StrategicPlay® with Lego® SERIOUS PLAY®

StrategicPlay® with Lego® SERIOUS PLAY® is a powerful experiential tool to enhance innovation and business results.

Solve Complex Problems

The key strength of StrategicPlay® is that it allows groups to create a shared understanding of complex problems and of each other. Consider the complex model constructed below that was evolved iteratively over the course of the day through phases of building, storytelling, and integration. The model has immense value through the meaning the participant invented as they collaboratively created.

Applications and How it Works

Consider the diagram below. The ovals identify some typical applications of StrategicPlay®:

  • Innovation and product development
  • Strategy development
  • Team and organizational development

Below them you can see the mechanisms used to achieve these results.

Why it Works

Below are some of the key reasons why StrategicPlay® works so well (Please click image to for full-size picture.)  The key reasons why it works so well are that it:

  1. Supports difficult conversation by talking about the model, not the person.
  2. People tell stories that connect with the emotional system and not just logical thinking.
  3. Groups can work effectively with a great deal of complexity using the models they create.
  4. Everyone participates and contributes.
  5. Psychology supports using hands for problem solving and engaging both hemispheres of the brain.
  6. Although play is fun, it also builds social relationships and emotional buy-in.

StrategicPlay® is based on research that shows that this kind of hands-on, minds-on learning produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its possibilities. It creates the perfect storm by engaging the brain, body, and emotions of the participants.

On the right is a crazy picture of a homunculus to help you connect with some of the research. This how psychologists believe our brain is connected with our body. Notice that connections with hands is disproportionately large – when we use our hands, we can use more of our brain. We are wired for using our hands, not for sitting around a table talking.

Building is Fun

Everyone builds a model at the same time. And let’s face it, Lego is fun. People get absorbed in the activity and enter a state of flow. There is instrumental music playing in the background and participants generally follow the rule of no talking so their full attention is on building. This is typically a period of intense concentration as people puzzle and introspect to create meaning.

Sharing Models

During model sharing, each person explains their model. There is lot’s of pointing and hand gestures as people tell deep, insightful stories about their models. Here is an example:

Creating a Shared Model

One very powerful activity in StrategicPlay® is to create a shared model on a topic:

  1. Every team member builds a model representing their ideas.
  2. In turn, each team member shared their ideas through the Lego model.
  3. The models and ideas were integrated into a shared model that integrates the core concept of everyone individual models.
Here are some examples:

What to participants have to say about it?

  • Innovation, Stimulating, Insightful. Delivery was visual, tactile, respectful, collaborative, and fun!!!” – Jeff Anderson, Deloitte Lean Lead
  • Fun, Educational, Engaging. Great facilitation! Michael very quickly stepped in to clarify the rules of engagement.” – Jason Cheung-Kee-You
  • Insightful, Deep, Engaging. I liked Michael being non-judgmental and using open-ended questions. Facilitation allowed for creativity to flourish.” – Siraj Berhan, Agile Coach and Process Consultant
  • Load’s of fun, Insightful. Gentle but forceful facilitation; Michael kept us on track. Lego kept us on track too.” – Alistair McKinnell, Consultant
  • Surprising, A lot of Fun, Incredibly freeing. I liked clear guidance on how to ask questions when conversations wandered off topic, and how long to spend building.” – Sam DeBoni
  • Fun, Surprising, Revealing. I liked the light atmosphere, keeping on track, and discussing the model.” – Todd Charron, Agile Coach

 Where did this stuff come from?

Starting in 1999, the Lego® company worked with business consultants and psychologists to solve their own problem of developing and effective company strategy. The outcome was the invention of Lego® SERIOUS PLAY® which was made open source in in June, 2010. StrategicPlay® was created to develop new applications and train facilitators. If you are curious, check out this presentation on the History and Evolution ofStrategicPlay®.

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