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All children are born artists by Sirte Pihlaja

We need a more experimental, startup mentality to disrupt our old ways of thinking and doing in today’s business world. The best way to achieve this is to inspire creativity and build a sense of empowerment in our co-workers by bringing more PLAY into our organisations.

We are all born creative. We don’t grow into creativity, but instead, end up growing out of it. During all of our education, schools teach us convergent thinking, which drains divergent thinking - CREATIVITY - out of us.

“Children have an extraordinary capacity in creativity. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. They are not frightened to be wrong. That’s not to say being wrong is creativity in itself. But if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you have no capacity to come up with anything original”, as Sir Ken Robinson warns us.

Most adults fear being wrong and making mistakes. Similarly, most companies want to play it safe, or rather they don’t want to play at all. Unfortunately, that’s not enough anymore. We need to re-think our purpose, and whether that purpose is even relevant anymore to our customers and employees.


“All children are born artists.

The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”

- Pablo Picasso


The future seems more uncertain than ever, so we all need to seek out that creative five-year-old within us to see positive effects play out. We need PLAY in business to do just that. We need to start looking at things through a playful lens, that lets us think out of the box and gives our brain a hand.


Happy people think about others

Play helps us connect with the people around us, and can bring about a new wave of valuing other people, relationships, and supporting each other in business. It leads to lower levels of stress and healthier and more engaged employees. These are all signs of a forward-looking company.

Play is often associated with happiness, joy and having fun. In a business that has instilled play, people are allowed to experiment, find their “flow” effortlessly, and take creative risks. When it is ok to fail, the whole organisation learns and succeeds faster, propelling business growth, profits, and success.

People need to be HAPPY, so they care about delivering happiness to others. Without happy employees, you cannot have great customer experiences. In a company culture that advocates for play, people feel refreshed and energised, and learning and creativity get a boost. A playful organisation has motivated and committed employees, who are inspired, have fun together and perform better as a team.

Play has an essential role in business, as it puts us in the right mindset and allows us space to think differently - to be CREATIVE. As the need to introduce more creativity in an organisation is vital to its well-being, it’s time to PLAY. Seriously.


Ingrain play into your working habits


Play is not about external facilities like building a “creative environment” for your employees. Especially now, since almost everything happens online, it should be about the ways of working. So, the only investment you need to make might very well be between your ears.

Enter LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP), a creative methodology, initially created by the LEGO® Group for themselves, and later on open-sourced and applied to many different domains and disciplines. We’ve designed our application (http://www.cxplay.fi) to help understand change and ease transformation in the realm of People Experiences. LSP has also been translated to the online so that attendees can join the sessions from all over the world.

Using LSP, you can imagine a new story for your organisation, brick by brick. Through building your individual models and constructing shared ones, you may start by re-defining your purpose or create the strategy you need to reach that purpose. You can re-imagine new audiences and their customer journeys with your company, as well as do market research studies with existing ones. Just pick your bricks and tell your story.

You can also depict the various agents that affect the future of your organisation. But it doesn’t stop there. You can, together with your team, ideate and evaluate all the different scenarios that your people working in customer-facing roles might encounter. That allows you to create simple guiding principles, which empower everyone to do the right thing. Always.


Become the story you are building

There are numerous ways in which you can benefit in practice from a creative methodology, such as LEGO® Serious Play®. Most importantly, LSP skyrockets the capacity of your organisation to plan and prepare for the future by fast-tracking the discussions you need to have to make these scenarios and decisions possible. It lets you literally play all of them out before they happen.

The playful atmosphere in LSP workshops creates a sense of safety - an environment where everyone feels comfortable to share their experiences and innermost thoughts. It also provides an energising context for you to co-create and bring to life People Experiences, together with your colleagues and customers.

And just like kids become part of their story, instead of just telling that story to you, your co-creators internalise the shared ideas when they play. They learn and remember better, and implementing these experiences becomes much simpler and quicker as everyone has already invested themselves in the concepts discussed.

LSP is a serious tool for facilitating change. It reignites our innate creativity and directs the artist within us to create wonderful, new masterpieces to ensure our sustainable business growth also in the future. So...are you ready to find that five-year-old within yourself? Get ready, get serious, PLAY!

- - -

This blog post is republished with permission from Shirute Ltd. It has been originally posted at https://www.shirute.fi/en/blogs/all-children-are-born-artists.

Sirte Pihlaja (Certified Customer Experience Professional, LEGO® Serious Play® Trained Facilitator) is the CEO of Shirute, the first customer experience agency in Finland. She heads the activities of the global Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) in Finland. An internationally known CX/EX expert, coach, designer and strategist, she has over 25 years of experience in advising large international corporations and brands in different industries. Sirte is known for translating customer understanding to concrete actions and results in a fast and cost-efficient way. She is especially fond of creative methodologies and regularly plays with LEGO bricks together with her clients.

