Two Tools to Enhance The LEGO Serious Play Experience

June 20, 2017 in Serious Play Discussion

The LEGO brick might just be one of the most creative tools we humans have ever invented. And as Facilitators of LEGO Serious Play we see it work it’s magic every day.

But even like the strongest of super heroes, sometimes the LEGO brick needs a little help from friends. Today I’m going to talk about two tools that you can use to enhance the LSP experience.

Hi! My name is Michael Fearne and I’m a facilitator and trainer of LEGO Serious Play from Australia. For a while now I’ve been talking with Marko Rillo about writing a regular column here on Serious Play Pro. And it’s finally happened!

This will be the first of many articles to come on my musings about LEGO Serious Play.

I’ve been obsessed, fanatical about LSP ever since I got certified back in early 2014. In fact it goes back earlier to 2013 when I read the wonderful “Thinking From Within” by Johan Roos. My mind exploded. And I’ve been thinking about and using LSP everyday since.

This first article is focused on two of my favourite tools to use alongside the brick.

A Better Post It Note?

 

We all know post it notes are great. Great invention, lots of uses, but they are so disposable and the ideas you put on them seem fleeting and temporary.

Enter Artefact Cards.

Fantastic little colourful cards I use in place of post it notes. They feel more substantial and the ideas you put on them feel real, feel solid.

In LEGO Serious Play workshops I get participants to record their insights on these little artefact cards. I’ve had so many comments about them, that I just needed to share them with you.

I’m in no way associated with Artefact Cards. Just a huge fan and would love to see more people use them.

The only downside is that they don’t stick to things. But you can solve that small problem with static sheets that then allow you to fling them on to a wall and make them stick!

These are not just for LSP sessions. Any workshop, meeting, or even just for yourself. They’re wonderful to write on and use and definitely peak people’s interest (“what something other than post it notes!?”).

Clear the Table!

Sometimes during a session you just need to get the LEGO off the table quickly.

That’s where the Lay n Go Cinch play mat comes in.

It saves so much time in workshops and while I’m travelling. I place 6 person’s worth of LEGO into one of the Lay n Go Cinch mats and put it into the middle of the table at a workshop.

Some LSP facilitators like to give everyone their own one person kit. I prefer to let people on the one table rummage around and discover the LEGO from a communal pile. That pile sits on the Lay n Go Cinch mat.

And when it comes time to do a group build or to pack up, ZIP! You pull the cord and in one motion it folds up nicely with all your LEGO inside. It also has straps so you can then sling it over your shoulder! There are other brands around as well, so check out the style you like and make your pack up much easier next time.

So there you have it: Artefact Cards & Play Mats. Two tools you can use to make the LSP experience even better. What are your favourite tools and equipment to use? Share in the comments below.

Thanks and see you soon for another article on LEGO Serious Play. Until then, play well!

Michael Fearne

 

LEGO® Case Study: User Experience Design

September 4, 2015 in Serious Play Case Studies

The following was posted by Michael Fearne on LinkedIn Pulse

Using LEGO to solve real business problems? Surely not! This is another case study in a series focusing on companies that have used LEGO Serious Play to help solve real business challenges they were facing.

The Brief

I’ve been a big fan of General Assembly (www.generalassemb.ly) and their innovative approach to learning. I recently had the opportunity to work with their Melbourne office to combine my love of LEGO Serious Play and their User Experience (UX) Design Course.

The brief was to take the 18 students from the course through a short session to show them the LEGO Serious Play technique, how it could help the current project they were working on and how it could be used more broadly in their field.

What We Did

The students were working in groups of three on real world design projects from clients connected with General Assembly. As LEGO Serious Play works best with smaller groups we decided run three separate sessions. Each session had six people in it (3 from one project, 3 from another project) and went for two hours.

We started each session with an introduction to the LEGO Serious Play technique (it’s history, who uses it and for what). We introduced the basic steps and the guidelines we use to maximise the technique.

