Dan Lyons Looking at Lab Rats Experiments with LSP

December 18, 2018 in Serious Play Library

LEGO Serious Play methodology has received a critical look by New York Times bestselling author Dan Lyons. He has titled his new book “Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us“. The opening sequence of this book provides a story of his encounter with one of LEGO Serious Play facilitators and his puzzle with the “duck” exercise. 

Dan Lyons argues that “pseudo happiness” generated by LEGO Serious Play practitioners alongside with Agile practitioners has been one of the main reasons why startup community and industry at large is actually ending up more miserable. 

In his opening chapter he describes how he met a LEGO Serious Play facilitator who goes by a pseudonym “Julia” who was combining the methodology with agile, NLP, New Age psychotherapy and hypnosis. 

As a result of the encounter and the duck exercise, Dan Lyons is left puzzled and bewildered. He suggests that LEGO workshops are just one example of “nonsense that is creeping into the workplace” whereby the offices look more and more like “Montessori preschools” rather than serious places for business. He concludes that in a chaotic age many managers are simply scared and therefore looking for unconventional ways for moving ahead.

In his analysis he assumes that LEGO Serious Play is just a fad that generates profits both for LEGO, for LEGO Serious Play trainers and facilitators, but for real business the workshops are largely pointless.

However, he also suggests that those types of Lego exercises might be silly and stressful to some. When some people feel that they are unable to contribute in a playful way, the playfulness might become counter-productive. Some participants of LEGO Serious Play workshops might just feel that structured play resembles them a “cult of happiness” rather than something that would provide real and tangible value to be better at work.

Find this book via Amazon: “Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us“.

In the following brief video Dan Lyons provides a brief take on LEGO Serious Play. Comment what do you think of his book and his analysis? 

LEGO Shop Expands to New Countries

October 26, 2018 in Lego Serious Play Bricks

LEGO Shop has recently started expanding to new markets. Newly supported markets are Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

For years LEGO has been conservative in expanding its international online presence, being only available to a limited list of markets: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom and USA.

Those 5 new countries that it has expanded to are just tiny European markets with the total overall population of 18 million inhabitants. However, at least this looks like a first step in becoming more accessible to new markets that has been long overdue. Hopefully the next markets will follow shortly.

To make purchases of LEGO Serious Play bricks in your country, just use one of the links below to enter the LEGO Online Shop and choose the name of your country.

LSP starter kit

Starter Kit

LSP window bag pile

Lego Window Exploration Bag

LSP connections kit

Connection Kit

LSP identity and landscape kit

Identity and Landscape Kit

Serious Work Book Now also in German Language

October 25, 2018 in Serious Play Library

Serious Work book is now published also in German language as: Meetings und Workshops mit der LEGO SERIOUS PLAY Methode Moderieren 

Many thanks to Jens Droge for his enthusiasm to popularise LEGO Serious Play in German-speaking countries. It is possible to obtain the electronic version of this book via the website here:


The paperback will hit German Amazon and the bookshops later in December.

Yellow LEGO Ducks available via Amazon

October 23, 2018 in Lego Serious Play Bricks

Yellow LEGO ducks that have been used frequently during LEGO Serious Play workshops as warmup skills building exercises are often difficult to find. Therefore it was a nice surprise when one of our community members (thanks, Karen) sent us a note that it is possible to purchase them directly via Amazon.

It appears that there are only limited number of sets on sale. Likewise, there is a new seasonal set, which looks like this.

Once you have one of those duck kits it might be also a good idea to look into some know how on how to use the bricks in your workshop. This is where Jacqueline Lloyd Smith’s, Denise Meyerson’s and Stephen Walling’s lovely book might come handy. They have written about how to use the Duck kit in various creative ways. Check it here: “Strategic Play: The Creative Facilitator’s Guide #2: What the Duck!

