Michael Tarnowski Plays in Business Character Profiling

Acting – Character Creation With LEGO Serious Play and Moving Motivators

from Michael Tarnowski blog Plays in Business

In rehearsals, the actors try together with the director to enter as deep as possible into the character he/she will present on stage. There are a lot of different — even contradictory —philosophies and acting schools how to do stage character profiling. The most famous one is the Stanislavski Method — taught by Lee Strasberg as Method Acting.

The basic idea behind Method  Acting is, that actors should utilize, among other things, their emotional memory (i.e., they recall past experiences and emotions). Thus, the actor’s entrance onto the stage is considered to be not a beginning of the action or of his life as the character but a continuation of the set of preceding (actor’s) circumstances. A lot of famous movie actors and Oscar laureates originate from Strassberg’s Method Acting: Christian BaleMarlon BrandoNicolas CageMichael CaineRobert De NiroJames Dean,  Johnny Depp,  Jane FondaAnne HathawayHeath Ledger,  Philip Seymour HoffmanMarisa Tomei  — to name a few only.

The main objective of these exercises is to develop a sense for motivations and actions of the character: “Why does he/she behaves in certain situations or circumstances?” — “What defines his/her personality” — “What is driving him/her?”

As you image, all these training are very time-consuming since the actor has to train his/her concentration and his/her senses so that he/she may respond freely to the total stage environment.

Having a long time experience working in off-theater groups as actor and director I took a new approach to stage character profiling for the theater die gewissen, a theater group I work with since years and has this year 50-th anniversary.

I combined Lego Serious Play to model metaphorical the stage character role with Moving Motivators, a method from Management 3.0, to identify what motivates each individual character.

The benefit of the approach: within only 2,5 hours we elaborated with 11 actors their complete role profile and each character’s intrinsic motivations.

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LEGO SERIOUS PLAY with Jolande Leinenbach

Seriously – playing, co-creating, developing

What a fantastic journey! Six professional from across Europe, all with a rich inter- and multicultural background found the way to Billund through LinkedIn and Eventbrite to become certified LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator. All of them had already a strong track record as creativity and innovation facilitators, HR managers, CEOs of multinational companies, management consultants, psychologists, educators, and all of them were fascinated by the magic of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.

Together with our skilled and passionate trainer, Micael Buckle from IntHRface and the fantasy world and hospitality in and around Hotel Legoland  we explored the magic and the power of the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology in this 4-day workshop. It felt like a roller coaster ride – really deep and experiential learning and always a perfect flow, which you will rarely get in traditional learning and meeting environments.

Under the slogan “Give your brain a hand”  we experienced the power of  LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Real Time Strategy and Real Time Identity through co-creating individual and shared business models, stories, and interconnected landscapes. We learned to detect emergency situation, to take shared decisions, and to find solutions and Simple Guided Principles for problem solving and business development. We all developed skills to use our hands, helping to get to a deeper subconscious layer, to create metaphors and tell our stories.

We are all convinced of the power of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® in many business and educational processes, e.g. for start-up/business model canvassing, for personal and team- development in any organization, public or private, for project management, for leadership skills development, for product and service development, for sales and marketing, for organisational and cultural change. The method  builds on evidence-based research and on the pedagogical theories of constructivism and constructionism.

Ready for taking off? If you want to unleash your or your teams creativity and turn issues and challenges into successful and sustainable solutions with the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology, just  get in touch, drop us a line at  LSP@start-up-europe.com. Our team will customise and design the most effective workshop for your needs!

If you want to become an LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® certified facilitator, the next course in Billund is scheduled for October. Further information: http://lsp-certification-billund.eventbrite.com

LEGO® Case Study: Problem Solving

Using LEGO to solve real business problems? Surely not! This is another case study in a series focusing on companies that have used LEGO Serious Play to help solve real business challenges they were facing.

The Brief

Pivotal Play was contacted by a global professional services company to help address several workforce issues that had been highlighted in their recent employee engagement survey.

We were asked to run a LEGO Serious Play session for a working group to help them explore and understand the issues better, focus in on one of them and start to develop solutions.

What We Did

We ran a 3 hour LEGO Serious Play workshop for the 10 people in the working group. Because of the size of the group we split them into two groups of five, but cross pollinated ideas and discussion between the groups at numerous times throughout the session.

