How LEGO® bricks build business innovation at Harvard Business School

May 22, 2018 in Serious Play Discussion

Creativity doesn’t always rule the corner office. In the territory of heavy desks and understated colors, executives can seem to favor decisions that match the décor. They might explain that they’re playing it safe or playing the long game. But perhaps they should be playing—period.

Some time ago we wrote in SeriousPlayPro how Harvard Business School introduced LEGO Serious Play to their curriculum. This post elaborates on the creativity and innovation

Think about it: If a company wants to grow, there are really only three ways. The first is to buy other companies. The second is to try to squeeze more out of your existing products. And the third is through new products, services, business models, and ways to reach customers,”

says Stefan Thomke, William Barclay Harding Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, making a case for the necessity of innovation.

When Thomke teaches innovation, he plays hard. One might expect raised eyebrows when the faculty chair of the HBS Executive Education Leading Product Innovation program breaks out LEGO® bricks during one of his signature programs. Yet students will soon discover a professor who brings toys into his classroom as a means of illuminating and restructuring business inventiveness brick by brick.

When I conducted research for a LEGO Case Study, I learned about a methodology called LEGO Serious Play (LSP). In LSP, specially designed LEGO kits are used to facilitate strategy building, vision setting, and problem-solving sessions for business executives,” Thomke says.

Mastering this kind of play took work. Thomke spent months earning two LSP certifications and adapting the knowledge to his curriculum, all after extended case study research that brought him all the way back to the remote Danish wood shop where LEGO began a century ago. Appropriately enough, the recent LEGO turnaround that Thomke studied only came about after a young CEO dismantled its sagging corporate structure and married the company’s imaginative roots with sustainable, user-centric product development processes.

LEGO bricks aren’t the only unexpected place from which Thomke draws innovation inspiration: “Several years ago, I came upon the realization that magicians can be some of the best innovators,” Thomke says. “Night after night, they have to come up with new tricks in order to entertain and wow their audience. I had the great fortune to run into Jason Randal… and over the course of many months, we developed a common set of principles that work well for innovation and are inspired by what magicians like Jason do.”

Some may still scoff at toys and tricks in the business classroom. Perhaps they forget that the best, most constructive learning is inherently fun. The lucky among us can remember youthful joys of solving the world’s mysteries. Even luckier are those who still play this pioneering game. The truly fortunate are playing at work.

This article was produced on behalf of Harvard Business School by the Quartz marketing team and not by the Quartz editorial staff. LEGO is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies, which do not endorse Harvard Business School Executive Education.

This blog post was written by Harvard Business School for Quartz

LEGO Serious Play Training in South Africa

May 22, 2018 in Serious Play Discussion

Today I discovered that City of Cape Town in South Africa has announced a public tender. They are recruiting a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology trainer to deliver a 2-day training event for their 35 staff members. They have prepared a bureaucratic document of more than 30 pages (pdf): South Africa Cape Town LEGO SERIOUS PLAY training tender documents

An interesting part of this bureaucratic masterpiece was the section on evaluation criteria (pp. 23-24):

  • More than 10 LEGO SERIOUS PLAY training sessions completed – max 20 points
  • More than 8 years of experience in facilitating with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology – max 15 points
  • The facilitation approach include methods to enhance the ability of the participant to understand and apply the Lego Serious Play innovation skill – max 20 points
  • Proposed materials or content to be used and applied in the facilitation process meets the criteria or requirements of the specification – max 30 points
  • An appropriately experienced facilitator with more than 8 years of relevant experience in facilitation of Lego Serious Play training sessions – max 15 points.

In practice, this means that a couple of dozen individuals around the world should be able to fulfill all the requirements fully. I am just wondering how many would bother to fill in 30 pages of forms just to deliver a 2-day training. :-)

Anyway, if you are interested in bidding you need to hurry. The deadline for submission of bids is 25 May 2018 at 2:00 PM Cape Town time. Check this site for more details:


Enhancing Customer Experience with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®

May 19, 2018 in Serious Play Discussion

There was a time when Lego was simply considered an effective mental development tool, focused solely on children. With years of research and development, companies are now recognising how Lego or to put it right ‘LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY ®’ can help enhance customer experience and kindle the potential of their employees. In today’s highly competitive business environment, companies are seeking newer ways to harness and explore the talent and expertise of their existing workforce. Enterprises are striving to create a work culture which is more productive and more importantly unobstructed that can serve the end customer better.

