Joomla is one of the world’s most popular open source content management systems, which has been used extensively by millions of users around the world. In 2015 their development community celebrated 10 years and wanted to organize annual conference to discuss the future where the community might be moving for the next 10 years. The community representatives got in touch with me and we discussed how to make this happen with the help of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology. As several months have passed since this event I thought that it might be a great idea to share it with the Serious Play Pro community. Please add your comments and reflections below.

Case Brief

Objective: The objective was to have some fun and energize the conference, get to know each other better and brainstorm on the future scenarios of Joomla community for the following 10 years.
Group size: 260 participants of the Joomla community attending the community annual conference. Including the active contributors of the community – Joomla developers, testers and activists. Volunteers from all over the world. Largest group of participants of the session coming from India
Location: Sheraton Ballroom, Bangalore, India.
Date: November 6, 2015, as part of Joomla World Conference. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY Keynote session taking place during the afternoon of the 1st conference day.
Timing: 2 hour session
Approach: LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology
Facilitators: Marko Rillo, lead facilitator, Ramesh Srinivasan, support facilitator, team from Second Avenue as assistant facilitators – Rajan Narayanan and Vas Srinivasan (located at different corners of the ballroom to assist in the process).
Materials: Every table had the following materials:

Seating and grouping: Community members seated in round tables of 5-6 people, random groups with participants who did not know each other before the session.
Cameras, microphones:
  • 3 video cameras, including two mobile cameras to show facilitators and allow for close-up review of individual buildings at the tables.
  • Facilitators were equipped with mobile lavaliere microphones and additionally there were 2 microphones to allow the participants to present their buildings, their stories and ask questions.
  • Two video and powerpoint screens for presentation
  • A/V editor team who switched between the slides and live video
Knowledge capture: It was agreed that at every table there would be at least 1 tablet or smartphone to post the building photos to social media.

Community had 3 challenges:

  1. IT services have witnessed several disruptive innovations during the past decades and therefore it is difficult to predict what was going to happen next. It therefore requires lots of discussion on what scenarios to be ready for.
  2. Given the community of volunteers working on Joomla CMS innovation, people are strongly motivated to contribute. However, they also need to balance the other priorities in their life and business.
  3. Joomla has been traditionally strong in USA and Western Europe and it was looking for the opportunities in the emerging markets.

This triggered the discussion on how we could use LEGO bricks and LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology to address those challenges, to break the ice in the community and involve developers from India. Our talks with the client focused on the following:

  • To address the first challenge, the organizers of the conference suggested that the LSP session should intensely focus on brainstorming on how the role that Joomla CMS would play in the future and what kind of interfaces it should build with other solutions.
  • To address the second challenge, the organizers suggested that the LSP session should also provide some ideas on how to keep the community members committed to the cause.
  • To address the third issue, Open Source Matters, the driver of the Joomla community has organized recent Joomla Annual Conferences in emerging markets. 2014 conference was held in Mexico and 2015 gathering took place in Bangalore, India.

We therefore teamed up with Second Avenue and created the following LEGO SERIOUS PLAY session. See below the detailed session layout, video and slides.


Detailed session layout:

Getting comfortable with LEGO, getting to know each other and having some laugh – 30 minutes

  • Intro. Introductory talk of what LEGO© SERIOUS PLAY© methodology is. Demonstration of fun and serious metaphors that one can build with LEGO bricks. Showing how the LEGO bricks can provide some vital insights into handling everyday business challenges. During this time the participants already had the chance to open their LEGO© SERIOUS PLAY© window exploration plastic bags and start fiddling with bricks. Many people had built already intricate structures when we just started out with our speech.
  • Dog. We decided that for the first ice-breaker the participants would use max 4 bricks to build a dog. Everybody shared the look of their dog with the other participants and had some laugh at how different the dogs could be. However, for this exercise there was also an interesting twist – several participants took a minifigure and placed it “on all four feet” to show what a dog could easily look like.
  • Build yourself. The following individual building task was aimed at breaking the ice and making people sitting at their tables together to start talking to each other and building together. For that task we asked everybody to identify a minifigure from their brick bags, add a couple of extra bricks and introduce themselves to others sitting at their tables.
  • Share online. Finally, we asked everybody to start using social media and post either via Facebook or Twitter the photos of their buildings and share them using the hashtags #JWC15 #LSP