Flow Experience in Design Thinking and Practical Synergies with Lego Serious Play

September 22, 2018 in Serious Play Library

Creative Research Journal published this article by Dirk J. Primus and Stephan Sonnenburg on Flow experience relations with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology.

The flow experience can be an important precursor to high levels of creativity and innovation. Prior work has identified and conceptualized the key elements of the flow experience in cocreative activities as individual flow corridor, individual flow feeling, and group flow. Surprisingly, the flow experience is underrepresented in theory and practice of design thinking. In this empirical study, the flow experience at the individual and group level was investigated in a 1-day design thinking exercise. The findings from partial least squares (PLS) modeling of 230 observations confirm previously untested conjectures that (a) the elements of individual and group flow experience were prevalent and highly correlated in the design thinking activities and (b) the nature of the design thinking task had an impact on the flow experience. Finally, results confirm that Lego Serious Play skills-building as a creative warm-up had a positive effect on 2 of the 3 flow experience elements: individual flow feeling and individual flow corridor.

You may read the full article here.

Reflective boot camp: adapting LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® in higher education

September 20, 2018 in Serious Play Library

Reflective Practice journal published this article written by Mary Anne Peabody and Susan Noyes focusing on LEGO SERIOUS PLAY use in higher education classrooms.


This qualitative study investigates the experiences of using an adaptation of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® as a reflective practice pedagogy with occupational therapy graduate-level students and faculty. LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is an innovative facilitated methodology that uses brick-building and metaphoric storytelling as a form of communication and problem-solving. Participants engaged in a four-step kinesthetic experience as a means to achieve a serious objective. Results of the study indicated affirmative participant outcomes that included: accelerated group cohesion; an appreciation for inclusive learning where student voice was amplified; a language for emotional content and deeper meaning-making; and an experiential process using materials that appealed to various learning styles. A small number of participants experienced minor tension with the process provoking unanticipated reflective learning. The results of this study indicate that using the kinesthetic brick modeling methodology for reflective practice is a promising higher education pedagogical option.

Keywords: Reflective practicekinesthetic learningLEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®reflective practitionerreflective pedagogy

Bloc Thinking interview with Michel Cloosterman

September 17, 2018 in Serious Play Discussion

Jonathan Gall and Werner Puchert have recorded an interview with LSP facilitator Michel Cloosterman about his experience as a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY professional: Unlocking human potential one brick at a time. Download the MP3 file of the podcast here to listen in your device (30MB).

Brick economy

September 12, 2018 in Serious Play Discussion

Australian IT News Portal has written this piece about LEGO Serious Play case at ANZ.

Forget the hype around the hundreds of millions invested in start-up hubs and incubators by Australian banks.

If you want serious nerd cred, LEGO is where it’s at. Just ask ANZ.

In a sign of just how essential it’s become for major corporates to be hip to rapid development and agile, the Melbourne-headquartered bank is shouting the success of its new LEGO Serious Play (LSP) workshops as part of its broader cultural shift.

ANZ recently revealed it’s deployed LSP through its SHOUT charity and fundraising payments service and recently put university students sent there on assignment through intensive brick therapy.

The goal? In the case of students and ANZ staff, it’s coming up with a common vision and purpose for their coursework – and working together. The stuff everyone struggles with.

According to ANZ technology project manager Luke McManus who’s leading the brick brigade, ANZ’s LEGO-led efforts are about more effective team building and collaboration.

The kind that enables cross disciplinary or business line teams to interact and generate agreement and understanding of differences without the usual corporate tick-box baggage of meetings.

“For my first session the challenge was a new team of uni students joining a small team at ANZ on their first day, who did not know each other well. They were about to embark on a two week assignment together,” McManus told ANZ’s Bluenotes corporate content play.

(For anyone sceptical of the bank’s commitment to the brick, the ANZ’s thematically dedicated post leaves no doubts.)

“I could see the power and potential of LSP – from being able to break open the typical meeting or problem solving workshop – to applying LSP to Agile ceremonies and New Ways of Working (eg: Retrospectives),” McManus said.