Well, surprising as it may seem, playing with Lego bricks can help organisations overcome these business concerns by tapping into their existing resource pool, facilitating open communications, initiating changes, and even introducing radically new propositions.

ACE – Transcending Experience and Empowering Businesses

The Academy of Customer Experience, popularly known as ACE, is an organization that solves problems, transcends experiences and empowers businesses through LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. With the framework of “Play | Think | Transform®”, ACE has several reputed industry leaders from Financial, Telekome, Insurance, IT/ITES, Retail, Logistics industries to name a few like Reliance Jio, Nokia NSN, L&T Infotech , Robert Bosch, E-Zest etc as its clients. The company is an Asian partner of the BG Group, which has its presence in over 1,00 countries across the globe.

Play is not frivolous. It is not luxury. It is not something to fit in after completing all the important stuff. Play is the important stuff. Play is a drive, a need, a brain-building must-do. – Jeff Johnson & Denita Dinger.

ACE’s flagship product “Playshop®” uses LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® for frameworks (Areas of  Customer Experience Management, Design Thinking, Service Design & Innovation) to unleash the power of inspiration, thinking and imagination in corporate setups. It utilises Lego bricks to demonstrate the value of a hands-on, collaborative, iterative problem solving process that involves each and every team member in overcoming unique challenges. By engaging professionals in solving everyday problems, Playshop® provides deep insights into how these individuals would function together as a team in real-time situations.

Participants engage in a world of “play and storytelling” where the common language used is the Lego bricks; this ensures every participant is at the same pedestal and his/her opinions and perspective are heard and allocated equal weightage. The Lego bricks become the only means of communication and help professionals connect and exchange their ideas and thoughts more easily and effectively. This form of communication eliminates the hurdles associated with the traditional means of communication, which may, at times, be very restrictive. Team leads and managers can identify the strengths of individuals within their teams, and even gauge how effective their personal instructions as a leader are.

“In our sessions we have had amazing experiences, colleagues discovered that they knew so less about each other inspite of being together for years, artists and musicians were discovered, managers understood their members and concerns better, and there were also extremes when people broke down in few sessions after understanding how some problems were playing on their unconscious mind which they were ignoring”, recalls Laxman, Founder-Academy of Customer Experience.

Playshop® helps organisations discover new frontiers to improve enterprise-wide communication and open the gates for honest thought exchanges. It fosters three-dimensional thinking by creating and constructing metaphors that represent the real challenges faced in organisations. The Lego bricks engage not just the minds but also the hands, as a result of which, thoughts and ideas from the mind take shape and are expressed in greater details through the Lego bricks. Playshop brings deep, valuable subconscious thoughts to the surface. Though this approach is unconventional, it enables visual interactive thinking, kindles creative pursuit, and offers new dimensions to solving day-to-day business challenges.

ACE’s Playshop® instils leadership development, strategic and creative thinking, ideation, agile mindset development, and collaboration. It also facilitates constructive dialogs and provides individual mentoring and executive development. With the help of a hands-on, minds-on approach, Playshop® has, till date, helped several companies improve their corporate team building strategies, which has not only assisted employees but also organisations in serving their clients better through the power of collaborative thinking. ACE’s objective is to help enterprises activate and unify their human capital to reach a common goal together.

ACE’s new offerings based on the Play |Think |Transform® framework – Flashcards and Design Thinking are the addition to the innovative way ACE helps in transforming the way organizations look at their business problems and goals. While Flashcards enable members to think and visualize/simulate the unforeseen challenges, the Design Thinking play makes them look at a business scenario in a whole new perspective and helps them innovate ideas to delight customers as part of their daily operations.

Read more about ACE’s Playshops that solve business problems, transcend experiences and empower businesses.

This article was originally published here.




SeriousPlayPro Academy 2018

May 16, 2018 in Pro Community

After the successful internship of 3 young people at SeriousPlayPro Tallinn office last year we are again announcing summer internship called SeriousPlayPro Academy for a group of young people who are interested in spending a month of their summer playing with LEGO bricks, learning a lot about the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology and contributing to the community. Last year three students were working with us: Karen Künnapas , Merilyn Ohtla and Yumiko Kijima and you can read about their adventures from their blog

They were supported with the following faculty members with whom they carried out web interviews and learned about LEGO SERIOUS PLAY: Joyce Miller, Eli De Friend, Sebastian Simand, Stephen Dann, Sean Blair, Scott Decker and Marko Rillo

If you are interested in becoming one of the interns or serving as a faculty then read more here:

Call for Papers: Discovering Innovative Applications of LEGO® in Learning and Teaching

May 9, 2018 in Serious Play Library

In the forthcoming Special Issue we will explore the use of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® and further LEGO® related innovative applications for learning and teaching as well as supporting students’ and staff’s learning and development in the context of Higher Education.

