Category Archives: Serious Play Case Studies

Case studies of successful Lego Serious Play facilitation events

A Key to Create Stories using Lego Bricks – Gwynn Technique

Below a Lego Serious Play practitioner from Chile – Claudia Gwynn of Llava Creativa elaborates a facilitation methodology. The full text of the White Paper, which was published in Spanish language on Neuronilla website can be downloaded here. Any comments welcome!

Every time we decide to build a project in any area – personal, professional or vocational, which requires us to step out of the usual path to undertake an uncertain journey, we go through a series of stages, obstacles, challenges that sometimes hinder the achievement of our dream and invite us to give up.

Llave Creativa Workshop

Should I take this job opportunity? My future depends on the career I choose and I am not clear, what will I do? I don’t know how to begin my undertaking, how I face this challenge? These are important questions that can paralyse us because they attack directly our goal and sometimes that is threatening.

How to overcome the rational barriers we place on ourselves when we have a problem considered very difficult to address? Using lateral thinking, that is, taking an even friendly alternative path which will help us to find creative solutions to complement rational analysis. In this design the tool that will lead us on this journey will be creating stories. Let us begin:

Imagine a history of which we are protagonists and is set in a house inhabited by a character named “My Challenge/Problem”. This character is almost three times bigger than us and most of the time is awful. Our goal is to transform Mr. My Challenge/ Problem into an opportunity, and we must meet and conquer it to be our ally.

What should we do to achieve that? Enter the home. But the thought of getting in and face it frightens us to the point of paralysing because we know that Mr. My Challenge/Problem knows us too well. Isn’t the first time we face this battle and it “can smell our fear of miles away”, so Mr. is ready to receive us? What to do? Clearly follow the usual path will produce more of the same and our sense of failure increase. We are trapped by and into our Challenge/Problem. But what if, contrary to what he expected we walked quietly through the kitchen, through a small window located behind the house, through the keyhole of a door?

The most likely thing is that Mr. My Challenge/Problem doesn’t see us because it’ll be very worried monitoring the front door. This would give us the chance to see it from another place, analyse the opportunities presented to us and plan an appropriate strategy. Maybe we could even visit more than once without being detected. Did you imagine?

This is the story I tell every time I introduce this methodology. Rather than talking about lateral thinking, techniques, hemispheres, etc, I tell the story of the house of Mr. My Challenge/My Problem and everyone -regardless of context, culture or age- understand what it is.
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Hospital planning is child’s play with Lego

Referred Lego Serious Play case study from CBC News

Hospital planning is child’s play with Lego, health group says. Coloured Lego bricks used to shape plans for integrated health facility. A set of Lego bricks was used to inspire planning for a new health centre in Leader, Sask., an unorthodox approach that was initially viewed as ‘kind of silly’ and then embraced.

Lego Planning in Hospitals
Consultants brought boxes of Lego bricks to inspire planning for a new integrated health facility in Leader. (Submitted to CBC)

Officials with the Cypress Health Region, in Saskatchewan’s southwest, have been holding a series of meetings with health care workers and others in the community to plan a new facility to meet a long list of patients’ needs and be more cost-effective when compared to traditional health care models.

When consultants pulled out a box of Lego, many people involved in the planning were surprised.

“They broke out these big boxes of Lego and I thought, ‘Man this is just kind of silly,'” Jason Hodge, a member of Leader’s town council, said in a presentation video about the initiative. “Very childish. And I was thinking, ‘Where is this going to go?'”

Where it went was to generate new discussions about how health providers and patients interact and where people need to be to get the most efficient and most appropriate care.

Lego bricks were brought to planning sessions for a new integrated health facility in Leader, Sask. (Submitted to CBC)
Lego bricks were brought to planning sessions for a new integrated health facility in Leader, Sask. (Submitted to CBC)

“About half an hour in, it got really serious about how does this process work,” Hodge said. “It took on a whole new dynamic that a lot of us would never even think about.”

On Monday, the provincial government formally announced that Leader will be home to a new $12-million integrated health facility for the Cypress region. It’s designed to bring together a nursing home, hospital, clinic and EMS building in one area.

The health region says the project is following the “Lean” methodology, a quality improvement initiative that’s widely used in the health-care system, but which has also generated some controversy. Critics have said Lean is a waste of money, employs too much jargon, and uses methods that many health-care workers find off-putting.

The Lego bricks included figures for physicians and special pieces that helped to make a hospital bed. (Where was this set of Lego blocks when I was a kid?) (Submitted to CBC)
The Lego bricks included figures for physicians and special pieces that helped to make a hospital bed. (Where was this set of Lego blocks when I was a kid?) (Submitted to CBC)

In Leader, however, engaging people with the Lego blocks seemed to open people up to new ways of thinking.

The planners used the toy bricks to help people figure out how to run their health facility more efficiently, before construction, with real bricks, begins.

