Bricks or No Bricks for Lego Serious Play?

Bricks or No Bricks for Lego Serious Play?

Please, will someone out there clarify this fundamental question for me. Marko has been very helpful in suggesting alternative LEGO kits to use when the officially recommended LEGO kits are out of stock. The implication here is that the officially recommended kits are not the only ones that can be used.

My understanding of what Heracleous and Jacobs are saying in their book Crafting strategy: Embodied Metaphors in Practice is that the “Embodied Metaphors” need not be constructed out of LEGO at all. The criteria they use more generically relate to three dimensional space and the relationships between the tangible entities in that space. I don’t remember even seeing the word “LEGO” in the copy of their thesis, although I hazard a guess the authors would say LEGO is an ideal candidate.

My point is the methodology we fondly refer to as LEGO SERIOUS PLAY does not necessarily have to be carried out using LEGO pieces. Other objects can be used. The most valuable and universally applicable characteristics of the process are inherent in human nature, not LEGO. We think metaphorically and turning this cognition into 3-dimensional models helps us clarify them to ourselves and share them with others. Storytelling is a proven technique that helps human beings communicate clearly. And so on.

If what I have written above is true it has implications for those of us who live in parts of the world where it is difficult to source LEGO pieces, not only because LEGO doesn’t deliver their product to our countries, and we have to pay additional courier charges to source it, but we face further barriers like exchange rates. I’m proposing it’s OK to supplement the LEGO stock with other physical objects (match box, piece of string, acorn, tin can, things that are readily available but cost little). That will make it easier for those of us living in “far away” places like Africa and Asia to have access to the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology.

  1. Omar Cesar BERMUDEZ 10 years ago

    Hello Pete,

    In my opinion, you are right, and I really used the same approach with image (not bricks at all). I have a set of ~300 images and the result are excellent (the same result I have with bricks). In some place, people have bad perception about the bricks, so I use the same approach with image and the result is fantastic. However, I have to recognize that I love the bricks and my first option is the bricks, but it is not the only one.
    At some point I think to do a post about “applying LSP approach without bricks”, but I thought, it could sound aggressive, but maybe your post help me to re-think it and do it :)

  2. Marko Rillo 10 years ago

    Thanks for opening such an interesting discussion! Indeed – several of us have used various techniques either as a replacement or just hand in hand with LEGO bricks. I have asked a number of times the participants to use plasticine to create some metaphors. There are some people who actually prefer its flexible form to rigidity of bricks. At another time I might post a case study or two about this. :)

  3. Sebastian 10 years ago

    Hi Pete, totally agree with you. I am doing a 2 different series of LSP workshops with two major banks at present. The issues I have are availability of starter kits, connection kits and the landscape items. I live in Indonesia and it appears that delivery by LEGO is banned here. Also getting the kits takes too long when doing circuitous global routing of packages. I have bought as many starter kits as I could (I have about 30) from Robert Rasmussen and one second hand landscape kit I got off a kind LSP facilitator (thanks Kris!).

    The rest I have made up of the following:
    1. Plasticine (as Marko says, its very useful and pliable and also appeals more than bricks to some people). Its cheap and also easy to replenish. I also use it to stick the next items on this list to other LEGO items:
    2. Plastic toy figures: Marvel superhero figures, Disney figures, Dora the Explorer, Smurfs, Thomas the Tank Engine, Minions and Gru, Toy Soldiers, Angry Birds,etc. I find that people really love these figures as they are familiar and bring up a sense of positivity and fun. They are also better able to identify the characters’ traits to a concept they are trying to share related to the topic. (eg, using Angry Birds to represent a constant barrage of attacks from competitors)
    3. Small utility toys: Matchbox cars, small airplanes, tanks, boats, bicycles, etc. These are also very useful.
    4. Plastic animals. These are by far the most popular as they represent so many concepts to users. Of course I also have many LEGO and DUPLO animals , but there are others not available such as Dinosaurs, Komodos, exotic birds, insects,etc.
    5. Using Nylon ropes attached to bored holes in one stud LEGOs. These I use as connectors in different colours to represent the degree of connections or impact of one concept to the other and are very useful.
    6. Non LEGO brands. Note: I of course prefer LEGO and have bought as much as I can and cannibalised others. However it is very hard to source them at times where I am. I run about 30 workshops a year using LSP a year, and it is increasing. I have had workshops with upto 80 participants and I need a lot of bricks! Therefore I have found that there are many Chinese brands that will do as well even thought they may not last as long as LEGO bricks.

    At the end of the day, its all about creative and participative problem solving using 3 Dimensional tools. As I always explain t my participants: ” the LEGOs are not important in themselves. What is important is their ability to focus your thinking and help you to tell stories. You could do this equally well with a lump of clay and some nice stones!”


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