“We started with a round table of introductions which were a little awkward and had me a feeling apprehensive about how the session would proceed. The students were nervous, shy and softly spoken, so I wasn’t sure how the next steps would go.”

McManus observed that “to get the team around the LSP concept” he kicked off the session with a short video from PAUSE Fest featuring his “LSP trainer and mentor” Michael Fearne “to explain why the method is so powerful followed by a quick overview of how the process works (Question, Build, Share and Capture).”

While true believers in Powerpoint, Excel and other death-by-deck formats might sneer and snigger at the notion of big banks hiring Lego gurus, Fearne’s core point is that corporate meeting orthodoxy too often squashes collaborative minds and productive ideas.

That’s because meetings are usually dominated by analytical extroverts.

To counteract that bias and engage and include people – especially the two thirds quiet majority Fearne reckons are introverts or those who thrive on visual or kinaesthetic cues – the bricks come out.

Once a quick methodology induction is away, McManus says it’s “onto the fun stuff”.

“A quick reminder to think in story and metaphor, as well as to “just build” instead of sitting, thinking, pondering and planning. Just start to build and the ideas will start to materialise in your hands!”

In blunt terms, that means people temporarily forgetting corporate convention and zoning-out on the bricks for a while as they try to assemble new approaches and disassemble what doesn’t work.

ANZ is far from the only local corporate using LSP, with Fearne’s client brag book featuring the likes of Google, Telstra, Australia Post, the Victorian government and infrastructure heavyweight Aurecon as well as KPMG and EY.

Fearne explains on his website that the real value of LSP is about initiating new ways of communicating and problem solving rather than adhering to lower risk corporate norms like doing things quicker or cost cutting.

“What I do takes more time, costs more money and there is a greater risk of failure than going with a standard managerial, command and control approach,” Fearne says.

“But here’s the key insight, these companies are willing to invest the extra time and money for the ability to look at the problem differently. And to open up a path to a different solution. That’s why they win.”

The biggest winner, of course, is LEGO itself.

The Danish brick maker now runs a dedicated product line of corporate kits that make the prices of Star Wars or Dr Who franchises look like stellar value for money.

Even though LEGO officially open sourced the LSP learning concept in 2010, it’s doing a fine trade in special corporate branded brick packs that save agile consultants from slumming it with demanding kids in the toy section of Kmart.

A single SERIOUS PLAY® (yep, it’s been trademarked) “Identity and Landscape Kit” comes in at $849.99, while a “Connections Kit” (yes, LEGO has an integration layer) is $799. That, the Danish company says, gets you enough bricks to keep 10-12 people occupied for one to two day workshops.

For those wanting to see what all the fuss is about, or maybe give their boss a hint, there’s a starter kit priced at $38 (214 pieces) which contains a “selection of special elements such as wheels, tires, windows, trees, mini figure parts, tubes, globes and small base plates”.

As for not leaving the sharpest, hardest bricks out for barefoot parents to excruciatingly step on in the middle of the night … well, that’s a life-long workshop.

Research project to examine the use of Lego Serious Play in solving challenges in multi-stakeholder groups

September 10, 2018 in Serious Play Library

A University of Lethbridge professor is looking for people to participate in a research study where they will get the opportunity to learn about the LEGO®SERIOUS PLAY® facilitation method and use it to work through a hypothetical problem as a group.

A University of Lethbridge research news website has written about the following LEGO Serious Play undertaking.

Dr. Adriane MacDonald (BMgt ’09), a Dhillon School of Business faculty member, says the end goal is to build understanding about how multi-stakeholder groups can navigate their communication challenges for more effective problem solving.