The high level plan was:

  • Choose one area to address
  • Build understanding of the problem
  • Brainstorm solutions
  • Decide on 1-2 solutions
  • First steps to implement

To choose one area, we took the 4 issues from the engagement survey, put each one on a card, gave each person two special voting bricks and ask them to vote for the area(s) they wanted to address in the workshop. They chose to work on the issue of career opportunities. Their survey showed a low score on “I have a clear understanding of the career paths available to me”.

To build understanding of the problem, we let them loose with the LEGO and asked them to build models representing the key factors that were driving this issue. After building and sharing, we got the groups to capture this information and started to build a picture of why this issue was occurring.

Michael Fearne Pivotal Play LEGO SERIOUS PLAY PhotoTo brainstorm solutions, we asked them to build a model representing a way to improve the current situation and move it closer to the ideal state (the “I have a clear understanding of the career paths available to me” statement from the survey). Once the individual models were built, we got the groups to combine their models into a “solution-scape”. Placing similar ideas / themes near each other.

To decide on 1-2 solutions to implement, the group surveyed all the solutions (conveniently laid out on the table in front of them in Lego models) and assessed them via particular criteria such as likelihood of success and impact.

To outline first steps to implement we finished off the session with commitments to very specific actions and very clear ownership of the proposed solutions. The group was to meet again in two weeks to assess progress against these actions.

The Result

In three short hours we took a group from knowing that there was a high level issue to address through to actionable solutions.

They choose two solutions: The first was to implement a shadowing program to allow people to understand what other roles and levels do on a day to day basis. This would give people a real / truer sense of the career paths and roles available.

The second solution was around the theme of empowerment. The group felt the reason why there was no clarity on career paths was that people didn’t feel comfortable going out and seeking that information, asking for feedback, questioning people. So the first step to changing that culture was for the working group to embody that change. Be the exemplar, seek information, ask for feedback, question people. From that experience develop up a set of characteristics and train up a network of people to drive that change.

So in the end Lego Serious Play helped this group understand the problem better, shape the available solutions, decide on some actions and implement. The best thing was the whole group was engaged in creating this outcome. You could see the increased commitment and ownership to go out and implement their solution.

About the Author

Michael Fearne is the founder of Pivotal Play. An unconventional consultancy helping companies to solve problems and create more meaningful conversations through the power of LEGO Serious Play. To find out more about Michael and Pivotal Play go to www.pivotalplay.com.au

International Facilitation week 2015: 19 to 25 October 2015

International Association of Facilitators
International Association of Facilitators – Promoting the Power of Facilitation Worldwide

Something interesting for LEGO SERIOUS PLAY facilitators from the IAF newsroom.

International Facilitation Week (IFW) takes place each year during the month of October to showcase the power of facilitation and create a sense of community among facilitators and their groups worldwide.

Since its launch in 2013, the week has become a spark that ignites activities around the world to highlight the benefits of facilitation, the gifts of facilitators and the comradeship of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).

Activities for IFW 2015

The IAF is simply the catalyst for International Facilitation Week. The invitation to celebrate the week is open to everyone. Hence, also LEGO SERIOUS PLAY facilitators might take up some of the below activities.

Here are some ideas to inspire your activities:

  • Publicise your best facilitation case studies  – now is the time to write those up and announce them on your own and your clients’ websites! Get creative – use video and podcasted interviews.
  • If you are an internal facilitator, encourage your employer to showcase how you use facilitation for the benefit of your organisation. Hold a “lunch and learn” or “coffee break case study” in your workplace during the week.
  • Organise a training or learning event with others who also work on collaboration, dialogue, mediation, conflict resolution and group process.
  • Set up an event for potential clients in which you showcase the benefits of facilitation. Need inspiration? Consider interviewing recipients of the Facilitation Impact Awards.
  • Offer free or discounted facilitation services to groups who could benefit from professional facilitation. Use IFW to announce a commitment to doing some new pro-bono work, or to release the results from some previous pro-bono work.
  • Approach your local school, college, university, teaching hospital or training providers to see if they’d like to collaborate on an IFW event or program.
  • Talk to your local or national health and social care organisations to discuss the possibility of a training or other facilitation event during the Week.
  • Use your networks – What other professional organisations do you belong to that might be interested in joining in celebrating IFW?
  • Make use of the media. Local papers and radio stations are may include coverage if given a strong local angle or link to issues currently in the news.
  • If you blog, make sure you write about facilitation in the run up to and during the Week. Think of an especially strong example or compelling facilitation story.