The use of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®has been spreading in the last few years in Higher Education institutions in the United Kingdom and beyond. More and more academics and other professionals who teach or support learning in these settings are often intrigued to find out more about it, train to become accredited LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitators, participate in staff development workshops and implementing related activities in their practice to spice up their teaching and create stimulating learning experiences.

Currently, an openly licensed book is in preparation by the Co-Editors of this Special Issue, which captures among other things a selection of mini LEGO® stories (Nerantzi and James, forthcoming). Also, James (2015) published a report about the use of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® specifically in the Creative Arts & Design.

This Special Issue aims to go wider and deeper in exploring the potential of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®for teaching and learning in the context of higher education and showcase the emerging work and research in this area from around the world.

We welcome articles from new and more experienced academic writers, practitioners and researchers who have been using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® across the disciplines and professional areas as well as students, who are using it for their learning at undergraduate, postgraduate or doctoral level, from around the world and would like to share their work with a wider audience through an open access issue and help us all gain new insights and deepen our understandings in this area further.

We will consider the following types of contributions:

  • Reflective articles (1000-3000 words)
  • Research papers (3000-5000 words)
  • Viewpoints (2000-3000 words)

The deadline to submit your article is 1 November 2018. This Special Issue will be published in December 2018.

Guidelines for Authors

Papers must be original work not published elsewhere. The Journal has a preferred publication style (follow the link for more details on Authors Guidelines). Please submit your paper as an email attachment to Early submissions are encouraged.

All papers will go through the double blind review process.

Submission deadline – 1 November 2018 (OPEN)

Guest Editors

Dr Chrissi Nerantzi (@chrissinerantzi) is a Principal Lecturer within the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at ManchesterMetropolitanUniversity in the United Kingdom. She is passionate about creativity, play, learning through making and openness and has initiated a wide range of professional development opportunities that bring these three elements together in her practice and research. Chrissi is a certified LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator with experience using the method and variations of it in a wide range of higher education context. Chrissi is a Principal Fellow of the HigherEducationAcademy, a Fellow of the Staff and Educational Development Association, a National Teaching Fellow and the Learning Technologist of the Year 2017 and won the GO-GN Best Open Research Practice Award in 2018.

Alison James (@alisonrjames)is a Professor of Learning and Teaching at the University of Winchester, a National Teaching Fellow and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK. She is co-author, with Stephen D Brookfield, of Engaging Imagination: helping students become creative and reflective thinkers, published by Jossey Bass in 2014. Her longstanding interests in higher education are the use and development of creative and alternative approaches to tertiary learning. In particular she has explored this in relation to personal development planning, reflective practice and identity and self-construction within the disciplines. Alison is an accredited LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Facilitator.

Belinda Doveston Podcast: LEGO Serious Play in UX Research

April 27, 2018 in Serious Play Discussion

Dieter Reuther from Cast Collective shared a recent podcast by Belinda Doveston from Building Teams, who is an innovative educator from South Africa. The podcast segment was covering Cast Collective’s case study LEGO SERIOUS PLAY for UX Research – with a kind reference to a recent article written by Dieter Reuther here on our community group in the episode Bridging the Social Divide. Listen to the short segment of the podcast on Cast Collective here:

It was lovely to hear that Belinda expanded her podcast further to include words about the works on play by Brian Sutton-Smith. I loved to listen to the Belinda’s other podcasts that covered the concepts of “one brick at a time”, Otto Scharmer’s work on theory U, on finding happiness at work, about storytelling at work. Lots of interesting stuff.

Check out the entire series of Belinda Doveston’s podcast here:

David Gauntlett – Making is Connecting 2nd Edition

April 26, 2018 in Serious Play Library

David Gauntlett who is an avid LEGO player and fan has just issued his second edition of the classic Making is Connecting 1st Edition book. In his book he talks about the value of crafting stuff with your hands and with your mind.

