Category Archives: Serious Play Case Studies

Case studies of successful Lego Serious Play facilitation events

Experience – Bring Thoughts into Something Concrete and Be Able to Turn Experience into Action

LSP Blindfold Exercise 1Since the beginning of this year we started working with students from the Faculty of Engineering at a Chilean university, the purpose is to develop their entrepreneurial and innovative capacity by connecting them with creativity. An important part of this program is that they experience things from another perspective, to live new situations in changing scenarios; that they can identify opportunities and translate them into concrete actions, working as a team, to think with their hands, and learn of the own discoveries and another’s.

The first step is to accompany them to get out of the comfort zone and to achieve this we design a practical exercise.


LSP Blindfold Exercise 2Without giving any information, at the beginning of the class we ask them to be organized in groups of 10 students. Each had to wear blindfolds and accompanied by 5 teammates who cared not have accidents, they had to walk from the door of the University to the classroom without looking.

This is a walk they do every day, but this time we forced them to do without the sense of sight, which would generate a series of reactions and emotions in them. Once they got to the classroom, we invite them to sit at the tables where the Lego pieces were and we asked them to build an Individual Model of them Perceptual Experience, then tell the story of that journey.

LSP Blindfold Exercise 3The exercise was very significant since students sharpen their senses on both the walk and at the time of building. As never, Models were loaded with emotions. Construction was the heart of the experience. Some were scared or frustrated for not remembering the way, others were disoriented.

Empathy was generated from practical experience, allowing them to connect with the responsibility of being part of a community and also with satisfaction that delivers surpass themselves and achieve the goal.

Finally we reflect on the experience and decided to work, using Design Thinking to design positive experiences for students and disabled members of the University. The prototypes will be built with Lego bricks.

Translated by: Anais Gwynn. Photos:

Designing Investment Portfolios Under Uncertainty: A LEGO Serious Play Application

Julian Kea found this blog post of Keystone Compact Group

Over the last few weeks, I have been partaking in a series of LEGO Serious Play rapid prototyping design challenges at the Research Institute for the Finnish Economy. The focus was to conceptualize, visualize and manipulate a new approach to designing blended asset investment vehicles. The prototyping application is tied to a 2.5 year project on ‘Financial Innovation for Industrial Renewal‘, financed by the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes). The project involves partners from industry centers of excellence, economic development groups and equity investors, with an advisory board that includes European Investment Fund (EIF) and P80 (pension fund) Foundation managers. Our rapid prototyping design team was comprised of equity research analysts, investors, economists, management scientists, industry practitioners, and academics in entrepreneurship. The 4-week process design, comprised of individual builds and challenges, and culminating in team builds, was laid out and facilitated by Sven Adriaens, a high school senior from Pinckney, Michigan (US), an intern seeking to advance his educational interests in design sciences.

Industrial renewal has become a widely used concept at the highest levels of economic policy in the US and Europe. It involves the repositioning of industries, by leveraging and realigning value systems, while integrating innovative companies to ‘turn the ship’. Given the requirement for considerable capital infusions, the European Commission is restructuring fiduciary requirements for pension funds to drive engagement in potentially riskier investment vehicles.

The overall core challenge of the project was how to organize, select and visually represent companies that become part of blended asset investment portfolios comprised of: an index (public), a bundled loan product (SMEs), and equity investment (startups and growth companies) placements. How would such a portfolio be structured and administered? When is a company or a portfolio investable? What are the risks? The new portfolio investment vehicles are targeted at institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance companies, as well as family offices, thus impacting the risk:return profiles of the product. The spirited discussions around this topic exposed the tension between economists, management scientists and investors, and centered on the (types of) data used for decision-making, and the fundamental (theoretical or case-based) underpinnings that guide the investor and company management team.

Lego Serious Play photo
Lego Serious Play photo
Visualizing an investment vehicle and business model with LEGO bricks opened up a query that continues to vex entrepreneurs and investors alike: What are key selection metrics for high value investable companies positioned to drive industrial innovation?

If we consider the research in the field, salient ingredients for entrepreneurial success are often distilled down to: indomitable optimism and enthusiasm of the founder, a game-changing product, leveraging mega-trends or policies, mixed in a cocktail of product and/or market pivots. These ‘potentially observable management inputs and management characteristics’ are, however, insufficient to explain why one venture succeeds and the other fails. Potential, because, for example, recent HBR research showed that companies built by serial entrepreneurs aren’t any more likely to succeed – even if investors consider the ability of past experience in their equity-taking decisions. The residual variables of success are not observable: skill, luck and timing.

