We use Lego in the prototyping sessions of social solutions, under design thinking methods.
We support social leaders, teachers and entrepreneurs for social change to generate innovation through design thinking consultancy and training, so we call it social design. There is already plenty of evidence that social design is an effective method to solve social problems, specially those wicked ones as most social problems fall under this category (poverty, unschooling, urban violence, …). Social design includes the phases of understanding the context and the public (inspiration), ideation (including prototyping) and finally implementation.
Now, most people working in the social sector in Portugal are qualified in sociology, education, social service or humanities, so they are very good working with concepts and in analytical or reasearch work. However it very difficult to ask them to think in terms of graphic or physical representation of their solutions, which involves synthesis, required in the prototyping stage. Here we have introduced Lego to assist us in this phase!
Lego is seen as playful, easy and cool activity. Compared with drawing, which was considered uncomfortable for a big number of our participants, Lego bricks are much more easy to rely on. There is a bigger engagement and motivation in the methods after the introduction of LEGO.
Still, we are fighting that participants look for “the little lego people” to represent social concepts, as these involve people. Therefore our groups are always in the search of more legomen :). See some pictures of our work in our Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/FutureBalloons/photos_stream
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.
Serious Play Pro community member Ahmed El-Boukhary has written a post about gamification and its possibilities to advance organizational learning.
Gamification is the new buzzword in the human capital training and development. As its name suggests, gamification exploits game concepts, thinking and mechanics in enterprise context to engage participants in solving problems, learning skills, or executing tasks. Application of gamification can also be extended to recruitment and assessment of job candidates.
Gamification has long been known in team building context, but less in other enterprise applications. However, recent developments in the domain of occupational psychology have illustrated that employee engagement is the primary driver of productivity. Not surprisingly, everyone was born with a natural skill to play, and playing continues to make people tick. Even the most sceptical people, and we have met many of them during our workshops, eventually submit to their primitive interest in enjoyment of playing.
The photo featured in this article was shot during on our strategy development workshop were Lego Serious Play methodology and kit were used. We have used Lego bricks to engage workshop participants, attach intangible concepts, such as company values, to memorable and tangible outfits, spark innovation, and dissolve communication barriers to develop something as complex as a corporate strategy.
Gamification can also be conducted using physical activities, board games, or computer simulations, since requirements for gamification are simple: rules, goals, structure, and finally a real life application. This is why there is no wonder new games are developed every day to deal with new business challenges, and that gamification is the modern organizational learning and development concept, as opposed to the sit-back-and-be-told approach.
Wonderfull design thinking and creative intelligence lab supported already twice SAP educational initiative on change management and business transformation. It’s hard to imagine successful business without creative thinking, right? This is why we are here! To share creative energy, best team working practices and design thinking tools for making business innovative.
SAP CEP Academy goal is to share best global practices in change management and business transformation with Russian and CIS participants, which includes companies from diverse industries, including gas and oil, telecom, retail, banking and service.
Here is the place for creative education. We use game tools, visual and design thinking approaches to create really outstanding educational experience for participants! How does it work with serious business people? It works brilliantly!
Lego Serious Play helps to build visual metaphors, which help to see all the main strategic issues and problems, and also potential ways to solve them. For people taking strategic decisions LSP gives a prototyping tool for building and visualizing possible future scenarios, which give unique opportunity in a short time, with no resources predict and rebuild vision.
Empathy exercises and design thinking brainstorming practice give business participants new tools and open their minds in an unconventional way. All the business cases and other edu stuff we redesigned to make it clear for everyone, easy to grasp and use in team working through design. So, how to change the business? Start from your own, change yourself!