It was one of the first books that I read when I got into the world of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology. What David did so beautifully in this book was arguing about how creativity and craft go hand in hand. He also suggests that re-emergence of do-it-yourself movement all around the world as a counter act to mere consumption helps to shape people who are happier, better connected to their communities, and better able to initiate change  in themselves and in others. All of this thinking comes with rich illustrations using LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology and underlying philosophy.

I haven’t had the chance to open the new edition of this book yet, but the Amazon preview reveals that the 2nd edition replaces chapters on Web 2.0 and adds stuff on creative process, on making music and on creating creative platforms. Sounds cool to me!

See David’s video introduction of the second edition of the book below and pre-order the book itself via Amazon: Making is Connecting 2nd Edition.




Master Thesis: Let It Click with the Brick

December 30, 2017 in Serious Play Library

Julia Trebbin has defended her master thesis at Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht Berlin on “Let It Click with the Brick – Gaining Insights Through LEGO SERIOUS PLAY as a Brand Research Tool”

The abstract of the thesis is: The thesis at hand has the aim to find out if the management method LEGO SERIOUS PLAY (LSP) is applicable for brand research. Secondary literature is reviewed to detect current applications of the method in marketing and branding. Additionally, LSP facilitators are interviewed as experts to investigate the potential of the method for application in marketing and brand research, as well as identifying success factors of the method. Moreover, workshops are performed examining two variations of LSP using different bricks, as well as the comparison method Free Expression Drawing (FED) to find out if brand associations can be created to determine the brand image of a company. The thesis starts with defining the terms brand research, brand research tools, and LSP and continues with a description of the methodology and course of investigation. The results of the literature review and the expert interviews are illustrated showing current applications of LSP in marketing and brand research. Furthermore, a scoring model is introduced to evaluate the suitability of LSP for brand research combining the key findings of the workshops and additional factors. In the discussion the results are interpreted, limitations of the conducted research are illustrated and implications for further research are given. The conclusion of the conducted research is that LSP is suitable to investigate the brand image of a company but the drawbacks of the method need to be considered.

You may download the full text of her dissertation either via the university library homepage or by clicking here: Trebbin,Julia_MA_2016

SeriousPlayPro Academy – Summary of the 1st Day

July 10, 2017 in SeriousPlayPro Academy

Today we started with the first SeriousPlayPro Academy in Tallinn, Estonia. The Academy is targeted towards university students. It will last for 1 month and will consist of:

  • In-depth training on LEGO Serious Play methodology and materials
  • Discussion with some community members – classes and interviews
  • Crafting new ideas on how to improve SeriousPlayPro community and updated value proposition of the community
  • Focusing on the “Next Generation”. Making LEGO Serious Play methodology easily accessible to younger people.

The first day started with basic LEGO Serious Play methodology skills building. Two participants – Merilyn Ohtla and Karen Künnapas did some traditional practice of LEGO Serious Play methodology training. This included technical building skills, ability to use colourful metaphors while representing the models and finally telling comprehensive stories with the help of just few bricks.

Once the skills building was done and over with, the participants also practiced the skills to facilitate the exercises of others. They built the future of education. They decided to discuss the opportunities how to improve teaching methodologies.

In the content side of LEGO Serious Play training, they decided to focus on building individual models and thereafter a shared model about the current situation of a secondary school. Finally, they built the shared model and Vision 2020 of the future of education. Before the wrap-up of the day, Merilyn and Karen concluded by also adding various stakeholders of the school to the landscape.

The thoughts of the participants from the first day of Academy:

“I remember mostly three things. First of all it was like jumping into the water at a location we did not know. Second was seriousness of this whole day – we did some serious in-depth work. And ultimately, we had fun and we laughed, too. It was certainly going out of the comfort zone, except for taking a critical look at how to improve our school. “
– Merilyn Ohtla

“I started experiencing and understanding how thinking works differently when you use your hands. It was fun that while we might be different, we still managed to discuss about our school in a similar manner. During building our shared model we had similar ideas where we complemented each other. It felt as if we managed to solve the problems of our school in just 2 minutes that the others have not managed to do within 20 years. It was also a stretch task to tell our stories to video.”
– Karen Künnapas

See below the videos and the photo gallery. During the next days we will keep a blog of SeriousPlayPro Academy.

Video of the landscape of School Vision

Video of the stakeholders

Photo gallery

Inside The LEGO House

June 5, 2017 in About Lego

LEGO is about to complete a their new unique, creative and imaginative LEGO House in Billund, Denmark. Read more about the background of the building, its philosophy here from the dedicated site of the LEGO House. On the website of the LEGO House you can find information about the architecture, progress of its building, interviews with LEGO people who tell you the story behind the scenes.

