Decoding the future using LEGO® Serious Play®

March 23, 2018 in Serious Play Discussion

What happens when a cutting edge social media advertising service is struggling to find the right path in their vision and aspirations to design the future? They turn to LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP) for a look ahead!

To set the stage for our 4 hour session in Washington DC, we met with leadership to identify the right places to focus on for our workshop.  During the interview process our team uncovered a couple of issues they were facing that would make for an ideal LSP event.

The first potential topic was deciding on the direction the companies Solutions, Intelligence and Data products should take in the future and how to keep ahead of the competition with “killer apps”

The second issue was one many companies face; the IT team and the marketing folks had different languages and priorities. We needed to overcome the frequent miscommunications that commonly exist between Business and IT.

Our team came up with a two-tier approach to address both issues under the banner of one LSP session. Using the technical skills building exercises we examined on team communications while we prepared them for what was to come. We purposely divided the teams into a mix of IT and Business at each of the two tables.

After the Tower and Imaginopedia builds we asked the teams to modify their models to tell a story about their work that motivated them. Our purpose was to help the others find shared meaning and commonality of their teammates passion for their work. It was fun and informative to watch the teams discover that they had so much in common regardless of their roles. It was clear we were beginning to break down communication barriers and get the team comfortable in sharing their individual perspectives.

Moving forward we took the teams to the next step by asking them to build a model of what would be missing if they were no longer there. It was potentially a risky question as the intersection of personality’ self image and emotional intelligence were all in play. However, the beauty of LSP is that it creates a safe environment for sharing and makes sure the focus is all about the models and individuals. As the share proceeded, some very interesting insights came to light on how the teams viewed their contributions to the company and its ongoing activities. There was some initial hesitation but as the teams shared their stories with humor and humility the process was very successful and the teams came together to form a cohesive group.

Next, we asked them to turn their focus to build a model to explain their perspective on what it means to be a high performing team.

From there we combined the individuals models into a shared model of a high performing team using the one element they thought most important for them to support the shard vision. We gave them a half hour to combine, mingle, modify and most importantly – share a common vision. After the two teams cross-shared their visions (and discovered many similarities) we tasked them to create “agents” to depict things they needed more or less of in order to make the shared vision a reality.

At this juncture, everyone worked together to assemble a plan for implementation of the new discoveries and prioritizing the follow-up steps.

Using the grid, the team systematically prioritized which elements to act on first, whether it was something internal or external, their shared vision had become a reality. Through sharing and negotiation a plan was put in place to compete the picture.


In the next installment we talk about the second phase of the LSP session: Post Card from the Future!

What happens when 100’s of HR professionals are looking for an out of the box way to improve employee engagement by understanding conflict?

February 21, 2018 in Serious Play Discussion

LEGO® Serious Play® That’s what!

Employee disengagement ranks in the top 5 of the things that keep HR professionals awake at night. trainIT was invited to come to Fort Worth TX to present the LEGO® Serious Play® methodology for improving engagement to 100 HR professionals at the annual HRSouthWest conference.


The results were amazing to the participants and to us! Attendees’ feedback confirmed that it was one of the most popular and well received sessions in the conference’s recent memory (their words, not mine) and they have asked us to come back this year for an even longer session/workshop.


All LSP sessions start with a skills building exercise to get everyone comfortable with the bricks and the process. It’s a bit of a time hit but it’s absolutely essential to the success of the workshop. We started the heart of the session with a light review of how we look at conflict today


Then we examined how LEGO® Serious Play® can help teams and organization achieve the win-win style associated with the integrating model. The best workshops use real examples; and as such, we engaged our HR specialists to share firsthand examples of conflict that lead to disengagement at work. Once we identified an example, we quickly began mapping a plan and model for improving engagement. This was predicated on turning a conflict into a positive experience through the use of the LEGO® Serious Play® facilitation method.

Having a model where every voice is heard and accepted is a pretty powerful thing. When you create a safe space and a level playing field, it immediately enables engagement to grow and flourish

Part of that process revolves around building and sharing which is a vital part of all LEGO® Serious Play® sessions. We set them on the path of building a 3D representation of the thoughts, methods and causes of conflict.  The real magic happens when they take their individual models and begin to combine them to create a shared model.  This shared model incorporates all of the various ideas and perspectives synthesized down into a single model.