Sirte recently wrote about LEGO® Serious Play® in her globally best-selling book Customer Experience 2, co-authored by 24 highly experienced international CX professionals (http://bit.ly/cx2book).

#FacWeek and #Book launch. Martin Gilbraith's introduces 'How to Facilitate the LEGO® Serious Play® Method ONLINE'

Yay! #BookLaunchDay on the first day of #FacWeek.

So to get our week going we are sharing Martin Gilbraith (a CPF Master and International Association of Facilitators 'Hall of Fame' inductee) to provide the critical context on what a facilitator is and does.

He's also nice about our new book, ONLINE launched today.

I started out as a facilitator in 1986, with my first training in the ICA ‘Technology of Participation’ (ToP) methodology that has been my facilitation speciality ever since.

I have been providing facilitation and facilitation training professionally to a wide range of clients since 1997, became an CertifiedTM Professional Facilitator (CPF) of the International Association of Facilitators in 2008 and was inducted into the IAF Hall of Fame in 2014, then became CPF | Master this year in 2020.

All of this time I have worked remotely, in and with geographically distributed groups, as well as face-to-face. I have been using online technology in this work for as long as it has been available.

I have never sought to make online facilitation a particular speciality, however – until now, of course. I have not made LEGO® Serious Play® a speciality either, in spite of having enjoyed a long and distinguished early childhood career in LEGO®! I believe that a facilitator is first a facilitator, and only second an online facilitator or a LEGO Serious Play facilitator. I believe that the keys to mastering facilitation lie in the values and the stance of the facilitator, the competencies and the disciplines, rather than the space or the platform, the methods or the tools.

Nevertheless, I am excited to commend to you this book ‘How To Facilitate Meetings & Workshops Using The LEGO® Serious Play® Method Online’.

Here are three reasons why.

I know Sean, and that he is a competent, experienced and accomplished facilitator. Questions are the primary tool of every facilitator, and I know that he asks good questions and that he asks them well. In an early meetup of IAF England & Wales, in London in perhaps 2013, he posed the question:

“Is there such a thing as a universal principle of facilitation?”

It didn’t take me long to think and respond that, in my own facilitation at least, there is certainly something approaching that - the ‘ORID’ model underlies of the ToP Focused Conversation method and the ToP methodology as a whole.

I know that Sean has since integrated this approach in his practice, and in his previous book ‘Mastering The LEGO Serious Play Method’.

I was sufficiently inspired by the metaphor of ORID as a universal principle that I blogged about it then and have used it in my training ever since.

Many facilitators have rapidly developed a speciality in working online this year, as Sean and I have as well. Some have done so more quickly and easily than others, and some with greater enthusiasm. Most, in my experience, have had reservations about some of the very real limitations of online facilitation. Only recently I think more of us are becoming belatedly more aware of some equally real limitations of face-to-face, and some real advantages of working online.

So, it is not only LEGO Serious Play practitioners that might take heart and find inspiration in the many innovations that Sean shares in this book. There is much here for all of us to learn from - not least, the rigour and creativity with which he has designed ‘a digital process that uses bricks’ [substitute your preferred tool or method here] ‘rather than an analogue process poorly rendered online’.

I’ve heard it said that, in online facilitation, every participant brings their share of the meeting room with them. This is a challenge for LEGO Serious Play practitioners perhaps more than most, and one to which this book rises admirably.

As Sean makes clear in his Guiding Principles, success in achieving outcomes rather than just engagement through facilitation comes largely from the planning and preparation, and from the capacity to divert nimbly from the plan when the moment requires improvisation.

All of this can be considerably more complex and difficult online than face-to-face. So, if this is what can be done with LEGO Serious Play, think what else can be possible online!

Finally, we are in the midst of a climate emergency, as well as a public health emergency. I believe that the two are not unrelated, and that they demand new ways of connecting, communicating and collaborating that are less carbon intensive as well as more COVID-19 secure, and that are more creative, compassionate and empowering as well. I believe that facilitation has a central role to play on the latter, with bricks as well as without, and that designing and delivering facilitation well online must play a part on the former.

I have witnessed an extraordinary flourishing of creativity and innovation among facilitators in response to the pandemic and lockdown of recent months, and an extraordinary generosity of sharing of it as well – largely, of course, online.

I am delighted to see this valuable and timely new book enter the fray, and just in time for International Facilitation Week! I am proud to be able to welcome you to it, and grateful to Sean for sharing it.