I found that Beyond the Brick today published a walkthrough video. Below you can also find a photo gallery of this amazing building. Enjoy.

This article was published in Brickset by Huw Millington. It presented the first impressions of the newly built LEGO House in Billund.

Last week’s LEGO Fan Media days in Billund were held in the LEGO House in the centre of Billund. Apparently, it was the first such use of the building, coming just two weeks after it ceased to be a ‘building site’ requiring hard hats and protective gear to access it.

After a presentation by Jesper Vilstrup, General Manager of the LEGO House and Stuart Harris, Senior Experience Designer, in which details of the flagship models were revealed for the first time, we were taken on a guided tour to see progress for ourselves.

Many of the installations are taking shape so we were able to get a good impression of what the interior will be like once it’s completed. It’s still very unfinished, though, and there appears to be a lot of work to do before it officially opens at the end of September. However, Jesper assured me that a lot of people are working on it and it would be completed on time.

View pictures of historical display in the basement, the tree in the staircase and the World Explorer display, and find out what the showcase models in the masterpiece gallery will be, after the break…

The LEGO House, designed by Bjarke Ingels, was unveiled in 2013. It was originally set to open in 2016 but the technical challenges of the pillar-less design have resulted in a year’s delay and three times the amount of steel used in the framework.

The building itself is now largely complete although its surroundings are still a very much a building site which is causing much disruption to the centre of Billund.

This model, one of many at different scales that were in the atrium, shows what it’ll look like when finished. If I had positioned my camera on the the front left corner of the table it would have been at the corresponding position to when I took the one above.

During the tour we ascended to the top, up the side of the orange ‘stairs’ shown in this picture of another model of the building.

The top has eight ‘studs’ each with a glass pane. Here Ambrush from Bricks StackExchange, Stuart and Jesper test the strength of one while James from Jedi News looks on.

The atrium

The reason for the construction delay was to enable the ground floor to be pillar-less, and the result is a huge atrium area which is light and airy. The camera does not do it justice. The floor is constructed from solid wood blocks. Our meeting room was just about the only part of the building that was complete.

The basement

The basement houses a museum that tells the story of the company and its products. It was largely complete and we got a good impression of what it’ll be like, although not enough time to examine it all closely. Here are some of the earliest pieces on display.

Items from the 1970s… …and the 2000s. Someone noted on Twitter where I first posted these photos that the masks on the blue and green Bionicle figures were not right! The displays are arranged around the sides of a square area. In the middle there’s an inner room, still under construction, that will showcase hundreds of iconic sets, built and displayed with their boxes.

The tree

The centrepiece of the house, and the largest model in it with some 6.3 million pieces, is a tree that rises from the ground floor to the very top. It might sound slightly boring from that description but it’s a stunning piece of work full of detail as you will see below. The trunk has LEGO icons and graffiti such as Kjeld ‘carved; into it. As you descend the stairs and look down you see that on top of many of the branches there are dioramas depicting LEGO’s classic themes: City… Friends… Space… Apparently LEGO had to resort to buying some of the sets on the secondary market! Looking down you can see the exquisite detail of the leaves. The top of the tree is finished off with a crane and construction site, signifying that the LEGO story is not over, that the company is still growing and there is more to come. It’s a stunning model but a devil to keep clean I suspect, and I wonder what effect the UV from the windows above will have on it all…

Brick waterfall

This picture shows how many of the fixtures and fittings are designed to look like they are built out of giant LEGO pieces.

World Explorer

What could an AFOL build if they had an unlimited number of bricks and time? This huge World Explorer display, apparently!

This minifig scale model is in three clusters, a city and seaport… …a mountainous area complete with castle and snow peaks, and a island with beach and funfair, which you’ll see below. The models will eventually have Perspex panels around them to protect them from little fingers. Virtually every model is illuminated and I suspect it looks stunning in the dark. There’s motion, too, but that was not functioning. The castle on the hill… Cafe Corner takes centre place in the city cluster, one of several ‘off the shelf’ models in the displays. Caves in the mountainside… Dock building… Here’s part of the third cluster depicting a beach and Fabuland funfair. Note the Ferris Wheel which has only been slightly adapted from the original set. Why is the right side constructed from Duplo? Because walking that way takes you to the Duplo area of the building… You’ll find more photos, taken by Andres, at Zusammengebaut.


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