We then launched into the standard warm up activities (called “skills building” in LEGO Serious Play language). This always takes around 40 minutes with a new group and is vital to the success of the workshop.

Michael Fearne LEGO SERIOUS PLAY 1

If you’ll indulge me a slight detour from this case study… This warm up does a couple of things. At a basic level it gets people comfortable with touching and playing with the bricks. Reconnecting with that element of play that is in all of us. Showing that it’s ok to be playing with LEGO at work.

But on a more sophisticated level the warm up is introducing people to a new language. A more visual language, a metaphorical language, an object-mediated language, a story telling based language.

At the start people’s vocabulary with this new language is limited. In the warm up activities we often get very superficial and surface level conversations happening. But as we progress through the warm up and the main activities, this vocabulary grows. Resulting in some remarkably in-depth and powerful conversations.

But only if you take the time to build up that vocabulary with the proper warm up activities. Detour over, back to the case study.

The first question we delved into was around understanding their clients. The students had just met their clients earlier in the week and received the brief for the project. We got the students to individually build how they saw the client.  What they thought were the client’s key characteristics, their stressors, the vision for their company, etc.

After they shared the story of their model, we got the three people working on the same project to combine their models into one shared model of their client.

Michael Fearne LEGO SERIOUS PLAY 2

The aim of this activity was to get everyone in the same project with a shared understanding of the client and it’s needs. Some groups were already in close alignment, but other groups had quite different views.  This activity gave the groups a solid, consistent base to work from for the remainder of the project.

The last question we asked of the groups was a little more free form. We asked them to apply this LEGO technique to a part of their project. Here is what they came up with:

  • Current State: One group chose to use the LEGO to explore the current state of the problem.
  • Customer Journey: Another group looked to use it to understand the customer journey in a more visual way.
  • Personas: We had one group build different customer / user personas. Helping them to better understand who they were building this solution for.
  • Think.Feel.Do: A different group combined LEGO with the Think.Feel.Do approach. Building out what they wanted their customer to think, to feel and to do.

We finished off the session with a discussion of other ways to use this technique in the field of UX. Some ideas were: Envisaging solutions / future states; Story boarding; Prototyping; User Research (using the LEGO Serious Play technique on end users to gather more emotional / in depth information).

Michael Fearne LEGO SERIOUS PLAY 3

The Result

It was a very short two hour session, but the students moved quickly through understanding the basics of the technique to how they might apply it to their projects and more broadly in the field of UX.

Of immediate benefit was the increased understanding of their current project. For some of the more high performing teams it confirmed they were on the right track and allowed them to share more nuanced ideas and stories to take the project to a new level.

For other teams who were originally struggling with their project (due to difficult clients or difficult team dynamics) it allowed them to reset and build from a shared base of understanding.

And that’s what I love about this technique. Because it is based around having a better conversation it doesn’t matter where you start.

You could start with a dysfunctional team or a team that has issues and LEGO Serious Play can help bring them together and refocus their work.

Or it could be a high performing team and LEGO Serious Play just takes the conversation and group dynamics to amazing new levels.

LEGO Serious Play is an exciting, versatile new language for business. I’m really keen to explore it further and see where it can take us…

About the Author

Michael Fearne is the founder of Pivotal Play. An unconventional consultancy helping companies to solve problems and create more meaningful conversations through the power of LEGO Serious Play. To find out more about Michael and Pivotal Play go to www.pivotalplay.com.au

LEGO® Case Study: Problem Solving

July 21, 2015 in Serious Play Case Studies

Using LEGO to solve real business problems? Surely not! This is another case study in a series focusing on companies that have used LEGO Serious Play to help solve real business challenges they were facing.

The Brief

Pivotal Play was contacted by a global professional services company to help address several workforce issues that had been highlighted in their recent employee engagement survey.

We were asked to run a LEGO Serious Play session for a working group to help them explore and understand the issues better, focus in on one of them and start to develop solutions.

