My First Workshops - by Dr Tammy Watchorn

Lego Serious Work…wow…what can I say..

It took me 3 years to sign up for the course. I really wanted to do it but being an AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) thought it might just a faddy thing. Then Will Sudworth who had been on the course and is very much NOT an AFOL told me it was the best thing he’d ever done… so that convinced me.

4 months later I’m thoroughly enjoying myself on the intensive and fabulous course.

2 days later I leave happy and tired with my certificate. Woohoo.

But what next?

A week later I had my first “gig” lined up on the proviso the sponsor knew it was my first outing.

Then an opportunity arose to test it out first on my team.

With Sean’s help (and persuasion) I really planned the first session with my team to the nth degree (down to minutes on the detailed design). I spent a fair bit of time on the question and bounced it back and forth with the sponsor and Sean until we had the right question. But deep down I knew it was the wrong problem so anticipated it not all going to plan….

And it didn’t. But what did I learn?

A detailed plan (with notes) is a MUST – and it takes so much of the pressure off enabling you to focus on facilitating the people and not worrying about the process. It means you go into the session confident in what you are going to do (no blagging it).

Sitting down for the entirety – not great for energy and can leave those at the “edge” of a table on the “edge” of the activity.

It’s OK to veer off plan if it’s not working – I did try this, but the group were adamant we were on track and choose to continue – but through facilitating the people and picking up on where everyone was I could predict where it was going to go wrong and question and challenge some key bits to allow them to come together as a group on why it wasn’t working.

On reflection the things I expected to not work didn’t work because we were working on the wrong problem (you can see from the image it’s a very basic model which I think was due to them not being able to answer well the challenge question).

But what the process did do was demonstrate what the real problem the team had and for the first time I think align themselves on this to enable them to articulate and agree an action plan. So not all bad and a nice safe way to practice.

Two weeks later was the big “gig” between third sector organisations and hosted by ALLIANCE Scotland who were looking for user centric solutions and ideas to support collaborative digital activities.

So what did I do? I repeated all the good stuff from round 1. Spent a bit longer on reflection between each section to ensure they understood bricks as metaphors and were able to listen with their eyes (something I’d rushed in round 1). Got them standing for some bits and moving away the chairs. Let them start their shared build and left them for a few minutes, then challenged them on their “talking” rather than mediating through bricks.

The outcome – Wow… the sponsor created a video that is being shared across the wider network – no writing up, no documents, just telling the story and seeking feedback from those that weren’t present. The sponsors boss came to see the final story telling and had a big grin on his face. People were peering in through the glass door eager to join us. The group who had never met each other before had developed “their” desired solution together. They had aligned themselves on their collective needs and could all tell the same story. They all went away with a big grin on their faces and full of energy (as did I)…

Not bad for a couple of hours effort on a Monday afternoon in Glasgow.

What next for me? Seeking opportunities to do more…. Will Sudworth – are you reading this?

#LEGOHACK 5: Duplo to LEGO

In many workshops participants struggle to connect LEGO bricks to Duplo bricks. They do connect. The big studs on a Duplo brick need one or more regular 4x2 stud LEGO brick (two orange bricks in the picture) to 'convert' the top of the Duplo brick into the smaller stud pitch of LEGO bricks. The bottom of Duplo bricks are such that they will connect to LEGO base plates (grey in the photo).

These hacks are intended for new facilitators of the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method, so you can help participants make the connections they want. On longer duration workshops you might include these hacks in a skills build to ensure participants have the skills to make many different kinds of connection or build.

#LEGOHack 4: Flexible axle-head

Sometimes builders want to express shared ideas, people connecting, thinking the same, being aligned etc.

The flexible axle found in the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Starter Kit and the much bigger Landscape and Identity Kit can be used in many ways, this simple hack is a good way to use this brick.

To play or not to play? Report from my first workshop

Graduate Stories: Blog post by Trevor Ray, graduate of SeriousWork facilitator training.

To be blunt, when I first heard of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® I had pretty mixed feelings. On the one hand I am a firm believer in people having fun whilst they learn, on the other I was concerned whether using children’s building blocks would cross the line too far into play and loose learning impact.

In his essay “Some Paradoxes in the Definition of Play,” psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (see footnote) described play as "a subset of life..., an arrangement in which one can practice behaviour without dreading its consequences" – isn’t that exactly what a good training programme does? A well facilitated course enables participants to practise new skills, behaviours and attitudes in the safety of a training room where there are no ‘dreaded consequences.’

In my first workshop that I faciliated this week for a cleaning company, the initial attitude to seeing packs of LEGO® bricks on the table was very similar to my own mixed feelings a year or so ago. But as participants began to use the bricks, this scepticism quickly faded into very active engagement from everyone – even those that have previously failed to participate in more traditional courses.

By the end of the workshop, the room was absolutely buzzing with excitement and more importantly – with very positive outcomes for the team and company as a whole, including:

  • Those that were quieter and felt ‘bit parts’ in the service had a new sense of value and worth as they understood how important their ‘small’ part in the process was
  • A previously poorly engaged member of staff has shown a radical improvement in his teamwork and therefore in his team’s efficacy
  • Greater shared understanding of the roles of different departments within the organisation and how they are all striving for the same goal i.e. delighted customers
  • A shared vision, across all departments, as to what ‘excellent’ looks like
  • A shared understanding of both positive and negative behaviours that will impact their service vision

I could go on!

The simple fact is that by using something that is simple, that everyone understands and that is inclusive and engaging, every member of staff now sees their value in the organisation, sees how important their individual role is and shares in the company vision.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1981). Some paradoxes in the definition of play. In Cheska, A.T. (Ed.). Play as context.

The one minute Tower Energiser

The best workshops use changes in pace and energy to get the best from participants.

If your attendees look a bit drained after an intense task then try the one minute Tower Energiser.

At a suitable point between tasks give participants one minute to build the tallest tower they can from the LEGO on their table. Frame the task as a competition between tables - the tower should be free standing - no planing is needed - just jump in and do it - 3, 2, 1 GO!

Giving a countdown during the build "30 seconds gone", "10 seconds remaining..." will heighten to the participants sense of urgency. You'll find that the group is suddenly buzzing with energy, and this brief competitive interlude will generate excitement. Deciding the winners of the task may also awaken friendly rivalries that stimulate team bonding and cohesion.

This simple activity is one of our favourite ways of injecting fun and energy - let us know how it works for you!

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My First Workshops - by Dr Tammy Watchorn
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SeriousWork uses the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method described in the LEGO Group Open Source Guide made available by LEGO under a Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution Share Alike’

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