Spreading the word for IFW

The IAF maintains a calendar of International Facilitation Events and publicises them on our website. To share your events, please send the relevant details (who, what, where, when and how) to our Director of Conferences and tweets via @FacWeek and @IAFacilitators using the hashtag #FacWeek

Lego: the building blocks of university teaching?

University of Huddersfield lecturer describes success of using plastic bricks in seminars. The following content is re-posted from Meeting Design Institute and Times Higher Education.


We experienced at The FRESH Conference how LEGO can be a great and engaging tool to facilitate the learning. And LEGO® Serious Play® programs are being used by companies worldwide that are looking for innovative ways to increase the commitment, confidence and insight of their executives, managers and employees. The programs are in use for a broad range of purposes, including: Strategy development and exploration, Organizational development, Innovation and product development and Change management.

At the University of Huddersfield they are also using LEGO to improve the learning process and Pat Cullum, a principal lecturer in history at this university, explains why in this article published on the Times Higher Education:

By Chris Havergal (Follow: https://twitter.com/CHavergalTHE)

Pat Cullum University of Huddersfield - Adam and Eve it Pat Cullum used Lego to get students to explore gender
Pat Cullum from University of Huddersfield: “Adam and Eve it!” Pat Cullum used Lego to get students to explore gender

When students arrive at university, they may feel that they have left the days of playing with Lego long behind. Not so, if they find themselves in seminars with Pat Cullum, a principal lecturer in history at the University of Huddersfield.

She has experimented with using Lego to help first-year undergraduates grapple with tricky intellectual concepts, and believes that it has the potential to improve learners’ understanding. This approach builds on the theory that physical manipulation of an object can help students to think, and to articulate their ideas.

Dr Cullum tested the approach as part of a module dealing with the history of ideas, in which students had been reluctant to engage with the topic of gender.

Teams of students were invited to look at historical texts and to construct Lego models exploring the treatment of gender issues in response. One group built a model of the Garden of Eden, with Adam standing below God on a tall blue pillar and Eve, the supposed sinner, having been ejected.

Dr Cullum then invited the students to create a game inspired by a historical text.

Among the responses was a Second World War scenario based around the writings of the French feminist Simone de Beauvoir, which featured male Allied and Axis soldiers and a female Resistance fighter. Feedback indicated that students had enjoyed the exercise, and Dr Cullum said she believed it had helped them to move from concrete thoughts towards more abstract thinking.

“Some said they weren’t sure that it had helped them to think the issues through, but when they went on to write more they said it made them think like a ‘proper historian’,” Dr Cullum said. “Then I looked at some of their coursework and more of them were interested in the subject, and had carried on working on it, than I would have expected.”

Dr Cullum said that Lego should probably be used in teaching only as an introductory tool, and on an occasional basis, with its novelty value being key to its success. But she said that it was an approach that could be used to ensure that students had genuinely engaged with ideas, rather than having merely written down what they were told without understanding the conceptual framework behind it.

There is increasing evidence for the benefit of a “gamification” approach to learning, Dr Cullum added.

“It is a technique that does engage attention and, if you have people engaged, they are more likely to be thinking for a longer time and at a deeper level about what you are using the gamification approach on,” she said. “That is likely to lead to deeper and more thorough learning.”

Huddersfield is not the only UK higher education institution to be taking an interest in the role of Lego in learning. Last month, the University of Cambridge said that it had accepted a £4 million donation from the Lego Foundation to establish a professorship of play in education, development and learning, and an accompanying research centre.

Lego Serious Play. A remarkably adult way of working


Adrian Crookes, (pictured) is a course leader at the London College of Communication. At the end of a workshop I facilitated this week, he reflected,

“I thought LEGO Serious play was a remarkably adult way of getting together to discuss issues and problems”. Conversely meetings using post-it notes and flip charts seem to infantilise by comparison.”

I love this comment because it challenges the negative perceptions that inevitably arise with a process that contains the words “LEGO” and “Play”.

Of course sometimes traditional style meetings are appropriate and post-it notes and flip charts, used well, help teams create the results they seek.

But next time you need to get serious thinking on a complex systemic issue, then maybe its time to use a remarkably adult toolkit?

This is a copy of a blog post on the ProMeet website.

Lego Serious Play Facilitator Network