Lego Serious Play: learning while playing


We can find out more about a person in an hour playing, than in a lifetime talking. This statement by philosopher Plato, freely translated, is the ideal motto to discover Lego Serious Play methodology.

The challenge was launched at Event Point: to experience the Lego Serious Play methodology, in a session held at Espaço Atmosfera M, in Porto, with a group of professionals from various areas. The hosts were Rita Oliveira Pelica and Fernanda Freitas, both certified Lego Serious Play facilitators since November 2016. But what is this methodology about? "This methodology is based on design thinking principles and is the ideal tool for problem solving, appealing to the 'builder''s creativity and critical spirit. It's a way to unlock knowledge, through “handstorming” and storybuilding," says Rita de Oliveira Pelica. The word brainstorming is already part of everyone's vocabulary, but here it is a case of “handstorming”.

It is a very practical method, "hands on" as pointed out by the person in charge, and this was proven by the various exercises performed by the group. The table, loaded with Lego pieces, the same that have been delighting generations since the 50's, was a sure invitation to roll up our sleeves and start building. "Lego pieces are used to create metaphors, concepts, business ideas, products and / or services - in a fast, creative and intuitive way," explains Rita de Oliveira Pelica, and the process enables improved communication in teams and organisations, also promoting the performances improvement and learning acquisitions.

"There are no two Lego Serious Play sessions alike," explains Fernanda Freitas. And as a team building tool, "the strong visual, hearing and kinaesthetic appeal allows us to reinforce the bonds between people, through the creation of their stories and the sharing of their narratives - storybuilding and storytelling." This methodology dictates that one begins to work the individual and then moves on to "group collective intelligence", with the creation of a shared model or prototype. With this joint task, "there is a closer relationship between the people in the team, while presenting their perspectives, insights and 'pains'", says Fernanda Freitas. She also points out that the shared model is very democratic, since all the participants intervene in its construction. This way, "there is a trusting environment, a comfort zone in which this emotional bond ends up generating commitment and engagement. People are creating content, that is, the final result is their own product."

Event Point's group did not have a specific problem to work on, it was a methodology presentation session. But Lego Serious Play allows you to intervene in several areas. "In our case, and considering our background, we have been investing in: recruitment and selection processes; (internal and external) communication, organisational culture; participatory leadership; personal branding; problem solving; team building; employer branding; talent retention; and strategy definition", lists Rita Oliveira Pelica. Groups can go up to 15 people, ideally. "Above that, the methodology's intimacy is lost a bit," insists Fernanda Freitas. In larger groups, the two facilitators work together because "all the people in the teams want to experience it and it makes sense that they do it simultaneously".

In a slightly more relaxed session, such as the one Event Point had access to, surprising results were possible. In addition to a continuous interior reflection, it was interesting to note that no construction was done at random. Each piece and every action had a clear meaning. Facilitators were essential in the process that culminated in a shared model, where an attempt was made to respond to a fictitious hotel problem. Both can be contacted via LinkedIn and Facebook.

Four questions to Fernanda Freitas (FF) and Rita Oliveira Pelica (ROP)

What is the facilitator's role?

ROP: If we understand facilitation as the art of orienting towards a solution, in a neutral way, the role of the facilitator will be to promote the creation of opportunities for debate and discussion, in which all the participants can contribute in order to achieve a mutual understanding about the result to be obtained; guide a group towards a collective goal, stimulating collaborative action; guide to what is really important, involving all participants in the generative process of solutions with impact. That is, facilitators ensure the involvement and participation of the participants and guarantee the appropriate results in that situation. This is exactly the concern of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF): to professionalise the role of the facilitator, not only in business and academic environments, but also in non-profit organisations.

How important is it to involve CEOs or top management in actions like this?

FF: Similar to what happens in other decision-making processes, when management is involved and committed to issues, they are more quickly unblocked in the organisation. In this case, being a very experiential methodology, we start by involving management in a demo session. Only then can you sense and perceive the actual outcomes from Lego Serious Play sessions. And it may make sense, in some cases, for management to join in the sessions being held for their teams.

What has been the reaction from companies that have tried these sessions with you? What about employees?

FF: When they come to us, companies are looking for something different. They seek to leave the "normal" registers of training and events. We have been able to integrate these two perspectives very well: the "fun" side with the pedagogical one. For example, at Christmas and the beginning of the year (Kick Offs) we held reflection and celebration sessions with Lego Serious Play. There are people and teams that have real "ahah moments", discover skills and talents that have not yet been revealed or even some ideas and projects that end up coming out of the drawer. The sessions are always documented with photos and videos of both the models built and the Team. The effort and sophistication demonstrated in the constructions and the smiling faces do not deceive.

Are there any success stories you can share about your Lego Serious Play sessions?

ROP: All the sessions result in stories to tell. The power of imagination and "hands" is incredible. In one of the last sessions we had, one of the people who was in the transition process prototyped their new business and said: "I just created my company!" It is very rewarding to see the impact these actions have on the lives of people and teams. I hope we can continue to make a difference!