April 2, 2018 in Serious Play Case Studies
Donna Denio and I recently led a workshop for the New Hampshire chapter of the User Experience Professionals Association NHUXPA, specifically to improve user feedback, access subconscious knowledge, and uncover user needs and feelings that might get lost using traditional user-research methods.
The session was very well received and the response from the participants was extremely supportive of LSP as a tool for user experience research. I am quoting Kyle Soucy‘s post on MEDIUM where she gives an overview of the session and shares her personal insights and impressions. Kyle is a board member of NHUXPA and organized the LSP event.
Using LEGO® Serious Play® in UX Research
My notes from the NH UXPA March 2018 Meeting
Kyle Soucy, Founding Principal, Usable Interface. UX Research Consultant. www.usableinterface.com
Mar 28, 2018
The NH chapter of the User Experience Professionals Association (NH UXPA) held an excellent workshop during their March meeting on 3/27/18. We were lucky enough to have two LEGO® Serious Play® Certified Facilitators, Donna Denio and Dieter Reuther, run a workshop for us to demonstrate how we could use the LEGO® Serious Play® method when conducting qualitative user research.
First, a little history…
Donna and Dieter explained that this method was first created in the late 1990’s by Johan Roos and Victor Bart, two business professors from Switzerland’s Institute for Management Development, and Kjeld Kristiansen, the leader of The Lego Group. Initially, they wanted a methodology that would help business executives develop their own strategies, but found that the uses and implications of this method are much more far-reaching. In 2009, LEGO Group made Serious Play® open source, so it is available to any qualitative researcher.
What is it exactly?
LEGO® Serious Play® method is a facilitated meeting in which participants are led through a series of questions and each participant builds his or her own 3D LEGO® model in response. These 3D models serve as a basis for group discussion, knowledge sharing, strategic visioning, problem-solving, and decision making. This method can be facilitated in groups or one-on-one and can be used to improve group problem solving, communication, team building, and even help to elicit more feedback during user research interviews.
Why it works
Sometimes it can be difficult to voice our feelings, needs, desires, and even ideas. By building a physical 3D model instead, we have a vessel through which we can express what we might not otherwise be able to articulate in words. This method gets participants to use metaphors to discuss complex concepts and it helps to unlock their imagination.
Most importantly, the LEGO® brick is a common language that we all understand that requires us to think with our hands. When building, we use both hands which activates both sides of our brain. This stimulates areas of the brain that cannot be accessed any other way. Harnessing the hand-brain connection is powerful!
Also, one of the biggest reasons it works is because everyone participates. All participants are required to build and share using the same medium, which means everyone has an EQUAL voice in this exercise no matter their employment level.
“You learn more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.“ — Anonymous
To get started, Donna and Dieter laid some ground rules which they referred to as “Building Etiquette”:
- Everyone builds and shares (as previously mentioned).
- Trust your hands. Don’t just have a meeting with yourself.
- Don’t spend too much time thinking. You can start to build before you even know what you want to build. The act of building helps to bring out more ideas.
Exercise #1: Share YOU — What’s your professional superpower? (4 mins)
This was a great warm-up exercise. We had 4 minutes to think about what our professional superpower was and build a model of it.
Queue the music!
Suddenly, some very fun music started playing and a large countdown clock appeared on the screen. I think our group was initially in shock by the time limit, but it really forced us to focus immediately on the question and get right to building. Within seconds, we were all bopping along to the music and scrummaging through the pile of legos.
Once our time was up, each of us had 1 minute to share our models with the others at our table and then one person from each table had to share their model with the entire group of workshop attendees. My superpower was self-discipline and it was a lot of fun to learn what other people’s were… organizing, bullshit detecting, planning, interviewing, Etc. In just 10–15 minutes we certainly learned more about each other and had a lot of fun in the process.
It was interesting to note that the models didn’t need to be complicated. Dieter mentioned that you can tell a story with just a single brick and that there’s always enough LEGO® bricks or pieces to build a model.
Exercise #2: Opposites Attract — What’s a divide in your life? (4 mins)
This was when it really got interesting. Donna and Dieter created an imaginary user research session for a new app where we all played the role of the end users. The fictitious app was called “Opposites Attract” and its goal was to help bring people together that are divided due to having completely opposite opinions about a topic (anything from food to politics). I’d say this is an app that could definitely be useful nowadays, eh? ;) We had 4 mins again to think of a divide going on in our lives and build it.
I can’t even describe the emotion that came out of this build. All of us immediately shared deeply personal divides in our lives and got very deep without hesitation. My model reflected religion and some others touched on gun control, politics, living environments, and other physical and emotional divides with loved ones. It was powerful!
Exercise #3: What’s the feeling of being divided? (4 mins)
It was very interesting to look at the pieces spread out before you and see what ones spoke to you for each exercise. For example, someone at my table picked up a mini-figure with a broken hand because it reflected how she felt broken when being divided. I think we all found that the more we sat with our models and played with them the more they evolved.
