Duplo or No Duplo, that is the Question …

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    Alan McShane

    Hi All,

    I´d be interested hear views and experiences on the use of Duplo and particularly the pre-built bricks (such as the animals). Every now and again, someone “builds” a made-to-measure metaphor in no time by just picking up one or two duplo bricks and voila – while the rest are digging deeper with their hands looking for answers on the table. They inevitably tell a story around the brick and of course it gets explored but I sometimes get the feeling that they are bypassing the possibility to thinks hands-on. I sometimes see it happening and suggest they could dig deeper but I have also opted to simply not provide these types of bricks and that of course works because they work with what they have.

    Thoughts? Suggestions? Experiences?



    Hello Alan!

    To be honest, I’m also not a fan of Duplo bricks. I was thinking the same, but users proove me wrong time to time. Although there are few ones like you described, most of them are using the animals/ bricks quite often and for complex models too. The animals/ windows are quite useful, so I will keep them in the set.
    My thoughts was to change duplo animals to normal LEGO ones + add few windows. Sadly it’s not that easy (1 LEGO elephant = 20EUR)

    Eli De Friend

    Guys – in my business LSP is just a means to achieving an objective. The objective is for people to talk honestly and creatively and feel engaged in that discussion.

    The objective is NOT to be become LEGO Master Builders! I get frustrated when participants place a few bricks and a couple of animals on the table, but if they then use that as the basis for a 10 minute explanation of their deepest fears about a corporate culture change, whom am I to question their construction skills?

    Some of the Duplo animals are such nice metaphors, why waste time trying to build the same from smaller bricks? The memory or size of an elephant, the productivity or docility of a milk cow, the cold blooded aggression or slowness of a crocodile, the ambiguity of an orca whale, the intelligence of a dolphin, the obedience of a dog, the steadfast power of a polar bear, the surrealism of a chicken…. (I just had to put that one in)

    Your clients’ time is valuable; don’t waste it by obliging them to building perfect models out of rectangular bricks. If they are talking freely and energetically about the topic in hand, you are achieving your objective as an LSP facilitator.

    Best regards,


    Alan McShane

    Thanks for the comments and good to see you both have or have had similar thoughts and frustrations from time to time.

    Balint – Your right that they prove us wrong regularly so they need to be there. Just comes down to observation and facilitation and reading if they are being “lazy as a dog” or not (had to get that one in)!

    Eli – I fully agree that engagement and valid stories are the endgame.

    And of course it’s not about wasting time by building a Cow from lot’s of small bricks. It’s about the step before that i.e. when I don’t give you a big Cow and you touch, see and find inspiration on the table using your hands and they lead you to something altogether different.

    In the end it comes down to reading the group, the individuals and facilitation. Thanks for your inputs again.


    Wiro Kuipers

    Until now I’ve always been surprised by the metaphors people come up with while using DUPLO. Therefor I sometimes extent the kit I use with a LEGO Education set of DUPLO ‘Community People’: http://www.amazon.com/LEGO-Education-Community-People-4591516/dp/B0085Y3K6Y

    Beth Davis

    Absolutely include the Duplo elements! You will notice that they are included in the LSP kits. People like variety. Also, I have never had a participant actually use a cow, let’s say, to represent a cow. The use of these elements does not, in my experience, take away from the metaphorical representations in the models.

    Stephen Dann

    The only time I drop the duplo out of the set is entirely to do with the space and baseplates I’ll be using – if I’m dropping people down to a smaller baseplate, or we’re likely to have less elbow room, I’ll pull out the bigger pieces. Otherwise it’s all in, and everything counts – I’ve added the Duplo Numbers Train to my kit for the insta-metaphor that comes with the number bricks.

    And to echo the “Master Builder” versus “Power Metaphor” – I had a session where someone completed their 30 minute build in 3 pieces and a baseplate, and I looked at it and thought “Oh hells, there’s going to be one epic story here”. It’s all about trusting our process and let the participant trust their hands on the way – if the hands say it’s done, then it’s done.

    Ed Chester

    the single brick that i see most used that brings meaning without any other bricks is the transparent blue duplo 2×4 brick. i don’t know why you wouldn’t want that piece. you know – the one that says: trust, ice, transparency, fear, lightness, cold, hope, openness, regulation, clarity, imagination, far future — and so on ;)


    I also use the Blue transparent DUPLO brick at the start of every session to explain the concept of metaphors. I always state “This brick represents my Mother in Law…. Why?” They then have a good time guessing size, transparency, wisdom, eight kids, calm, peacemaker, loves jewelry, etc. Its amusing and they get the point very quickly that youre not building creative art, just metaphors.

    The other thing is I have found you do not need even LEGO pieces to run an LSP workshop. Its better if you do of course.. because of the colors and familiarity. I have used figurines, matchboxes, clay, phones, shoes, money, coins, etc. Anything that helps the discussion and stimulates the mind is okay.

    Chad Habel

    Thanks everyone, and Alan especially for raising the question. I agree with Eli that it’s all about the objective and purpose of LSP. For me this topic relates to the concrete/abstract trajectory of LSP: as discussed Duplo pieces (including animals and human figures) can be really helpful if they are taken metaphorically and enrich the conversation. However, I have seen them limit the conversation a little if they encourage participants to stick to the concrete or representative mode, in which case switching to more abstract builds using bricks might be called for.

    As always, this depends on the context, participants and dynamics of the session and a skilled facilitator will make such decisions as the workshop develops. There is no one-size-fits-all approach!

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