There is a significant parallel between these uncertainties, and how economists ascribe differences in company productivity to allocation efficiencies of resources such as capital and labor. The difference is that in microeconomics there are elegant theories that explain how inputs (of mature firms) relate to outputs, presuming that allocation is optimal and aimed at profit maximization. Yet, after accounting for all measurable inputs, often more than 90% of company productivity variability between companies is captured in a ‘multi-factor productivity variable’, which cannot be measured. It is often explained as a measure of technological change in the industry that contributes to the allocation efficiency. Because it is not observable, it can’t be explicitly considered. Economic theory is data-driven, yet the magnitude of the unobservable residual is similar to that which explains entrepreneurial success. In entrepreneurship there is no theoretical underpinning for success – rather our knowledge is based on case studies. Since measures of success derived from cases are difficult to abstract and made generalizable, the development of theories is notoriously challenging.

Going back to the Serious LEGO design challenge then, how do we make portfolio resource allocation and investment decisions for individual companies in the face of unobservable factors for success and productivity?

This series of blogs covers the context of the LEGO Serious Play portfolio design aspects, both at the strategic level of industrial renewal and tactical or operational level describing the analytical engines driving the project. The angles on this problem will represent the expertise and background of the participants, and culminate in a description of the final team build product design. The educational aspects will be addressed from two perspectives. From the student-facilitator’s angle: How can LEGO bricks be used to help the uninitiated teach finance and business models? From the professional participants’ angle – How do LEGO bricks help in the design of new investment vehicles and their management structure?

For more details, including a video on the final team build, please contact:

Peter Adriaens, PhD
Finnish Distinguished Professor, Research Institute for the Finnish Economy (2014-2016), Helsinki, Finland.
Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy, The University of Michigan (Ross School of Business – Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies), Ann Arbor, Michigan (US)

Antti Tahvanainen, PhD
Chief Research Scientist, Research Institute for the Finnish Economy, Helsinki, Finland

Design Thinking and Lego Serious Play at Aeroflot

Wonderfull Design Thinking and Lego Serious Play at Aeroflot 1Aeroflot is Russia’s national carrier and largest Airline. Founded in 1923, it is among the world’s oldest airlines and one of Russia’s most recognised brands. It’s revenue in 2013 exceeds more, than 4 bln. USD. In short: big business with big numbers often loses big picture. Hence we were contacted to assist them via design thinking on – how to get to key questions and name essential problems.

Wonderfull Design Thinking and Lego Serious Play at Aeroflot 2Wonderfull team organized design thinking session for Aeroflot IT program management office (PMO) to help build PMO structure, identify key roles and re-think its connections with business. LEGO Serious Play approach was used at the stage of prototyping. Bricks helped people to think by their hands, freeing heads and eliminating wicked communication dilemmas.

Wonderfull Design Thinking and Lego Serious Play at Aeroflot 3Through the exercise participants had an opportunity to uncover existing relations between Business and IT, uncover barriers and tensions in management structure. Foreign experts from SAP partner side – Dr. Jurgen Ott and Axel Ferste, who have great experience in managing complex transformation programs, shared their knowledge and gave very useful feedback on the LEGO models.

Wonderfull Design Thinking and Lego Serious Play at Aeroflot 4We also used scribing and visual thinking for improving educational experience of all the participants. As always, we learn a lot from our participants, also trying to share knowledge and our experience from other projects.

Wonderfull Design Thinking and Lego Serious Play at Aeroflot 5We wish Aeroflot a high flight with creative power of its big team uncovered!  Come and join: LEGO Serious Play in Russia group on Facebook.

Lego Serious Play with 1500 participants in Chile

Lego Serious Play Sketchnote by El Lente De Kris
Lego Serious Play Sketchnote by El Lente De Kris

The following news was published on the website of the Society for Human Resource Management.

SANTIAGO, CHILE–The World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA) kicked off its 15th World HR Congress here, on October 15.

Organized by the Circulo Ejecutivo de Recursos Humanos of Chile, this biannual international event has become a major draw for global HR leaders, including dozens of CEOs of national HR organizations, like the Society for Human Resource Management’s own Hank Jackson.

The HR Congress commenced with a unique workshop, in which the 1,500 conference attendees, at tables of eight to 10 each, broke into bags of Legos and began testing their creativity. The session, “Building an Identity,” was facilitated by Lego Serious Play consultants Robert Rasmussen and Lucio Margulis, who guided participants through several fun challenges.

The problem with meetings, said Rasmussen, is that people tend to be disengaged—“leaning back.” People are distracted; thinking about what to say or glancing at their phones. The result is lack of participation, insight and interest in the decision-making process.

Instead, the goal at meetings should be to get everyone “leaning forward,” 100 percent engaged and committed to the outcome.

At first, conference attendees were absorbed by building their own Lego towers, then they graduated to constructing free-form abstractions representing what companies would look like in the absence of HR. Finally, they were challenged to create a group model incorporating structures that had been built individually, thereby giving 3-D expression to what HR will look like in the future.

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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