What We Did

We ran a 3 hour LEGO Serious Play workshop for the 10 people in the working group. Because of the size of the group we split them into two groups of five, but cross pollinated ideas and discussion between the groups at numerous times throughout the session.

The high level plan was:

  • Choose one area to address
  • Build understanding of the problem
  • Brainstorm solutions
  • Decide on 1-2 solutions
  • First steps to implement

To choose one area, we took the 4 issues from the engagement survey, put each one on a card, gave each person two special voting bricks and ask them to vote for the area(s) they wanted to address in the workshop. They chose to work on the issue of career opportunities. Their survey showed a low score on “I have a clear understanding of the career paths available to me”.

To build understanding of the problem, we let them loose with the LEGO and asked them to build models representing the key factors that were driving this issue. After building and sharing, we got the groups to capture this information and started to build a picture of why this issue was occurring.

Michael Fearne Pivotal Play LEGO SERIOUS PLAY PhotoTo brainstorm solutions, we asked them to build a model representing a way to improve the current situation and move it closer to the ideal state (the “I have a clear understanding of the career paths available to me” statement from the survey). Once the individual models were built, we got the groups to combine their models into a “solution-scape”. Placing similar ideas / themes near each other.

To decide on 1-2 solutions to implement, the group surveyed all the solutions (conveniently laid out on the table in front of them in Lego models) and assessed them via particular criteria such as likelihood of success and impact.

To outline first steps to implement we finished off the session with commitments to very specific actions and very clear ownership of the proposed solutions. The group was to meet again in two weeks to assess progress against these actions.

The Result

In three short hours we took a group from knowing that there was a high level issue to address through to actionable solutions.

They choose two solutions: The first was to implement a shadowing program to allow people to understand what other roles and levels do on a day to day basis. This would give people a real / truer sense of the career paths and roles available.

The second solution was around the theme of empowerment. The group felt the reason why there was no clarity on career paths was that people didn’t feel comfortable going out and seeking that information, asking for feedback, questioning people. So the first step to changing that culture was for the working group to embody that change. Be the exemplar, seek information, ask for feedback, question people. From that experience develop up a set of characteristics and train up a network of people to drive that change.

So in the end Lego Serious Play helped this group understand the problem better, shape the available solutions, decide on some actions and implement. The best thing was the whole group was engaged in creating this outcome. You could see the increased commitment and ownership to go out and implement their solution.

About the Author

Michael Fearne is the founder of Pivotal Play. An unconventional consultancy helping companies to solve problems and create more meaningful conversations through the power of LEGO Serious Play. To find out more about Michael and Pivotal Play go to www.pivotalplay.com.au

LEGO Serious Play Case Study: Onboarding

March 26, 2015 in Serious Play Case Studies

This is the 2nd post in a series focusing on case studies and companies that have used LEGO Serious Play to help solve real challenges they were facing.

The Brief

Over the last 2 years I’ve incorporated LEGO Serious Play into the development workshops I run with graduates (through my other company Burst Development). Burst specialises in helping companies fast track their graduate’s development, getting them up to speed quicker and laying the foundation for a successful career.

While there was no one brief from a particular company, all my clients are looking for innovative and more effective ways to onboard and develop their graduates. LEGO Serious Play has proven itself an effective additional technique for a particular subset of graduate development needs.

What We Did

That fast tracking of a graduate’s development begins as soon as they start, through their induction and onboarding. These sessions include skills training (e.g. communication basics, time management) but also include sections where graduates need to express themselves individually and as a group (on personal branding, expectations, self-awareness and company awareness). It is these topics where LEGO Serious Play really shines.

