“Your hand-bone is linked to your brain-bone”. That’s what Robert Rasmussen, our Lego Serious Play (LSP) Trainer, would repeatedly say. And it would seem that there’s something that happens when we start building something. What’s intangible starts to take form, we start to be able to see more clearly what was abstract, and we start to own what we have created. But that’s not what amazed me the most. What amazed me the most was how by constructing a model, people are able to tap into their unconscious knowledge and bring it up to the surface.
The basics of the Lego Serious Play (LSP) Methodology are extremely simple:
- Pose a question
- Build a model
- Share your model
- Ask and Reflect
Of course, we learnt about 7 different application techniques, but sometimes we make things a lot more complicated than they need to be. Shortly after my certification, I decided to demonstrate how LSP can be used with my best friend and his wife. Let’s call her Jane for the purpose of this post.
One of the quickest activities we can do is to build a duck. Here is an example of a duck that I built after my certification to represent how I was looking back and reflecting on my past experience.
So I decided to get Jane to build a duck. She told me she didn’t have positive experiences with Lego (what??) and she proceeded to put two bricks together flippantly, and with the most disinterested tone I’ve ever heard, declared, “Done”. This doesn’t seem to be working well, I thought. Nonetheless, I decided to press on.
I asked about her thought process behind constructing the duck. She said she just wanted to use a minimal number of bricks to build it, and repeated that she wasn’t really interested in Lego. The most I could draw out from her during the questioning was that she prefers using minimal effort to do things.
Well, if building a duck doesn’t work, let’s try building a tower. That didn’t get much results either, although I managed to draw out some other personality traits from her. For example, since I drew links to how she seems to have a minimalist approach towards doing things from the way she approach the building of the tower.
From these two examples, my best friend and Jane inferred that the purpose of LSP was to draw out their personalities. While we can certainly use LSP for this purpose, it doesn’t really demonstrate the power of the LSP Methodology.
So in my final effort to take things further, I demonstrated how we could build a Lego model to represent “A best day at work”, and how each brick could be used metaphorically to tell a story. While I was sharing my story, she took the remaining bricks and promptly started building her own model! Without my prompting, she proudly declared, “This is my best day at work!”
It seemed like something shifted in her when I started sharing on my own model.
“The gray stack of bricks represents my clients. The different directions they’re facing represents the revolving door; the coming in and going out. Some of them are challenging to deal with. That’s how it starts out. The colorful combinations of bricks on top of the gray bricks represents how I feel when I’m able to make a difference in their lives and help them progress.”
In case you are wondering, Jane’s a physiotherapist and she gets some really nasty clients from time to time.
So we got through steps 1 to 3. Reflection time!
Me: Does it mean anything that your gray bricks are stacked one on top of the other?
Jane: Hmm.. yes. It shows that the load is very heavy, and I need to carry that load!
Me: Does it mean anything that you have to hold the model up, and it is balancing on that gray stack?
Jane: Yes! It’s like I have to balance this load and it is very tiring for me. So it is better if I could do this… (Proceeds to remove the gray stack below). If I could have fewer clients, and focus on helping the clients I have to improve, that would really be great for me!
She went from being totally disinterested to getting new insights from a model that she had built herself. She later recognized that the building of the lego model was very useful because she had built some elements subconsciously, and meaning was drawn out from the model in the reflecting process. The whole process took about 10-15 minutes – including the introductory build-a-duck and build-a-tower. In that short time, I managed to transform a disinterested participant into a fully engaged one eager to share her story, gaining new insights in the process.
That’s not all.
She turned to her husband and started explaining how this is related to her career plans, and how she needs to “balance the gray stack”. Her husband, who had been listening to her story, now fully understood what she is referring to. “Balance the gray stack” became a metaphor that both of them understood and could quickly relate to. Herein lies the power of LSP: It increases understanding between people and creates metaphors that act as anchors, allowing us to quickly return to the same understanding.
This brief example barely scratches the surface regarding what we can do with the LSP Methodology. But it has clearly shown me the power of constructing a model with your hands and sharing about it.
Perhaps the next time you have something to communicate or a problem you want to address, it’s time to dig out those Lego bricks (you can use those belonging to your children), and start building a model.