Starting to work actively in groups – 20 minutes

  • Tower. First group task was to break ice and build the highest possible tower within 2 minutes. Given the large number of civil engineers attending, some constructions were pretty high. This task was an energizer to show the participants the value of lean-in meetings and joint participation.
  • Explain this! Thereafter the the participants had to assemble 5 random LEGO bricks and starting clockwise from the person sitting the closest to the stage they each had just 30 seconds to explain that their building means … “My Home”, “Content Management System”, “The Coolest Computer Ever”, “Interesting Experiment”, “My Dream Software” and “Joomla”. We chose the metaphors to help later discussions about the future scenarios of Joomla. As a result of this session the participants found out about hand-mind connection, using bricks to express themselves, create metaphors, start thinking about the future and realize that with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY story always more than the actual building.

Starting with co-creation – 10 minutes

  • Rules and etiquette. In the next phase we introduced the participants that we had finished with skills building and that it was time to start with the actual building. For this reason, we explained the rules of building and also etiquette of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY.
  • Assigning roles. We also suggested that at each table people would decide who will take up the role of a facilitator (leads the discussion, makes sure that everybody participates and gets to say), reporter (takes the photos of the buildings and posts them with proper hashtags to social media), and timekeeper (keeps eye on the watch and paces other team members).

Build the future of Joomla community – 30 minutes

  • Individual building. After the skills-building part the participants were introduced to the individual task and had to describe: “Where will Joomla community be in 10 years from now?” with the help of LEGO bricks. Everybody also had to use handout papers and wrote down 1-3 most important keywords that described their understanding of the future.
  • Discussion and joint building. After individual building, every participant described their building results to other members in their table and they created their joint understanding of the future of the community.
  • Reporting, sharing and reflection. The reporter of each table recorded the keywords, took the photos and uploaded them with social media hashtags. The facilitators also picked some random tables and asked them to explain their stories of the future of Joomla community.
Our vision of the Community

Our vision of the Community

Action plan: “We shall …!” – 20 minutes

  • Instruction for action planning: We explained the participants about the principles of making the vision actionable with the help of your fellow group members. Finally we provided the participants with the task: “What would be the 3 first actions that your group could take to make your vision real?”
  • We shall. We asked the participants to be as concrete as possible to generate commitment among the participants. Therefore we suggested using strong and active words to start the statements: “We shall …!” As a result the groups discussed what could be realistic steps that they could take to move ahead.
  • Reporting, sharing and reflection. Finally, representatives of the several of the tables described their actions. The reporter again took photos and uploaded them with social media hashtags.
Our Action Plan

Our Action Plan

Final reflection – 10 minutes

Questions and answers and wrapping up of the LEGO© SERIOUS PLAY© session. Providing the ideas on how to use LEGO SERIOUS PLAY during the rest of the conference and later.

Photo Gallery of Joomla 2015 Annual Conference Lego Serious Play session


You may use the slides of the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY below using CC license – please make the reference to my Twitter username @markorillo and to my website at

  1. This was a nicely facilitated session and it showed some really smart approaches to involving and engaging participants in considering how to position themselves and their teams for making improvements in the future. The approach worked with a very large group very elegantly. Working with that many people, it is often hard to keep them involved and engaged and participative.

    I also use LEGO and metaphors in our work. Oftentimes, I might put a representation of a situation glued onto an easel pad sheet and have the participants write their thoughts and ideas as a tabletop (generally 4 to 6 people each) and then allow them to post those summaries and frameworks onto the walls. In that way, every table and thus every participant has a VAK involvement with the activity and EVERYONE in the session can view the collective works, which has multiple levels of reward built in. Not every participant wants the opportunity to talk and ignoring a table is thus not a negative behavior for the facilitator.

    My only negative reaction was to the Winner of the Tower Contest. Focusing on ONE winner is a sure way to create dozens of losers in a lot of organizational cultures. Most people do NOT react well to contests, especially ones that they perceive that they cannot win. So, instead of a focus on the individual success, I try to always push toward the collective total, the optimization of the group rather than the success of one unit.

    Yes, winning seems to be a natural part of life. But by the same token, maybe only 1 in 3 people are actually engaged in most workplaces. I actually believe that losing and un-engagement are related and we generally focus our leadership development efforts on Dis-Un-Engagement activities.

    Have FUN out there!


  2. Sofie Willox 7 years ago

    Hi Marco. Thank you so much for your transparency and sharing this. It is very inspiring!

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