Learning Services at University Campus Suffolk (UCS) consistently strives to implement teaching and learning practices that are innovative, creative and effective in order to better engage with our dynamic population of students. Over the summer, we began developing a means to introduce Lego Serious Play (LSP) into our academic and library support teaching sessions – including facilitation training, purchasing the necessary kit, and working with academics to capitalise on the opportunity.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, LSP was developed by Lego, primarily for use in business settings to explore team building and group dynamics. Recently, the tool has been adapted for use within library and academic settings for similar purposes. However, Learning Services at UCS have decided to move beyond utilisation with staff and have looked toward investigating implications for using the tool directly with students, focusing on the cognitive links associated with exposure to LSP and skills acquisition related to library and academic services. In other words – if LSP positively influenced staff synergy within the global business sector, what was stopping it from providing a useful means of developing library and other learning skills amongst students?
CBi is the latest iteration of an evolving experiment at CERN in Geneva. The CBi acronym stands for “Challenge Based innovation”, and the experiment pulls in students from several countries and multiple disciplines. The Scimpulse Foundation collaborates with CERN since 2013 and in this occasion we facilitate a concept design workshop.
It’s a sunny September morning in Mayrin, the outskirts of Geneva, right on the side of the ATLAS experiment building there is a new shell enclosure where a bunch of students practice and learn about innovation. Dr. Marco Manca is the coach of the team and he wants to make sure that they come out of the experience with a new mindset. That is where we come into play, literally.
The challenge is to design something that may enable blind people to perceive the surrounding environment; maybe some type of augmented sensory device. We use the LEGO Serious Play* method combined with a bit of acted scenario, getting the group into a divergent thinking flow to co-create solutions beyond what the standard game-storming or design thinking methods may produce.
They call themselves the “Heisenberg” team. Entering the room I can feel the expectation from the group, curiously sitting around an improvised set of tables. I skip any introduction and immediately go on guiding them through the first half hour of rigorous LSP language training.
They fly through the training! From building a tower in 20 seconds, to making a story and using metaphors in a matter of minutes; faster than any group I have seen so far.
After announcing that now we were going to get serious, I pose the first question: – I am going to ask you to go beyond the normal concept of blindness, starting from the opposite side … let’s build the model of:
what is Vision?
In a matter of minutes the models start coming up, It turns out that Vision is not only the capability to “See” with our eyes, but also an enabler, some sort of superpower that drives Decision, Choice, Selection, Trust, and Truth.
Our horizon expanded from the simple definition of “Sight”, to the more meaningful and all-inclusive concept of “Vision”.
From here we can start exploring the user point of view and find possible solutions, but that will require a simulation or a prototype, to have a first-hand experience of what the user may feel when is using a machine that helps hims or her in performing a simple task.
Since 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.
EXERCISE “THE ZONE”
Without 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.
The 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.
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.
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
Aeroflot 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 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.
Through 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.
We 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.
We wish Aeroflot a high flight with creative power of its big team uncovered! Come and join: LEGO Serious Play in Russia group on Facebook.
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.
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.
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. Continue reading →
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.