According to Saskatchewan’s Minister of Health, Dustin Duncan, the new facility will replace aging buildings and improve the ability of the community to attract and retain doctors and other health professionals.

Leader 3P Project

The provincial government is spending $9.6 million on the project, which represents 80 per cent of total project costs. Local money will cover the remaining 20 per cent. Currently, health services in Leader are delivered out of four separate buildings, including a senior citizens home which will be kept and expanded.

Construction for an addition to the Western Senior Citizens Home will begin in spring 2015. The new integrated facility is expected to open in 2017.

The New School with LEGO bricks!

A charity creative game for SOS village inhabitants in Russian town of St-Petersburg.

There are a lot of inspiring examples all around the world on applying LEGO Serious Play to business tasks. But what about serious play with LEGO bricks for children?  Most of adults think of kids’ games as of something for pleasure and “not serious”. None of us ever thought of taking a kid on an important directors’ board meeting or invite them to participate at political decision making processes. We even don’t involve kids into a process of designing spaces or for their own educational processes, which aim to “teach” them. This time around we decided to get the children all the knowledge, ability and inspiration to make a school of their dream by LEGO education tools.

We built the serious game around the basic process of design thinking and empathy and rolled it out at one of the SOS Villages who aim to provide disadvantaged children with due out-of-home care. After icebreaking session we watched some LEGO education videos and showed some approaches, how to build “real-life” models.

SOS Village - A Child Presenting Why She Does Not Like School
SOS Village – A Child Presenting Why She Does Not Like School

The next step was mutual interviewing “Why don’t we like to learn?” We got really big maps with more than 50 varieties of different reasons, why children don’t like to learn or why they don’t enjoy going to school. All the answers and problems were very sincere and open. And it was really challenging for adults who were present at the game. The most astonishing for the guys was our statement, that teachers don’t have all the answers on “how to teach you” and need your active help to rebuild the process of education with your heads and hands on. By the way, at the mixed group were kids from different ages – from 5 up to 16, working closely with each other. This was a new experience for them too.

SOS Village - Why we Don't Like Our School
SOS Village – Why we Don’t Like Our School

After the problem identification phase we moved directly to building up a “Dream School” model, where all the problems might be solved. This was not an easy journey to get the attention and interest on the high level of all the kids in a hall, but together with our facilitators team we did our best to master the challenge. Through their models children presented clear and direct vision of how the school and learning process might look like.

One of the models was built up avoiding any of the mini-figures, which stand for the teachers (!). The next one was a school building model, which levels are located in a more sophisticated and interconnected format between each other. The others created a model with big halls “for everything to do” and no classrooms.

SOS Village - A Proud Kid with his Dream School Built of Lego Bricks
SOS Village – A Proud Kid with his Dream School Built of Lego Bricks

The LEGO session was not the answer to all questions and problems, which are essential for kids. However it was a real opportunity to undertake a concrete and immediate action towards creating a world to live, learn and work together!

Our greatest thanks to Zhanna Zhirnova and Andrey Troitskiy, SAP CIS social innovators, who made this visit possible!

Lego Serious Play – Storymaking not Storytelling

A blog post by by Jacqueline Gunn, @tinkgunn about Storymaking

We were really grateful to join the workshop hosted at Clore to explore both our own leadership techniques and learn some broad structures of futures thinking and projecting.  Lego Serious Play is based on three premises: play, constructionism and imagination.

Through a series of both individual and group exercises (all involving various lego people, bricks, animals, weapons), we imagined dictators, our future selves, external driving forces, and even what the future for social entrepreneurship would look like with “Openness to financial innovations and unlimited length of time horizon.” (see below!)

One of the things I found most fascinating was that although at the beginning of an exercise you may have no idea how to answer the question (“You have 10 minutes to illustrate where you want to be in 2020.” Ten Minutes!), through the process of starting to build and use the Lego, it became easier to articulate and develop meanings and symbolism. A tiny addition to your Lego board could mean something huge to you- and it was the other participants’ role to unpick and ask questions behind the meaning of what you illustrated.
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Micro LEGO Serious Play: How small can a useful tool for thinking be?

David Gauntlett has written an interesting blog post about Micro Lego Serious Play

Micro Lego Serious Play
Micro Lego Serious Play

LEGO Serious Play is a way of using LEGO bricks to express feelings and ideas. It is used by adults (mostly), to collaborate and discuss relationships and concepts. The building is done in metaphors – which might sound odd at first, but our research shows that almost anyone can pick it up. The process offers a unique and powerful way for people to exchange ideas.

I have a long-standing interest in the idea that, if you give people the opportunity to be creative and make things, they can often communicate more fully and more thoughtfully than they might do just through talking. For this reason I worked with the LEGO Group on LEGO Serious Play from 2005, and ended up co-writing the ‘open source’ release of LEGO Serious Play, launched in 2010. I’ve used it for a few things over the years. My book Creative Explorations (2007) explains its use as a social-science research method. I’m interested in it as a ‘tool for thinking’ (see, for instance, this blog post). And recently I developed a workshop for PhD students which supports participants to both share feelings and develop ideas about the PhD process.

