Horváth Innovation Insights

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® - Businesspeople who play with bricks?

Repeatedly, pictures of seasoned businesspeople in suits or pencil skirts appear on LinkedIn or Xing, standing around a table full of Lego bricks, with a wall of post-its next to them. Is this just a phenome-non preached by agile coaches and New Work apostles? The fact that the LEGO®-SERIOUS-PLAY® method was developed by scientists suggests that there is more to this.

What is hidden behind the myth?

Contrary to what the propagated images of workshops behind modern glass facades and rough cement walls might suggest, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® was developed back in 1996. The intention was to disrupt classic strategy processes and bring more creative ideas to light. Together with two professors, Kjeld Kirk, then CEO of the Lego Group, they used an iterative process of eight years that transformed the method into what we know today.

But what exactly do we know today? The concept of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® comprises a set of diverse Lego bricks - from classic plates and building blocks to textile connecting pieces, animals, people and vehicles - and a so-called facilitator, the moderator, who supports the process as an outsider. The method involves working on serious issues in a playful way and developing new thoughts along the process. Complex problems become more tangible with the help of metaphors, built from bricks, and serve as a basis for group discussion, knowledge sharing and problem solving. They help to foster creative thinking and to find unique solutions.

Develop completely new insights in just a few hours

A typical LEGO®-SERIOUS-PLAY® workshop is divided into four specific phases:

1. Introduction by the facilitator.
The facilitator briefly introduces the workshop procedure, explains the method, and provides an initial framework with the basic rules for working with the bricks.

2. Warm-up phase
In order to get familiar with the stones and to get an overview of the different elements, simple figures are constructed. The hands are "warmed up", so to speak. With each new assignment, the participants get closer to the core theme of the workshop.

3. Metaphorical building rounds
After a first assignment or first questions by the facilitator, the workshop participants build models with the available bricks in reference to it. What’s important here is that it is neither the best nor the most beautiful result that counts, but rather the background story behind it. A short presentation of this background story follows. For example, a large wall can be built between a company's customers and its employees, or an elephant blocking a bridge, symbolizing the company's resistance to new ideas. The results and insights that emerge are reflected and enriched in the group. Depending on the question, further building rounds will follow, initiated by new or further questions.

4. Recording of the findings
The ideas and insights generated in the construction rounds are traced back to the underlying question and a reference to the real situation is established. The results are recorded textually as well as via pictures of the models.

With the help of this method, limitations that often exist in reality are reconsidered. This makes LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® valuable - especially for strategy development and innovation projects.

A Lego box full of (unexpected) possibilities

Six scientific papers alone have been published on how LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® works. These papers explain the success of the method on the basis of four fundamental pillars: Constructivism, Game, Imagination and Identity. There is hardly any other process that has a more stimulating effect on all these four elements which is the secret behind the bricks. A variety of added values are created as a result of this interplay:

1. The bricks serve as a communication platform. Since words often have different connotations for different people (groups), Lego bricks can enhance the understanding and transparency of the content behind the words. In addition, the bricks have an integrative effect on the communication process - even for those workshop participants who otherwise rarely get a chance to speak or who do not dare to address challenges openly.

2 LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a group process in which everyone is involved. All participants are part of the building process and share their ideas. This type of elaboration creates a common, unified understanding of the problem and its solution, increases readiness for later implementation and identification with the outcome.

3 The physical component of model building should not be underestimated. Tangible models help to highlight previously unconsidered aspects of issues or solution approaches. Ideas, strategies, and business models are generated in a physical, haptic form and can be tested mentally in a second step.

4. The main motivation for the selection of the method lies usually in the most obvious advantage: the creativity increase. Especially due to the combination of the world of thoughts and imagination with manual constructivism, completely new ideas and approaches emerge, which would have remained undiscovered under other circumstances.

Horváth & Partners Innovation Services

In summary, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is particularly suitable for decision-making in times of uncertainty, for dealing with complex problems, for creating constructive working atmospheres, for visualizing ideas and for developing new approaches for solutions that involve all participants.

Since the method can be applied in a variety of situations, it cannot be reduced to a specific field of activity. It supports ideation, business model development, development of mission statements and strategies, execution of competitive analyses, visualization of future worlds for scenarios, visualization of customer journeys, change management, team building, testing and generation of product and service ideas as well as the analysis of organizational obstacles.

If you are now curious and would like to see your employees in action with colorful Lego bricks, please contact us. We will inform you about the methodology and successful LEGO®-SERIOUS-PLAY® workshops.