed and reflected on the models.

Indeed, when it came to sharing their stories (we might say story-making) some interesting and surprising facts arisen. Professionals supporting others to embrace sustainability but feeling themselves far from that sustainability; professionals who felt they needed to unlearnt what they knew in order to being able to understand the sustainability challenge or just clients who didn´t seem to appreciate their efforts for a sustainable business.

This is the very core and power of  LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®: the stories. By explaining their models, participants make use of that universal language that metaphors are, conveying much more information, nuances and feelings than in a traditional way. Everybody can see, understand and feel what colleagues are telling. In doing that not only is knowledge unlocked but also new knowledge created in both the storytellers and the listeners.

Then it was time for them to build the big story comprising everybody’s experience. The outcome, called landscape by the LSP methodology, literally is made up of all the individual models deployed in such a way that participants can tell a shared, coherent and powerful story. Somehow LSP worked as a common language breaking down cultural and professional barriers and allowing for richer stories to come up. While one of the groups conceived their common story as a kind of hero’s journey, others’ approaches were significantly different.  In the video you can watch a more complex outcome with theoretical and practical consequences in there.

Once the common ground was laid out, visioning and planning were brought to the table. Coaches and experts were asked to build what their ideal sustainable business would look like. What values, principles, features their value proposition would have if it were a purely sustainable value proposition. Their hands, brain and feelings started building their deepest understanding about sustainability and business.

At this stage of the game, the room and the models were shot through with metaphors. Participants were unconsciously using more and more metaphoric thinking to build their aspiration in terms of business and sustainability. The stories they shared were plenty of “people”, “connections”, “fairness”, “green economy” or “social engagement”.

To wrap up the workshop, taking the very core of each model and making use of any other element they considered necessary, they built together a new model and story depicting their shared and holistic understanding of what a sustainable value proposition is and what it looks like. Watching and clip from one of those stories is better than trying to explain them.

LSP is not looking for a consensus but rather it aims at creating knowledge to collectively solve complex problems.

In conclusion, thanks to LSP all the participants saw and felt that their ideas, feelings and concerns were included in the proposed solution. By resorting to metaphors, complex concepts were clearly explained, by sharing stories and building together everybody was engaged and committed with the outcome. Unlike many other methods, LSP is not looking for a consensus but rather it aims at creating knowledge to collectively solve complex problems.

Do you have your own complex problem that needs collective knowledge to be sorted out? Do you have many different perspectives to bring together into a common commitment? Just give LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®  method a try, it can be your solution

Disclaimer: “LEGO, SERIOUS PLAY, IMAGINOPEDIA, the Minifigure and the Brick and Knob configurations are trademarks of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this website”

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