Remembering to Play

May 23, 2012 in Serious Play Discussion

Check out this for six suggestions for how to have a playful day or as the blogger puts it “to live a playful life”

Found it via “Seriously! The Future Depends on Play”


LEGO SERIOUS PLAY and Business Models – Part 2

March 22, 2012 in Serious Play Case Studies

Rory has now posted his second blog on how we used LEGO SERIOUS PLAY to develop a business model (using the canvas as the structure). It is as well written and informative as the first, I warmly recommend it

You can read it here

In my last post of this two part series I explain why we wanted to build a lean startup with Lego and here I expand on the previous post by looking at exactly how we went about the experiment where we used Lego bricks to build a lean version of the Business Canvas.  I go into the detail of how we actually ran the workshop and how building a Lego Lean Startup helped us to gain a shared understanding of the business model we were looking to test.

Recap from the previous post

I would recommend reading the previous post in order that you might fully understand why we chose to use Lego bricks to build our strategy canvas, as this post will examine how we used it .  However the main points to recap from the last post are:

  • The actual words you use to describe a concept, idea or solution can be important
  • Our language can be interpreted in subtly different ways
  • The Lean Canvas requires you to capture big ideas with a few words
  • Gaining alignment on understanding is harder than it seems
  • Lego Serious Play is a tool that can gain alignment, build a shared insight and focus the team on what needs to be done

So if you read my previous post you will understand why our team felt we needed more than a whiteboard to really get shared understanding of our canvas.

Using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® with the Lean Canvas

The initial part of any Lego Serious Play intervention is the framing of the problem to be addressed and developing a roadmap for the workshop.  Although I am qualified myself in the Lego Serious Play method, I asked a good friend to run the workshop as:

  1. It was a new experiment with LSP and I valued Per’s vast experience
  2. I felt we needed an independent facilitator to remove any bias I might introduce if I facilitated
  3. I wanted to be in a team role during the workshop rather than in a facilitator role

As with a lot of things, the preparation for an event like this makes all the difference, so I had a couple of skype calls and emails with Per before hand, where I described what we wanted to get out of the workshop.  We looked at both the Business Canvas and Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas and from that we agreed how we would approach the workshop and what I would like to get out of it.

Basically what I was looking for was a deeper shared understanding amongst the team of each of the elements of a canvas and how the team saw that the elements fitted together.  This I hoped would overcome the issue I sensed whereby everyone on our team did not have the same picture in their mind of how all the elements of our current model fitted together and more importantly the relative importance of each element.

Introduction to Serious Play

Per started out the workshop, as always, by introducing the team to Lego Serious Play and how to use the tool.  This is like learning the language of Serious Play and through a series of quick exercises the team learned the four core steps in Lego Serious Play:

  1. The facilitator poses a question.  The participants in a workshop are asked to build with Lego and create stories in response to a carefully posed question.  The question is clear but is very open ended.
  2. Individuals build a model.  Each participant builds their own 3D model in response to the question that has been posed.  Participants works with the special set of Lego bricks that are designed to inspire the use of metaphors and story telling.
  3. The Individuals make a story.  Each participant shares his or her’s model’s meaning and story with the rest of the team.  It is critical that every person shares their story as this enables 100% participation during the session which builds a commitment to shared action
  4. Questions and Reflections.  The facilitator and participants crystalise key insights that are arrived at from the process by asking clarification questions of the models.  The facilitator sums up surprises and connections.

Tackling the Problem


Once the team had completed this stage we quickly got down to business with the team individually building the core of what was to them.  Stories were told about these individual models and the shared understanding of what the team believed about the organisation was unveiled.

Customer Segments

The next step was we simply worked through the elements of the canvas that we had identified as important. So for example we spent particular time on customer segments which was an area that we were struggling to get a handle on which segments were appropriate for the current business model and to get a feel for their relative importance amongst the team so we can test our hypothesis.

“Speed and ease of use”

Again the team built models representing the segments they felt were most important, and interestingly each member of the team built a model representing a different segment.   For example one of the team built a race car to signify that the medium sized business segment was all about speed and ease of use of the service.  So when all the models were revealed it became instantly obvious that we all had different channels at the top of our mind.  The next exercise involved us voting on the relative importance of the channels by using a finite number of bricks, this exercise was completed as a team and it forced us to discuss the relative importance of each of the channels and to trade between options with a clear small business segment rising up as the most important.  This action now allowed us to see that the collective wisdom was that this channel was important to test and we then prioritised our experiment to prove or disprove this assumption that the small business channel was the one with the most potential.

What to Tackle?

An important point is that we also did not attempt to complete the full canvas but simply took the elements that we were having some difficulty with and the ones where we thought it was appropriate to work on.