Examples of how it’s used in graduate onboarding:

  • Expectations play a huge role in how well a new starter fits into their work environment. Using LEGO Serious Play we get graduates to build their expectations. What will their managers be like, their colleagues, their day to day tasks. This uncovers any potential gaps between expectation and reality, allowing the graduate to manage their expectations instead of getting a rude shock when first joining their team.
  • Personal Branding is an important skill for graduates to understanding as they begin to build their career. We get them to build their personal brand using LEGO. We find the layering of metaphors that LEGO allows fits perfectly with a graduate defining their own personal brand and how to implement it.
  • Understanding the company, it’s past, it’s present and it’s future is vitally important for graduates. We run a group activity where graduates build their understanding of the company with LEGO, assessing their understanding of where it’s been, where it’s at, but also highlighting the future they will be a part of.

The Result

At the first superficial level, graduates of age 21-25 love using LEGO. No surprises there. So they are definitely engaged. But is it effective?

From my experience delivering the same topic before I used LEGO Serious Play and after using it, the clear answer is yes it is more effective. The concepts, ideas, situations and solutions that the graduates are bringing up and discussing are far deeper and more meaningful than when using other techniques.

From the client’s perspective, they are impressed with the discussions that LEGO Serious Play generates. I’ve also had clients say that over 12 months after their induction, graduates are still referring back to the LEGO Serious Play activities. They find that the concepts raised and the skills learnt are much “stickier”, staying with the graduates longer and positively impacting their first year in full time work.

Like with many development activities, it’s difficult to empirically quantify the benefits of applying LEGO Serious Play to onboarding. But this case study shows that the three groups involved (graduates, facilitator & client) all believe it enhances the process and promotes more powerful conversations. This clearly leads to memorable experiences that help a graduate to fell more integrated into the team, help them define their place and help them understand the company they have joined.

About the Author

Michael Fearne is the founder of Pivotal Play. An unconventional consultancy helping companies to solve problems and create more meaningful conversations through the power of LEGO Serious Play. To find out more about Michael and Pivotal Play go to www.pivotalplay.com.au

LEGO Case Study: Team Culture

March 12, 2015 in Serious Play Case Studies

This is the first in a series of posts focusing on case studies and companies that have used LEGO Serious Play to help solve real challenges they were facing.

The Brief

First up is a case study from 2014 that focuses on improving Team Culture. Pivotal Play (the company I run) were engaged by a large Professional Services firm in Australia to work with one of their high performing teams.

LEGO SERIOUS PLAY teamwork
The very successful team was facing a new challenge. They had recently lost some of their middle managers and communication between different levels within the team had suffered. It wasn’t impacting performance yet, but it had the potential to derail the firm’s most profitable group.

What We Did

Working with all levels in the group, Pivotal Play helped define and clarify what the problem was.

We ran a LEGO Serious Play workshop with the whole group. As part of the session we asked individuals to build LEGO models that represented their team environment as they saw it at the present moment. We got them to combine and integrate their individual models to get an overall picture of how the team saw the current state. This allowed everyone to have buy in and come to a common understanding of what the problems were.

We also asked them to build the team environment that would empower them in the future. The future state they would like see. Again combining individual models to build a shared vision.

The final step was filling in the gap, building what they needed to do as individuals and as a group to move from their current team environment to that shared vision of their future team environment.

With LEGO bricks we got all these issues on the table, where everyone felt comfortable discussing them. Leaders got to hear different perspectives and juniors got to understand the challenges faced by leadership. In the end the team co-created their own solution and an action plan to make it happen.

The Result

Group wide, positive feedback on how the underlying issues were brought up and addressed. Everyone was engaged and felt they had input in to the solution, creating powerful buy in.

New initiatives were put in place both officially and from a grass roots level. Stronger mentoring, juniors taking more initiative, greater knowledge sharing and group learning, more agile and nimble work arrangements and open communication between levels.

An issue that had the potential to derail a high performing team was instead turned into an opportunity to engage the team and drive even more success.

Team Culture is just one challenge that can be tackled using the LEGO Serious Play method. In future posts we’ll look at how it can be used in other areas such as strategic planning, a Lean Start Up environment, for on boarding / induction and in education.

Michael – www.pivotalplay.com.au

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