She is collaborating with Dr. Stephen Dann, a marketing professor at the Australian National University and a trained Lego Serious Play facilitator. The Lego Serious Play method — a facilitated meeting, communication and problem-solving process — has been used since the 1990s to stimulate creative thinking. Participants are led through a series of questions and they each build a 3D Lego model in response to the questions using specially selected Lego elements. The models are then used as the basis for group discussion, problem solving and decision making. MacDonald wants to investigate the potential of sense-making tools, such as those used in the Lego Serious Play method, to facilitate effective communication and problem solving in groups working on a social cause where members have diverse backgrounds.

“My research is about building capacity for effective collaboration in multi-stakeholder partnerships,” says MacDonald. “This project with Lego Serious Play is looking at how sense-making and other facilitation tools can influence the level of shared understanding, creativity and integrative problem solving among collaborators. The partnerships that I look at are focused on addressing social challenges such as community sustainability.”

Multi-stakeholder partnerships include two or more partners from each of the business, government and nonprofit sectors and are typically formed to address a complex social challenge. The partners often have diverse professional and personal backgrounds, varying degrees of expertise and different experiences with and knowledge about the problem the partnership was formed to address. Such differences can create barriers to effective communication and thus problem solving. MacDonald wants to find new ways for individuals collaborating in multi-stakeholder partnerships to overcome these barriers.

Those who sign up to participate in a workshop will receive some training in Lego Serious Play from Dann before they tackle a hypothetical problem in a group setting. Participants will receive light refreshments and $15 for participating. The workshops are open to anyone over the age of 18. Those interested in taking part can sign up for the workshop of their choice, either at Markin Hall or the Dr. Foster James Penny Building.

“It’s fun, interactive and participants will get to meet new people,” says MacDonald.

Dann, when he visited the U of L last year, collaborated with Agility, the U of L’s innovation hub, on workshops for entrepreneurs. This year, again in conjunction with Agility, Dann will deliver guest lectures in several classrooms and facilitate a Lego Serious Play event on Saturday, Sept. 15. The event is open to the public and goes from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Register online at Discover Lethbridge with Lego Serious Play.

LEGO? Are you serious?

August 30, 2018 in Serious Play Discussion

The following blog post was written on ANZ Bluenotes website by Melissa Currie, Visual Production Editor, bluenotes here.

You probably wouldn’t blink an eyelid upon hearing a revolutionary organisation has built its success on innovative thinking. Or seemingly whacky work places. So it’s no shock Google is using gameplay to overcome complex workplace problems.

But hearing of professionals in traditional, behemoth organisations such as Qantas, Ernst and Young and Accenture playing with Lego? You can’t be serious.

“You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation.” 

Dead serious. There’s even a name:  Lego Serious Play (LSP). Workshops are being run across workplaces as the value serious play delivers is slowly being recognised.

Credible? Yes – according to Plato: “you can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation.”

The term serious play refers to a number of playful inquiry and innovation methods that serve as a vehicle for complex problem-solving. The LSP methodology in particular has been popularised in recent years due to its malleability in adapting to different workplace needs.

Various organisations are beginning to recognise that benefits it can deliver in:

  • Building deeper and broader understanding of a challenge or strategy;
  • Preparing a team to deliver a solution in a complex, unpredictable environment;
  • Generating new solutions to complex challenges; and
  • Uniting a team around a common goal.

Growing body

There is a growing body of both academic and popular literature supporting the view engaging in playful processes and applying a playful, open mindset can foster creativity and innovation. In his book Creative explorations: new approaches to identities and audiences David Gauntlett writes “the non-judgmental environment of play, it is claimed, is more likely to foster surprising and innovative ideas”.

Serious play methods can be used as vehicles for engaging workplace teams in the human-centred design (also known as Design Thinking) process of empathising, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing.

While the concept of ‘serious play’ may sound like an oxymoron, it comes with an intention which goes beyond just having fun. The serious aspect requires focus on solving the problem at hand; whilst the play aspect encourages imaginative solutions through pushing boundaries towards potential possibilities.