You can tell by the faces that we were really making them work hard! Time after time when we do these workshops we realize just how powerful it can be to get everyone involved. To have every voice be heard, every idea shared and every person 100% involved and engaged is a winning strategy. Think of the problems we could solve or the innovation we could discover if all our important discussions had this level of engagement.

A big shout out to Eric Guel for taking these amazing pictures!



How valuable are your networks?

April 28, 2017 in Serious Play Discussion

Have you ever spent an extended time with a group of people in a shared experience? Maybe it was a week long class or boot camp or a seminar that was very interactive and forced you to let down your natural barriers and share “yourself” with the others in the group. Many times a very powerful bond develops among the group and a sense of family develops. You leave the session feeling really connected to the others because of the shared experience. You may even make an attempt to keep that feeling by starting a user group, a weekly call or some other method to stay connected.

The first week goes by and you still feel the strong connection but sadly as the weeks turn into months the feeling fades and eventually its as if you never made the connection at all.

What would it be like to keep that connection strong, thriving and growing? What would it take to make that a reality? How powerful would those networks be for you if you could keep them alive and healthy?

We recently facilitated a LEGO Serious Play (LSP) session for Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) for a group of entrepreneurs from Africa as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. Fifty fellows, who represented 30 African nations, arrived with diverse backgrounds, skills and professional experiences and were connected with either the School of Business or the Wilder School. The 25 fellows studying at the School of Business participated in a six-week intensive business and entrepreneurship program that introduced new topics weekly.

We were asked to design a LEGO Serious Play workshop as a capstone event. Our team held meetings with the fellows to get an understanding of the process and the types of issue they would face when they returned home.

We were trying to determine the most beneficial theme / topic / problem we wanted to solve in the workshop. One topic kept surfacing as a possibility for our workshop – the Fellows told us how different things were at home versus here in the U.S. The availability for help to develop and grow a business venture is far more established and viable in America. The U.S has vast resources available to entrepreneurs while the Fellow’s native regions tended to be isolated and lacked the broad based support systems we in the U.S. take for granted. The Fellows also talked about the culture of trust that exists here that was absent at home. People at home were reluctant to share ideas, information or advice.

These extremely smart people represented the cream of the crop back in their countries and as they had just spent 6 weeks together the bond they developed was obvious and very powerful! During our interviews they talked frequently about their new friends and how much they had learned from each other. We heard “If only we could keep that connection when we return home!” Suddenly our LSP session agenda was clear.

Any relationship requires work in order for it to grow and thrive -business, marriage, friends, children, and even enemies (that one requires even more work). Our task was to help the Fellows to understand what it would take to keep this bond alive, thriving and most importantly become a powerful tool to enable their businesses to grow and prosper.

We broke the group onto teams of 5 and had them share a table full of LEGOS. After the obligatory skill building exercises that are part of every LSP session we asked them to build a model of something that they had learned about America in their time here. There were some very interesting revelations among the 25 fellows that we did not fully appreciate but when seen through the eyes of these folks gave us new perspectives on our country and ourselves. (Everybody learns in LSP sessions!)

From there, we delved into more thought provoking questions by having them build a model of a personal barrier they have overcome or what they have learned about themselves. From there it was simple to move into the heart of the session- Networks. Building your business and community will require support from a network. Using the bricks, we asked them to create something that incorporates the critical elements of the support network you will needed when returning home. We told them they could build as many as they desired.

During the sharing we reminded them to listen for insights, perspectives and new ways of thinking and acting that will keep the network vibrant after returning home. With that task complete it was time to bring the individuals together and create a shared vision of how they were going to own this network and take responsibility for maintaining it. This is the core of LSP and it is an amazing process to observe and help facilitate.

Once the teams had the vision of the network and how it was going to grow, thrive and be a support system at home we had to identify the inevitable roadblocks and issues that would work against the network. We challenged them to think of the barriers to achieving the vision they had just created and build models to represent them.

To create and maintain your support network, we asked them to prioritize and address these barriers. To help with prioritization, we created a gird to allow them to categorize each barrier into one of four quadrants

Prioritization helps create and maintain focus:

  • Ensuring you are working on the Important Items will keep you from spending time on Not Important but Urgent items
  • If everyone understands the barriers, your support network can work together to overcome them
  • The prioritization quadrant will help keep your sessions with your mentors focused on the most important things

The individual groups shared their teams’ model, plans, barriers and prioritization with everyone else and gave them time to talk, ask questions and comment on the elements. The solutions had very similar themes and the team level sharing helped to drive home the importance of keeping their bond strong when they went home.

