Dan Lyons has held a critical speech on LEGO Serious Play methodology at RSA event: “Why Modern Work Makes Us Miserable | Dan Lyons | RSA Replay”. The talk starts at 12:55
Dan Lyons Critical Speech on LSP at RSA
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Incidentally I saw Dan Lyons this week at the Digital Thinking Conference in the UK, a great event on all things innovation where he was interviewed on stage. He’s a really funny guy, easy to warm to, and many of his criticisms of Silicon Valley and its VC-fuelled, greedy ‘bro’ culture are completely valid.
I have previously commented critically on his views on LSP on this blog (see http://seriousplaypro.com/groups/serious-play-pro-forum/forum/topic/lego-serious-play-impact-in-business-world/). But having seen him this week I now understand where he comes from. His views deserve to be taken seriously with some degree of empathy.
Dan Lyons was made redundant at the age of 52, with no other obvious job to go to, and I think this experience obviously scarred him. (Un)luckily for him, he subsequently did find a job in a Silicon Valley start-up, where things turned out to be far more sinister than the happy culture it initially seemed to be. And he’s clearly uncovered a massive problem with the drivers and culture of the tech industry in particular.
And to be fair to him, Dan Lyons himself says that there’s nothing wrong with the LSP method itself, but how it is used in corporate contexts (see 38.40 minutes into the video above). He actually says of LSP: “there are elements of it that really work”.
So what’s his criticism? It’s when people are “forced” to play, it can make people panic – especially if they feel like their jobs or reputations are at risk. They can feel like they will be judged on the way they play, or how they come across in the workshop, or whether their ideas will be good enough. If as a participant you feel that kind of pressure, it’s obviously an issue with the organisation and not necessarily the workshop method.
But we need to be careful, and I can totally see his point here. As consultants and facilitators we must avoid being complicit in darker corporate motives where managers just want to weed out people and use creative workshops as the way to do it.
I actually experienced this myself – I once ran a workshop to help a team brainstorm new business ideas because their department was struggling with generating sufficient revenue. We all had good fun (not just with LSP) and it did boost morale for a few weeks, but in the end the ideas generated weren’t good enough to make a difference. As a result, many people on the team ended up being made redundant 6 months later. In hindsight they didn’t really stand a chance, because they were technical people with little commercial experience asked to think about new commercial ideas. It’s not a great feeling having been part of that, even though our intentions at the time were entirely genuine.
So it’s something we all need to be aware of. LSP can be a powerful method, but…
“With great power comes great responsibility” – Spider Man
I watched parts of the video and I’ve seen Dan’s stuff and you’re giving him too much credit Thierry.
He had a thesis about misery at work, he wanted to write a book and so he went looking for ways to confirm it and is trying to fit LEGO Serious Play into that. Confirmation bias, outright lies (like calling the science bogus) and his own anxiety are coming to the fore. He even admits wanting to go into the meeting with the LSP person and wanting to hate her. He hasn’t been to a session at all. He then also ties LSP to the rise of Agile. So many things wrong with his arguments it’s laughable.
What he’s doing with LEGO Serious Play (and some of his other stuff too) is trying to taint it all with a broad brush. When LSP is just like any other tool. If you use it poorly you won’t get results. If you use it well you will get good results.
No one has a go at post it notes or a whiteboard or a spreadsheet saying you shouldn’t use them because someone, somewhere used them incorrectly and got the wrong answer.
The real culprit here is poor culture in organisations. Have a go at that not the tools people are using.
A poor tradesman always blames his tools.
In this case a poor researcher / author is blaming the tools.
For me Mr. Lyons presents his personal opinion and feers after experiencing new models of work with its pros and especially cons in Silicon Valey. His point of view concern west culture and west countries excluding for example Asia (China and India could give us new good view on the problem) Please do not forget that Silicon Valey do not represent the majority of businesses on our planet. The very minority of people work in such a way.
I suppose the way Mr. Lyons does it (presenting his personal view) using mental shortcuts with irony is just to prepare easy to understand background for his thesis which is in my opinion the social problems for a special group of people mostly from west countries. Funny thing is he apologized for his statement regarding Lego in QA-Session.
Regarding LSP – in my opinion LSP has nothing to do with agile. But I understand that from outside the community it can loot like LSP is some kind of agile method. It is because there are marketing specialist who just want to sell any product and use every possible way and buzz words for that. Nowdays agile is still hype that is why people like Mr. Lyons put every “new” (LSP ist not so new ;) method into the same agile-bucket. As I wrote before – to much simplification from Mr. Lyons.
In my opinion LSP-community should ignore such a criticism and concentrate on doing good work helping people and organizations solving their problem using LSP method.