Category Archives: Serious Play Case Studies

Case studies of successful Lego Serious Play facilitation events

LEGO SERIOUS PLAY Helps Build a Shared Understanding between the Scrum Team and the Product Owner

by Stan Kurkovsky,, @SKurkovsky

Scrum is an agile iterative software development methodology in which a team of software developers works in well defined increments (sprints). Each sprint typically results in adding new features to the software product. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY has been successfully adapted both for team building and as a tool for conducting sprint retrospectives in Scrum software development projects. A retrospective is a meeting of the entire development team facilitated by the Scrum Master and conducted at the end of each sprint, during which the team reflects on the past sprint and answers two key questions: what went well and what can be improved during the next sprint? If applied properly, LEGO SERIOUS PLAY can make sprint retrospectives more productive by getting people to discuss their experiences in the last sprint more openly and communicate their ideas in a more constructive way.

Individual Strength: Flexibility When Working with Constraints - by Stan Kurkovsky
Individual Strength: Flexibility When Working with Constraints – by Stan Kurkovsky

It is relatively easy to make the development team members to communicate with each other since they all work on the same project on the daily basis, and they most likely share a similar background and experience in various aspects of software development. However, ensuring clear communication between the Scrum team and the product owner is not always an easy goal to achieve. A product owner is typically a lead user of the software being developed. The main responsibility of the product owner is to establish a clear vision for the product being built, which is accomplished by writing project specification in the form of prioritized user stories. In practice, a product owner does not always understand the problems the developers may be facing in order to build what the product owner wants. And vice versa, the developers may not always have a clear idea of what the product owner really needs. This situation is perfectly illustrated in this infamous comic.

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Building a Global Manifesto Through LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® – A Case Study

Group Build DW S2S Manifesto

I had the honour of working with Deutsche Welle Akademie at the end of last year on what for me was an interesting and important challenge:

How do you create a global manifesto on information sharing and freedom of expression with participants from 14 different countries, when each has with their own culturally valid and particular way of doing things and seeing things?

There were many challenges when deciding to do this work. There was a postal strike in South Africa and all my LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® starter kits I had ordered went missing. I had ten kits I had been working with but certainly not the beautiful, pristine white boxes which included a manual and some comfortable and easy building starts.

A challenge in itself coupled with the fact that only 4 hours had been set aside to do this. When I started working in LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® I was an absolute purist. I would only do work which lasted a day at the very least. I was turning away a lot of business… so I decided I would eat my own cooking and try and be agile. I agreed to the assignment not knowing whether four hours could ever be enough to achieve what they needed.

It was not only possible, it was a huge success. Here is the feedback:

“Elaine designed and executed a very clever and creative program using LEGO Serious Play that helped us to achieve our goal – crafting a set of principles to foster freedom of expression. Moreover, with colleagues from 14 different countries, LEGO became a common language and generated ideas that may have remained unearthed in a more traditional workshop methodology. Our delegates were hugely impressed!”

                           Steffen Leidel – Editor onMedia, Deutsche Welle Akademie

I wanted to share with you how and why it worked and give you some insights into how you, too can do this kind of process in a very short period of time.

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Serious Play and the Anti-Bully Movement

What do LEGO® bricks have to do with Bullying? Lots!

On February 7, Family Day weekend in BC, seven members of the StrategicPlay North American team facilitated an event attended by over 100 people. The participants included VIPs from the Anti Bullying movement and community members, aged 3 to over 80. Everybody was interested in learning more about bullying and how to stop it.

In typical Vancouver style the weather was wet and rainy. So kids of every size and age were eager to spend an afternoon with family and friends, building with LEGO. We were delighted to see how well the process worked with such a mixed and diverse group of participants.

This was the first event of this type. The organizers did a fantastic job of promoting it and sold tickets through an open registration to the community. They asked people to formulate teams of four to build together. We really didn’t know who might show up.  We watched in anticipation as more and more teams joined, and finally the event hit “sold out.”  People came from all areas, families formed teams, and friends came together to build. Coworkers also formed teams, and so did school groups.


We purposely kept the fee low to avoid barriers to entry. The $10.00 investment included four hours of LEGO SERIOUS FUN and a light snack, refreshments, great door prizes from the organizers, and a surprise LEGO® Key Chain, which we saved until the big close.

In developing the agenda we used a positive psychology approach. Research indicates that most people have, at some point, been victims of bullying. Knowing this, we recognized that we needed to approach the topic with care and concern to avoid triggering any negative emotions. Using an appreciative inquiry approach we were able to address the topic by empowering participants to talk freely about the behaviours they find supportive.  To be on the safe side we also had therapists available for support. Luckily, no one needed them.


The tables were designed for 4 family members or a team of 4.  Each team was accompanied by one table leader who was prepared before the event regarding the etiquette of LSP and also the way we would mange the LEGO bricks.


Note:  In the registration we asked that children be over six years old to attend, however, we had about 4 under age slip into the venue with no issues. Parents of children under six years old were reminded to monitor their children closely (due to small LEGO bricks everywhere), and we provided Duplo to keep them included.