Concluding the session we invited everyone to take pictures of their models and each other as way to bring themselves back to this moment when they went home. Laughs, hugs, plenty of smiles and a plan to keep the bond and network alive and well kept the group busy as we wrapped up the day. So much was learned by everyone during the 6 week immersion and the capstone LSP event was a huge success.

LSP Demo at Innovate Virginia

March 26, 2016 in Serious Play Discussion

LSP facilitator Guy Winterbotham and I were on point to do a one hour demo of LSP at the Innovate Virginia conference on March 25th. We had exactly one hour!

We reviewed and revamped our agenda to meet the hard stop of the hour. Deciding what we wanted to get across was the key.

Our goals for the session were simple enough, show them how LSP helps:

  • Get 100% participation
  • Ensure every voice is heard
  • Confirm that the hands do know more than the brain
  • Reveal that story telling and creativity go hand in hand
  • Understand that though everyone has the same instructions, bricks -each model is different yet still “right”

We stuck to the plan for the intro, and technical sections but keep it crisp for the timing. Early on Guy and I split a box of the exploration kits so we had plenty of bricks for the 50 people we were expecting. We mapped our timing very carefully for the planned group. We expected 10 tables of 5 and figured the groups working in parallel would allow us around 3 minutes for sharing. The night before the event I went to look at the room (I always do that when possible) and discovered we now had 5 tables of 10. So it was back to the drawing board to revamp the timings.

Taking a page out of a number of the stories from other sessions posted here, we had them build from instructions (make a moose), they then added 5 extra bricks to modify the moose into a new creature. With 30 seconds each, we gave them a subject to use in describing their creature. “My creature represents- My Home, Agile, Innovate VA, a great meeting, a dream smartphone app,my manager, my car, my best friend – because…

In addition to the 100% participation aspect of LSP, we wanted them to see just how much creativity they all had in them. It was an eye-opener for some, and a lot of fun for all.

We moved on to the next part which was a use of “The Promotion” to further the creativity discovery.

We met our goals, had loads of hard fun, received glowing feedback and “graduated a class new LSP believers. Guy and I refined the plan to improve for the next demo. A win for all!

Next week we will be collaborating again in Washington DC for a workshop I found through the facilitator network. Its a great resource!

Looking forward to reporting on that one.


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Charlottesville’s NEON Guild Goes LEGO!

February 21, 2016 in Serious Play Discussion

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We had originally scheduled a LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP) demo for the Charlottesville Technology group known as the NEON Guild back in January. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and we were hit with the blizzard of 2016 and had to cancel it. There was so much interest that we were asked to reschedule for February. The weather held for us and we were able to have the event as planned.

NEON Guild sessions always start with pizza and beer followed by a group introduction and announcements to get things moving and this one was no different except for the anticipation of playing with LEGOs. Everyone was eager to open their bags and start.

Not knowing how many people would show up I asked fellow facilitators Joan Gammon and Guy Winterbotham to come and help should we get a large crowd. Good plan! We had north of 35 people show up and thanks to Guy (we split an order of 100 exploration kits), I had more than enough LEGO bricks to meet the demand.

Since there were people from many different companies, finding the question we wanted to pose was challenging. With only an hour and a half for the workshop, I’m glad Joan and I worked out our approach in advance. We split them into roughly four equal groups and set them to work. The facilities were challenging due to a wall dividing the groups, but in the end it worked out great with the help of Joan and Guy!

We did the introduction by the book; they built their first tower, and then built their next model from instructions. We had a number of people in the group that had never played with LEGOs before and I can imagine how different their experience would have been if we did not take the time to help them get comfortable. The temptation was to take a short cut in the interest of time but I kept hearing Robert’s voice telling me not to skip the basics and I am a believer!

In the next part we asked them to modify the model to depict the worst qualities of a team member that the group had ever encountered or heard of. Lots of laughing and good-natured fun was followed by a lively session of sharing.

After putting away the exploration kits we then told them to build a model of the best qualities of a team member and had them go shopping in my collection of bricks. It was fun watching them ponder the right set of bricks but it led to a little bit of a time hit.  Joan and Guy solved the problem on their side of the room by dumping three big containers of mixed bricks on the tables and letting them do a free-for-all. That worked out better and will be sure to do that next time.