Exercise #4: What would unify the divided? (4 mins)
We were instructed to not take apart our models after this exercise because we would be building upon them as part of the next one. For me, coming up with a model that reflected a way to unify people was a challenge. I was a bit stumped when looking at the pile of legos at first, but I eventually became drawn to the white and clear LEGO bricks because I wanted to build something that represented clarity and purity — a place for divided people to go and be free from all the distractions so we could truly hear one another. I also saw others using the LEGO pieces to form physical bridges between the divided parties. Everyone had their own creative solution to fit their own scenario.
Exercise #5: Build a Landscape (4 mins)
For this last exercise, each table had to take their individual models from the previous exercise and create one landscape — a single model that bridges together the story. It was explained that landscapes help us to see the big picture, create meaning, and identify and common patterns. Building the landscape together demonstrated how this is a storytelling tool that’s safe and inclusive.
We spent two hours doing this workshop and the time just flew by! Without a doubt, I believe this is an excellent method for eliciting needs and feedback from end users during user research studies. To me, using LEGO® Serious Play® for UX research is a lot like running a collaging exercise. I’m a big fan of projective techniques and I think both of these methods provide a great way to get rich data that you may not otherwise get through a traditional in-depth interview. I’m anxious to get more training in this method and add it to my UX Research toolbox!
Thank you to PixelMEDIA for sponsoring and hosting this wonderful meeting! We could not have asked for a better meeting space for this wonderful workshop and the food and drinks they supplied were awesome. Thank you for always supporting the NH UX community and helping us to grow and learn!
April 29, 2016 in About Lego Serious Play
The Smith College Engineering department recently invited Team Dynamics Boston‘s Donna Denio and Dieter Reuther to lead a Lego Serious Play workshop for the Design Clinic, a two-semester capstone course for senior engineering majors, in which students collaborate in teams on real-world projects. Medtronic, Stantec and Under Armour are among the industry sponsors of this year’s clinic.
The Lego Serious Play workshop provided a creative departure from typical classroom work and helped the future engineers dive deep into the complexities of team dynamics.
Susannah Howe, director of the clinic, commented: “These students have participated in teamwork discussions before, but the use of Legos added a twist to the conversation, surfacing some ideas that students hadn’t previously expressed.”
April 27, 2016 in About Lego Serious Play
In collaboration with O’Reilly Media, Lego Serious Play facilitators Donna Denio and Dieter Reuther crafted a booklet “Build to Lead” to address the potential of harnessing the power of play in the workplace. They explore the future of work and how a play-based approach and especially the Lego Serious Play facilitation methodology will level the playing field and foster collaboration. According to a recent Microsoft survey collaboration is the number one factor Millennials are looking for in the workplace.
Download your free copy here: http://www.oreilly.com/business/free/build-to-lead.csp
March 23, 2016 in About Lego Serious Play
On March 28, 2016 Team Dynamic Boston’s Donna Denio and Dieter Reuther will lead a hands-on session at the O’Reilly CULTIVATE conference in San Jose. The two Lego Serious Play facilitators will share the power of the play-based methodology with technology leaders. The essential question they will address is how to play well as a leader, manage the challenges of diversity and complexity, and energize and inspire teams in a collaborative world.
Find details here: http://conferences.oreilly.com/strata/hadoop-big-data-ca/public/schedule/detail/48423
March 23, 2016 in About Lego Serious Play
Under the rubric FUTURE OF WORK Fast Company recently published an article about the specifics of managing multicultural teams. It is a short read and, although not by name, also touches the Lego Serious Play methodology.
September 1, 2015 in Serious Play Training
The first LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® meetup will be held in Boston next Thursday, 10 September. See the details and sign up here: http://www.meetup.com/LSP-Boston
The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology is a thinking, communication and problem solving technique that unlocks the full potential of a team quickly, effectively, and deeply. We will host introduction workshops for newcomers, guided by professional LSP facilitators. Participants use LEGO bricks to “give their brains a hand” and unleash creative energies many forgot they have. Experience this great methodology yourself by attending!
April 14, 2015 in Serious Play Discussion
Donna Denio and I like to play music during our build exercises. In the past we used a little iPod, but turning it on and off was often more hassle than entertainment.
Instead, we are now including an animated timer in our Powerpoint presentation that also plays a song. Works great and serves two purposes: time the build exercise and create a specific atmosphere. Workshop participants can see the timer projected in a large font and always know how much time they have left to build.
To create the timer animation I use the site http://e.ggtimer.com/. I set it to the required time plus a short buffer (it takes a few seconds to start the recording). Using Quicktime I then record a screenshot of the running timer while it is counting down. Here is an example:
Once the timer has been recorded, I grab a song (audio file) and drag it onto Quicktime. This overlays the video with the song. A great feature is that the song automatically fades out when the timer elapses.
The music enhanced timer video can then easily be imported onto a Powerpoint slide and set to start automatically. Voila!
Disclaimer: this works great on a Mac, but has not been tested under Windows.