Developed by two professors at Swiss business school IMD in the 1990s, Lego Serious Play aims to help participants solve business issues by building models with plastic bricks. Practitioners claim it’s a powerful teambuilding tool, fostering collaboration in a safe environment
Make Happy (020 7275 8531, makehappy.co.uk) harnesses the technique in a range of corporate workshops, including teambuilding and corporate change sessions. Founder Jonathan Bannister has been working as a Lego Serious Play facilitator since training in Hong Kong in the 1990s.
He says: “We warm up at the beginning of a workshop – you need to get everyone happy with building a model, giving it meaning and telling a story about it. After that, we move to the strategy part, and everyone builds an answer to a business question I pose. They discuss it with their peers, who question the model. Everyone then comes together to build a shared model.
“After that, we can have everyone build a model of a skill they’ve not yet offered the team, or ask members to build an attribute that they appreciate in someone else who may not have recognised it in themselves. It’s very powerful, as people think deeply about their engagement with the team.”
Lego Serious Play was released under an open-source licence in 2010, so anyone can use it, but sessions are best led by a trained facilitator (see lspdirectory.com for a searchable list). A seminar room is all that’s needed, although the amount of Lego involved means it’s worth allowing more space per person than for a whiteboard session.
It’s not unknown for executives to take umbrage at being expected to play with plastic bricks. “I’ve never had anyone who hasn’t bought into it in the end,” says Mr Bannister. “In one case, someone who had stormed out came up to me afterwards and said ‘I’d never have believed I could have such a deep conversation about the business using what I thought was a toy’.”
The ultimate aim of the workshops is to increase empathy and good communication between team members, building up their problem-solving abilities and sending them back to the office with the techniques to collaborate more effectively.
A half-day session for around 15 people with Make Happy – including a detailed consultation beforehand – would start at around £2,500.