The sum of these two components of ‘seriousness’ and ‘playfulness’ foster a deeper engagement for the group working through the complexity of the problem, by placing people in what is known as a ‘state of flow’. Colloquially, also known as ‘being in the zone’, flow is characterised by complete absorption in the activity and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.

LSP is one of the best known examples of serious play. As the Danish brick maker says, “The Lego Serious Play methodology is an innovative process designed to enhance innovation and business performance. Based on research which shows that this kind of hands-on, minds-on learning produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its possibilities, the Lego Serious Play deepens the reflection process and supports an effective dialogue – for everyone in the organization.”

bluenotes sat down for a chat with Luke McManus, ANZ Technology Project Manager to talk about the experience of running his first LSP workshop.

MC: “Thanks for chatting to bluenotes today Luke.”

LM: “No worries Mel. My pleasure.”

“So can you tell us a bit about how you got started in Lego Serious Play?”

“Melbourne. These types of planned events happen regularly across the city. Meetups usually have the aim of connecting like-minded people, serving as a networking platform or if you’re the organiser – being a great way to establish yourself as a “go-to” person in your industry.

This particular meetup I attended brought together leaders in industries such as Digital, Experience Design, Emerging Technology and Innovation.

The meetup was full of energy and hands on. From the minute we sat down, we were encouraged to touch and play with the Lego and start building. After seeing the case studies and videos of LSP in action with real clients – I could see the power and potential of LSP – from being able to break open the typical meeting or problem solving workshop – to applying LSP to Agile ceremonies and New Ways of Working (eg: Retrospectives).”

“And how did you decide ANZ would benefit from LSP and its methodologies?”

“I met Charlie and Christine from SHOUT at one of the Design Thinking Games workshops I also help facilitate for Smiling Mind – Shout was a sponsor. Shout is “changing the world gives” enabling charities to take donations electronically for free.

I am all about social impact – so after meeting the SHOUT team, I introduced them to LSP, and asked if there were any ways we could use it with their team? With a new cohort of students about to join the team for a two week assignment, I thought that would be an ideal opportunity to use LSP.

LSP is a great method to use to set a shared vision/understanding, with each participant building their own version of the vision, then combining their creations into a “group model” which results in a shared vision, created and interpreted by the team – with everyone on the same page”

“And what was the experience of running your first LSP workshop like? ”

“For my first session the challenge was a new team of Uni students joining a small team at ANZ on their first day, who did not know each other well. They were about to embark on a two week assignment together.

We started with a round table of introductions which were a little awkward and had me a feeling apprehensive about how the session would proceed. The students were nervous, shy and softly spoken, so I wasn’t sure how the next steps would go.

To get the team around the LSP concept, I played a short video from PAUSE Fest – featuring Michael Fearne, my LSP trainer and mentor, to explain why the method is so powerful followed by a quick overview of how the process works (Question, Build, Share and Capture). After that, we moved onto the fun stuff! A quick reminder to think in story and metaphor, as well as to “just build” instead of sitting, thinking, pondering and planning. Just start to build and the ideas will start to materialise in your hands!”

“And how did they go? ”

“The results were awesome, as well as each person’s explanation of their model. I started with a participant who had lots of confidence, to set the scene and everyone followed. Sparks of creativity and confidence stared to emerge.

After everyone shared their individual models, I asked the team a question: “How often have you been in a meeting with eight people, and asked a question, and received eight unique and creative answers?” The answer was, and usually is, “never”. It’s important to show and remind participants of this as they start to see the power of LSP unfold.”

“To wrap up, what was the biggest benefit you noticed from running this session? ”

“Towards the end, I could see the teams starting to interact, discuss and agree (and also respectfully disagree) on the shared vision.

Some great results and themes emerged and I genuinely feel this gave the team a massive step in the right direction towards collaboration, team development and establishment of shared values.”

“That’s excellent. Thanks for speaking to bluenotes “

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