To find our more please contact us:

Special thanks goes to the StrategicPlay® North American team who gave of their time and talents:
Stephen Walling, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Ahmed Rahim, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Catherine Holt, Victoria, BC, Canada
Jodie Petruzzellis, Whistler, BC, Canada
Kathleen Allison, White Rock
and Jacqueline Lloyd Smith, Whistler, BC, Canada


Using Lego Serious Play to teach Software Engineering

by Stan Kurkovsky,, @SKurkovsky

Software engineering courses at the post-secondary level usually integrate students’ programming skills with their knowledge in many other areas of computing, such as databases, security, or computer networks. Software engineering, however, is much more than simply putting existing knowledge and skills to practice. There are many important principles and concepts that are central to the practice of modern software engineering, such as requirements engineering, emergent properties, socio-technical systems, etc. Given the engineering nature of the discipline, one of the best ways to learn these principles is usually to apply them in a practical context, such as a case study.

Lego Serious Play Case Study for Software Engineering - by Stan Kurkovski
Lego Serious Play Case Study for Software Engineering – by Stan Kurkovsky

Recently, we began using LEGO SERIOUS PLAY as a foundation for hands-on case studies to teach the core concepts of software engineering to senior (4th year) students at a university. As with all LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshops, students were first introduced to  LEGO SERIOUS PLAY by participating in a skill building session, which took an entire 75-minute period. All of our case studies went beyond building individual models and included building either a shared, a landscape model, or both, which promotes team building and creating of shared understanding. These two kinds of models force students to compare their thoughts and views on the same concept, which helps each student correct any possible misconceptions and crystallize their understanding of that concept. We piloted several LSP-based case studies, one of which is described below.

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Lego Serious Play preparation case study – when is enough, enough?

The email read: “We currently manage a very evolved graduate programme. This includes some of the brightest and talented graduates from exclusive universities. Our final selection is regarded as the crème de la crème. We offer our graduates three jobs over a period of five years on two continents. We have ten new grads. joining us in February.  Along with our current grads. we would like to have a fun-filled, exciting team building day for them to get to know each other and work together.”

I think: “I’ve got just the answer for you.”, because:

  • LEGO SERIOUS PLAY in itself is team building.
  • LEGO SERIOUS PLAY in itself is fun.
  • The client wants to mix the current grads. with the newbies. I’ll allocate some of each of them in each team.
  • They are supposed to be clever, so the issue for them to consider must be a challenging one.
  • Besides team building of the established and new grads. we are dealing with induction of the new grads. and marketing the company to them.
  • I’ll propose to the prospective client a one day LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop centered on the issue: “Build a LEGO model of a successful candidate on Company X’s Graduate Development Programme.”

I think again: “What is the second right answer?”

  • These guys are serious: a programme consisting of three jobs over five years on two continents.
  • Not only are they serious, they are prepared to make a long term investment.
  • The one day team building workshop cannot be a standalone incident unrelated to the overall investment.
  • It must be integrated with the other programmes the grads. will undertake.
  • The power of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY lies in its ability to emotionally involve the delegates in the issue they jointly consider.
  • Beyond factual answers, we are building a sense of belonging and commitment amongst the grads.
  • The issue they tackle must be useful and meaningful to each and every one of them as they embark upon their managerial career.
  • How about them answering the question “What must be done to succeed on the Grad. Development Programme?” They can first build individual models of their own thoughts and then collate them into an agreed answer.
  • Then, as those annoying infomercials say, “Wait, there’s more.” Then they each have to build an individual LEGO model in answer to “What must I do to succeed on the programme.” Each delegate is then required to evolve the 3-D LEGO model into a written action plan that then becomes an integral part of that grads.’ performance appraisal over the next few years.

Hey, this is fun, so I think again:

  • I buy into LEGO SERIOUS PLAY because if addresses joint issues at an emotional level as well as a rational one. I don’t quite understand what’s happening but I firmly believe self-motivation is triggered. After all, decisions aren’t only rational.
  • Maybe there’s more I can do to strengthen the positive emotions and attitudes evoked by LEGO SERIOUS PLAY.
  • How about the framework of Experiential Learning: Doing, Reflecting, Applying. Let the delegates “play” with LEGO. That’s the “Doing”. Then they can reflect upon their behaviour. After all, playing with LEGO is fun and it creates an atmosphere supportive of introspection. So if the LEGO exercises are structured in a way to elicit certain managerial behaviours, afterwards they can be reflected upon. Then a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY session can be structured to work out an answer as to how the delegates can successfully implement those behaviours.

Oops, time to think again.

  • Wait a minute! Who is the client? Let’s get back to what the client wants. What is right for the client?
  • Sure, ask the client, but I have to put a proposal on the table to even stand a chance of getting the business.

What would you do? Please add your comments below …

The LEGO® – Retrospective

Slightly different from “classic” LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology, Dominic Krimmer (Twitter@dkrimmer84) has written an interesting case study about the combination of LEGO and Scrum tools. Here is his blog post “The LEGO Retrospective

LEGO Retrospective by Dominic Krimmer
LEGO Retrospective by Dominic Krimmer

The LEGO® – Retrospective is a quite nice method I tried out with a team in my current company. The reason why this exercise is so exciting is the fact that team members are joining a totally new creative space where they can try out to express their thoughts on an abstract layer. In this post I’d like to share some experiences about this improvised retrospective.

Time needed:
preparation: 10 minutes
retrospective: 60-90 minutes

What you can expect:

The LEGO® – Retrospective helps teams to dive into another kind of space where the rules of ordinary life are temporarily suspended and replaced with the rules of this game. As almost everybody played with LEGO® in his childhood you can expect a high engagement as adults might love to remember the good old creative time :-)

Object of play the LEGO® – Retrospective:

Most of us are familiar with LEGO® – one of the best known brand toys. This game gives team members an opportunity to express their views on an abstract way. It’s valuable because you are able to create the conditions that will allow unexpected and surprising solutions to emerge.

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