In the end we built out those elements in a landscape that attempted to show the scale and relative relationships between the models.  This was done by simply placing the models we had created where it felt they made sense and where they related to each other whilst taking into consideration the elements and relationships of the canvas.  The result was a very powerful 3D picture of our business model, built by the team where they all felt they had input, they had shared their insights and have a sense of real ownership of the results.  More importantly we were quickly able to prioritise the next set of experiments that were required to test these hypothesis and the great thing was we had an unanimous agreement on what needed to be done.  The workshop also brought the team closer together in sense of understanding of what needed to be done in order to prove or disprove the current business model.

The Results

So did the experiment work?  Our initial workshop was very powerful, worthwhile and helped us a great deal to understand what the rest of the team was thinking.  We got a greater alignment and a much stronger understanding of the business model element we were trying to put together.  I think the Lego Serious Play / Lean Canvas mashup is a very powerful combination and is certainly well worth considering if you have the same issues.

Lessons Learned:

  • Using Lego Serious Play with the Lean Canvas is a powerful tool
  • You must prepare well for the workshop
  • It’s not necessary or perhaps even advisable to complete the canvas in the workshop
  • The ROI is best realised when faced with complex and challenging issues
  • Get an experienced facilitator to set you up with the LSP skills

Business Model Generation and LEGO(r) SERIOUS PLAY(r)

February 26, 2012 in Serious Play Case Studies

Check out this blog post by Rory O’Connor. Rory is a trained LSP facilitator and now an entrepreneur running a start up in Ireland. I ran a workshop with his team where we used LEGO SERIOUS PLAY as the method to explore and develop their business model. We used the canvas developed by Osterwalder, Rory will be integrating the results into the LEAN Canvas developed by Ash Maurrya.

This is Rory’s first post on the session on his website

Read the rest of this entry →

Interplay – The Future Depends on Play

February 18, 2012 in Serious Play Discussion

Looks like it would be fun to be in Oakland today

“Playing to Change the World”

Here is a bit from their website:
“…afternoon with Edgard Gouveia. He is a master teacher of Cooperative Games, and we will begin the afternoon with play, discovering how games unlock the best qualities in human beings.”

Seriously – The Future Depends on Play

January 27, 2012 in Serious Play Discussion

Now Playing (formerly known as Seriously!) - Trailer (4 min.)

This short film and the project behinds works on bringing play back into the world. Hard to disagree with that.

It is a 12 minutes film, and it is 12 minutes well spent. Enjoy Seriously! The Future Depends on Play

Identity and Landscape Kit

November 29, 2011 in Lego Serious Play Bricks

Robert Rasmussen and I had a meeting a LEGO today assisting them in pulling together a new Identity and Landscape Kit. There will be marginal changes and all to the better.

They expect that the product will be ready early in 2012

Games and Systems Thinking

September 13, 2011 in Serious Play Discussion

Katie Salen: 2011 Systems Thinking in Action Preview Video

This video interview is strictly speaking not about play, but about games, learning and systems thinking. Nevertheless, I found it an interesting way to spend ca 7 min of my time. Katie Salen is from the Institute of Play

On Play

July 28, 2011 in Serious Play Discussion

Here is an interesting attempt to define play In short the author defines it as “the recognised, negotiated, process of a purposeful shift in the dominant meaning; and contextual attribution of value, of acts”

The rest of the blog is really about expanding and explaining the definition.

I found it an interesting read, it differs somewhat from the definition we (The Association of Master Trainers) work with, but it points nicely to some important elements of play, eg the “fluidity” of meaning and value. The weakness is that it comes across as very anchored in sports and (finite) games. This might also be why the author does does not go into why we play and the impact of play

Read the rest of this entry →

Making is Connecting – review

July 1, 2011 in Serious Play Discussion

A while back I promised to pull together a review of Davids Gauntletts ”Making is Connecting”, somehow work overtook my good intentions, but here it is (better late than never)

Making is Connecting Book

Making is Connecting Book

In short, Davids book is great read, it is life confirming in the sense that it points to our drive to express ourselves and the importance of that endeavour (from an LSP perspective, it would have been great to see some sort of connection with what happens when employees craft their strategy, vision etc, but who knows may be this will come later)

Overall, read this if you want to feel that your fiddling around with your website (or with bricks), nursing your garden, fixing old cars etc have a meaning beyond being harmless pastimes.

One of David’s points that as an LSP facilitator it is easy to sympathise with, is that he wants change the understanding of creativity from being something that concerns the few and “chosen” to something that we all have. Creativity is something that is present, or could be, in everyday-life.

He outlines a number of theories and understandings of “the meaning of making”, e.g. that it can be seen as a reaction to dominant and more commercial cultures, or historically, the industrialism (it made me think of the microbreweries vs the big global brands). However, with a nice touch, he also has a chapter on “Web 2.0, not all rosy” where he points to some of the challenges he sees

If I were to conclude, then I enjoyed the book and learned something from it. In particular, I like the concluding chapter with a set of five key principles and “imagined futures”. It helps anchor learning and insights

Strictly speaking not a book that will help build your LSP practise, but a good book nonetheless ;-) And, one that I would recommend reading

Interesting article about play

May 11, 2011 in Serious Play Discussion

Came across a rather interesting article on play in Atlantic, check it here . Personally, found it reather difficult to disagree with the author. Enjoy

The division between work and play is a myth. If America is going to teach its youth to innovate, we need to unite the two.