Martin Gilbraith, London UK, October 2020

linkedin.com/in/martingilbraith

How COVID-19 created our new book ONLINE

Here's the back story to our new book.

March 2020 was set to be a busy month for me, my schedule included system model workshop, a trip to France and two trips to the USA.

On Wednesday March 11th, I caught the early morning Eurostar train from London to Paris. The COVID-19 crisis was escalating but the attitude to the virus in the UK in early March was still relaxed. I got back from Paris late afternoon. The next day the US Government announced a travel ban from the EU to the USA, except UK and Ireland...

Let's wind the clock back a few months. In December 2019, I had been invited to pitch to train a very senior group of men and women in a leadership academy in a branch of the US Military. Accordingly I had spent a good chunk of the previous three months in the most complex contracting I had ever been involved with (how does a document running to 55 pages and 37000 words sound?).

Having finally agreed a contract, on March 2nd, that day I booked to fly to Washington DC for a 4 day training week commencing March 16th. At the time of booking, the decision to travel to the USA felt safe.

Fast forwards, and pick up the story. So the day after I got back from Paris, the US Government had issued a travel ban from the EU, but excluding the UK and Ireland. The ban came into force at midnight on March 14th, six hours after I was supposed to land.

I began regretting my trip to France. Legally, I knew I was OK to fly, (virus free?), but was worried my client might cancel the training, because I'd been in Paris. We had a phone call, discussed the situation and decided it was OK. I'd travel the very next day.

Landing in Washington DC on the afternoon of Friday March 13th, I cleared customs, hired a car and drove several hours to the client base. The next day, just after Saturday lunchtime, the US Government extended the travel ban to include the UK, effective Sunday 15th March. Great.

After a call with my family I packed my bags, turned around to travel home, to try and fly six days later could be tricky. So I drove to the airport and caught a flight back to London 24 hours after landing (and as it turned out, my flight home was cancelled).

In the UK, the week that followed saw schools shut. Then on March 2Oth a UK wide lock-down began. My world (along with the millions of others who were ahead of 'the curve'), went crazy.

Sitting here in London, in October 2020 the world has changed. Face-to-face meetings are mostly out, right now the COVID-19 curves are going up again and the economy is not wearing a happy face.

In late March, it took me about a week to understand that things would not return to the 'normal' we had known only days before.

I could either sit at home and wait for normal to return, or I could accept the reality of the situation and embrace change. An insight given to me twenty years ago, helped me resolve what to do next.

'Masters of change, use change to create change'

As a much younger man, I had been fortunate to be taken 'under the wing' of an elder, Michael Frye a lovely and wonderful man. One day, over lunch, he asked me for my definition of 'mastery of change'. Michael was like that, he would ask questions that I'd never even thought about. He then said, 'Masters of change, use change to create change.'

I had never been sure what to do with this insight until March 2020, having been like many in the LEGO® Serious Play® community, sure that online LEGO Serious Play was not possible. I resolved to set my biases to one side and learn from my own experience what was, or was not possible.

With the encouragement of my friend and training associate Jens, and with help from our wonderful graduate community, MeetUp groups and enthusiasts from LinkedIn, we began a series of experiments to learn about the possibilities and limits for online LEGO Serious Play mediated and via online platforms, mostly Zoom and Mural.

The results of these trials surprised me. It turns out there are things that are better when bringing digital tools to LEGO Serious Play facilitation. In the six months since March we have created new techniques to make the LEGO Serious Play Method work extremely well online.

Is it possible? The answer is a resounding yes.

We remain aligned with the core principles of the method and continue to use the ideas that we have written about in our previous two books, SERIOUSWORK and MASTERING.

There are additional techniques and requirements that ONLINE demands. The preparation phase is more complex, for both participants and facilitators. and online requires new skills. Foundation LEGO Serious Play components, like the three stage skills build requires a fourth skills build to be included.

The role the facilitator takes, especially during online shared model building is both different and at its core similar to what happens in the real world.

Our innovation to split the shared model building into new stages, disaggregate, rebuild, 'Magic-hands©" and 'Build-along©' still results in a shared model that people are proud of and feel ownership over.

There have been (and may still be), voices in our community saying online LEGO Serious Play is not possible. They are wrong. It is. And the approaches to online LEGO Serious Play will help cut carbon emissions long after the dark days of COVID-19.

This book has taken six months to write and we've shared drafts with our customers and students whose imagination and unlimited outlook inspires us everytime we pick up bricks. This book is a true act of co-creation, I just asked the question 'what's possible?', and made time to write up our learning.

Sean Blair, London UK, October 2020


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