After building, sharing, and reflecting on some of the interesting metaphors, we had each of the four tables build a shared model of their idea of the ideal team member. Next a few folks told the story of the shared model to their table and then to the group at large.

The timing was challenging to keep things on track, and we found that the different groups were getting out of  synch frequently. All in all they had a great time and got a good taste of the potential for using LSP at their companies.

During the introduction we articulated the goals for the workshop and as the night came to a close we did a group review of them. There was 100% agreement that we exceeded every one of our goals!

The guild’s leadership sent us some of the feedback they received:

“Thank you for organizing last evening’s wonderful session. I enjoyed the Serious LEGO Play so much”

“I enjoyed meeting others and playing with Legos at the LSP activity”

“Best educational workshop I’ve attended so far. And I enjoyed meeting people from the tech world.”

“I had a great time tonight with Serious Lego Play. This is the first event of this type that I’ve attended that felt very relaxed and inviting.”

” I really had a great time tonight.”

We are looking forward to our next scheduled event at the Innovate Richmond Conference in March.

It will be fun!

TrainIT uses LSP for the first time and loved it!

January 20, 2016 in Serious Play Discussion

Our fledgling training company needed to come to agreement on our future plans, vision and goals. My assignment during my facilitator training was to design the workshop. Weeks passed without being able to find a day when everyone’s busy schedules would permit us to commit to a fun day of HARD FUN! MLK day was the opportunity and we took it. I was a participant so I was not able to facilitate the session so my classmate from the training -LSPF Joan Gammon eagerly offered to try out her new facilitation skills on a willing audience. She did awesome! It was amazing to watch her. You’d never know it was her first time.

Many of my team were skeptics coming in to the workshop, but by the time the session ended they were all converts and believers.

In designing the workshop I had two goals in mind. I wanted the company to come together to define our vision and plans for the future AND I wanted them to understand and experience LSP so they can effectively explain (and hopefully sell) the service to our customers and clients.

The day started with the basics and Joan did a great job of walking us through the first exercises. It was gratifying to see the process work as the team really leaned in and felt the power of the bricks and using their hands to build. By the end of the day we were aligned and committed to the vision, priorities and the next steps we needed to take.

We had a lot of laughs along the way and came away with both goals met and then some. Looking forward to any more workshops!

LEGO Serious Play is hard FUN!

December 8, 2015 in Serious Play Discussion

Originally posted at LinkedIn Pulse

I just returned from a week of training in the LEGO Serious Play method with Rasmussen Consulting It was amazing to say the least and I can’t wait to start facilitating workshops!

We began the week as a group of individuals from many different backgrounds, experiences and industries. Entering the  room, we were met with a long “U” shaped tables covered in nearly every kind of LEGO brick imaginable.  This was our debrief table and we all built, took apart, modified and played with these LEGOs non stop for the next 4 days.

A second set of tables were set up to be our landscape for Serious Play. The rest of the room was lined tables filled to overflowing with LEGOs, DUPLOs connectors, gears, little people and every other kind of LEGO creation ever made. We built models of people, places, things, fears, strengths, opportunities, roadblocks- you name it we built it. Then we would talk about what they represented and share the stories behind the models. It was a safe and fun place to  work out our plans where we focused on the models, not the others in the room. Unlike every other meeting or training session I’ve ever been in, where some people participated more than others (or not at all) this involved 100% of  the group giving 100% of their focus towards building shared models, negotiating changes, coming to consensus and evolving a view of the topic at hand, and it was hard work.

As the week came to a close we found we were no longer the same group of individuals but had morphed into a team with a shared interest, goal and vision (not to mention a model) of how to use LEGO Serious Play in our professional lives. We designed plans for our first workshops until 10 PM on Friday night. We used each other as sounding boards, mentors, coaches, counselors and ultimately became a network of friends with a common experience and perspective on the power of this facilitation tool.

If you’ve never heard of it, I highly recommend you take a look. You will never have so much fun, working so hard, and achieving results that will amaze you.

Train IT will be adding these sessions to our list of available consulting services. If you’re interested in a conversation drop me a note and I’ll tell you more about this experience and see if it could help you, your team or company achieve amazing results.

Send a question

We are a group of volunteers and may not respond right away. But soon! :-)


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