Lego Minifigures

Lego Minifigures

Nearly a decade ago, John Howkins wrote a book called The Creative Economy: How People Make Money From Ideas. Similarly, Richard Florida identified the “creative class” and suggested that innovation would come from a “super creative core.” But somehow, even with this knowledge, we have fallen further behind.

According to Newsweek, the United States is in a creativity crisis. TIME reports that today’s students are less tolerant of ambiguity and have an aversion to complexity. And The Futurist suggests that the biggest challenge facing our children is their inability to think realistically, creatively, and optimistically about the future. Wake up, America. The real threat to the United States’s continued superpower status isn’t from an arsenal of weapons—it’s from the lack of an arsenal of the mind.

Innovation companies today don’t ask and don’t care about basic skills, grades, or SAT scores—instead, they want to know if you can brainstorm all the possible uses of bubble wrap.

Eighty-five percent of today’s companies searching for creative talent can’t find it. In a recent IBM survey, 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the number one leadership competency of the future. And the United Nations just released the Creative Economy Report of 2010, suggesting that creative countries are more economically resilient. As Tim Draper voiced in the documentary 2 Million Minutes, “America is the one country that doesn’t seem to recognize that it is in competition for the great minds and capital of the world.”

During my keynote speech at MIT’s Sandbox Summit last year, I suggested that “Play is the greatest natural resource in a creative economy.” In the future, economies won’t be driven by financial capital or even the more narrowly focused scientific capital, but by play capital as well. I predict the countries that take play seriously, not only nurturing it in education and the workforce but also formalizing it as a national effort, will quickly rise in the world order. This is not Twister in the boardroom. Rather, it’s what Jeremy Levy, a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, would call “a highly advanced form of play.”

Literacy is like Legos. Basic proficiency in math, reading and writing are, and will remain, the building blocks of education. But we need to advance our ability to use these literacies. While the United States currently struggles to achieve 30 percent reading proficiency by 4th grade, other economic powers like the E.U. and China have begun their quest for advanced forms of play. For example, the Chinese government recently launched a five-year initiative on fostering creativity and innovation in China, and they are tapping design firms like frog design to play a part.

These advanced forms of play can be more aptly described as superpowers of play. Superpowers, by my definition, are the physical and mental skills that we develop to adapt and thrive in a complex world, while exploring the creative opportunities made possible by global progress. While few will refute that we need a shift in education, the biggest debate may be over what these superpowers—and their roles in this change—should be.

The answer might come in the form of the classic dinner party question. “Living or dead: whom would you have at your dinner party?” If we invited the greatest play pioneers of our time, such as Stuart Brown, Howard Chudacoff, Will Wright, Edward De Bono, Katie Salen, Jane McGonigal, Beau Lotto, Sir Ken Robinson, Henry Jenkins, and Daniel Pink, we would have a fairly solid answer. Superpowers aren’t literacies. They aren’t narrowly defined subjects. And they aren’t a technology platform. They are naturally occurring abilities we purposefully foster that amplify our human potential. In a Conceptual Age, the superpowers of play will define the new GDP.

Someday, rather than measuring memorization as an indicator of progress, we will measure our children’s ability to manipulate (deconstruct and hack), morph (think flexibly and be tolerant of change), and move (think “with their hands” and play productively). Standardized aptitude tests will be replaced by our abilities to see (observe and imagine), sense (have empathy and intrinsic motivation), and stretch (think abstractly and systemically). We will advance our abilities to collaborate and create.

To reap the rewards of these abilities, we must set aside the myth that play and work are two separate things. Play should be our greatest work, as it is the biggest driver of innovation. Innovation companies today don’t ask and don’t care about basic skills, grades, or SAT scores—instead, they want to know if you can brainstorm all the possible uses of bubble wrap. This falls under what I would call a MacGyver Manifesto. We must pair the practical application of our learned knowledge with the inventive use of these abilities to solve challenging problems.

Which is why I will teach my daughter to add with colors as well as numbers. While other children may learn to sew, she will also be taking the machine apart. She will not only be introduced to the traditional periodic table, but the other valid versions we are never taught in school—and then make one of her own. I will tell her there are no SATs for the presidency, and that you can’t solve oil spills with multiple-choice answers. If everyone expects her to be a superhero, then she will have the superpowers to be one. In the end, it comes down to a simple but foregone conclusion: The future favors the flexible.


©2009-2020 links professional facilitators using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology. It is not affiliated with LEGO. Check LEGO SERIOUS PLAY open source for details or get in touch with us.

See also our Privacy Policy and Frequently Asked Questions about LEGO SERIOUS PLAY

Send a question

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


Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?

Create Account