One of the key clever things about LEGO Serious Play is that through externalising feelings and knowledge – by building them in LEGO – then everyone in a group gets a voice, because everybody builds and everybody talks about what they have built; and then also you get the opportunity – because you can literally see it, touch it and change it – to review everyone’s perceptions, and collaborate to make them fit together in a coherent and meaningful way.

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Managing Stuckness with Lego Serious Play


Students’ Union of the University of the Arts London published a short case on Managing Stuckness with Lego Serious Play

So, apparently Lego Serious Play (LSP) is an actual thing. I signed up to this workshop mainly because it had lego in the title, and then I was quite surprised with my experience.

LSP was developed by the Lego company as a way to create a new market for lego. It is a process that was designed for the corporate and business environment to “enhance innovation and business performance.” But the principles can be applied to wide range of situations. This workshop being an example. Usually when you play with lego, its very literal, you build a house, a car etc. So the first step was to change the way we play, moving from literal construction to metaphorical construction. So we started out with a few warm-up exercises to get us used to playing with our pile of lego in a more abstract, less literal way.

The point of this workshop was to understand ‘stuckness’. Being stuck is something that designers, creatives, and pretty much all people experience at some point, and there are a whole range of reasons people can get stuck: stress, fear, lack of knowledge, and each person has their own personal reasons, to do with how we each work and learn.

The next exercise was to build a model which describes us as creatives, our process, our positives and our negatives: the reasons we get stuck. After a short while we went round the room and each person described their model. It was incredible, when building these models, you invest meaning into each block, and in putting them together, you construct a complete image of yourself, out of lego.. (I know, sounds crazy right). Continue reading

Councillors get serious about building blocks, All you need is Lego – by Jo McKenzie-McLean

Central Otago WasteBusters manager Glenys Byrne gets adults to use their imagination with Lego Serious Play.
Central Otago WasteBusters manager Glenys Byrne gets adults to use their imagination with Lego Serious Play.


A Central Otago waste manger is proving lego isn’t just for children. Glenys Byrne, general manager of Central Otago WasteBusters, held a Lego Serious Play (LSP) workshop earlier this month with a group of people from WasteBusters and the Central Otago District Council, including councillor Clair Higginson and Bernie Scurr from health and safety.

Byrne said she was one of only a few facilitators nationwide trained to hold the LSP workshop, which was designed to enhance business performance through building with lego bricks. LSP had been used by organisations such as Nasa and Coca-Cola, she said.

“The bricks allow people to think freely, and express themselves as they create, the process is not reliant on the typical verbal jousting that goes on in meetings, or filling up a blank page, instead, participants use a carefully chosen selection of bricks and a unique process where people ‘think through their fingers’ – unleashing insight, inspiration and imagination.”

There was a bit of head-scratching around the table when the group was asked to create something out of lego bricks to reflect a sustainable future in Central Otago. However, with only five minutes to complete the task, the participants quickly starting building wind turbines, vegetable gardens, electric cars, solar-powered homes and wind operated irrigation systems.

Higginson said the workshop was insightful and challenged them to use their own creativity, work in pairs and then share their visions as a group: “I found the hands-on part of it helped get over anxieties we may have had in speaking up in the group.” Scurr said the exercise reinforced how different everyone was and how differently everyone thought.


Science at Play: NSF Funds University Research on Nanotechnology Ethics using LSP

Engineering professor Candace Chan, a nanoscientist, checks in with undergraduate students Ruben Hernandez (aeronautics major) and Dylan Baker (mechanical engineering major) as they work on their LEGO models
Engineering professor Candace Chan, a nanoscientist, checks in with undergraduate students Ruben Hernandez (aeronautics major) and Dylan Baker (mechanical engineering major) as they work on their LEGO models

From: (Nanowerk News) Students at Arizona State University are learning how to play.

ASU undergraduates have the opportunity to enroll in a challenging course this fall, designed to re-introduce the act of play as a problem-solving technique. The course is offered as part of the larger project, Cross-disciplinary Education in Social and Ethical Aspects of Nanotechnology, which received nearly $200,000 from the National Science Foundation’s Nano Undergraduate Education program.

Engineering professor Candace Chan, a nanoscientist, checks in with undergraduate students Ruben Hernandez (aeronautics major) and Dylan Baker (mechanical engineering major) as they work on their LEGO models during a Feb. 24 pilot workshop.

The project is the brainchild of Camilla Nørgaard Jensen, a doctoral scholar in the ASU Herberger Institute’s design, environment and the arts doctoral program. Participants will use an approach called LEGO Serious Play to solve what Jensen calls “nano-conundrums” – ethical dilemmas arising in the field of nanotechnology.

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