Phillipp works at a large consulting firm in Abu Dhabi. He flew to London in October 2018. A week after completing his training and certification Phillipp ran his first workshop. His objective was "to understand different meanings of 'identity' and create a common, group understanding".
I’m Philipp Rosenthal, a Sustainability Consultant that supports clients in the development of Sustainability Strategies, the implementation of associated programs and the reporting of non-financial disclosures. As a Clean-Tech engineer by background, I understand the importance of clear definitions so that everybody is on the same page. For years, however, I have struggled as many times clients have different levels of understanding of “Sustainability”. It could simply mean too many things. The term is too large, too all-encompassing. With LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, I want to tackle the problem that there is a lack of mutual understanding.
In my work helping develop of sustainability strategies, we ask our clients and thier stakeholders to prioritise which sustainability topics are the most important. It is here that the differences of understanding of a sustainability topic creates suboptimal outcomes.
In my view, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is especially powerful in this context as companies face a wide range of requirements and expectations that are sometimes hard to clearly define. Creating small 3D models can bring the topic to life, bond participants to a shared understanding and help bringing this important topic to the top of a company’s agenda.
Facilitating these workshops is an art that I was happy to be introduced to by Sean and Caroline from SERIOUSWORK. But similarly to other skills, facilitation is a muscle that needs constant training.
As suggested by Sean, I chose to conduct my first group session in a low-risk environment. My wife and son, who I have tested the methodology with before, are already adamant believers in this powerful approach to communication and they did not want to miss the opportunity to join in as well.
My first workshop: Exploring meaning and identity
I started with the usual Skills Build 1 & 2 and then chose to ask the participants to build a model about themselves, disclosing something that the others 'don’t know about you'. The group consisted of two pairs from different friend circles. They had met before only once but generally do not know each other well. I chose a more personal question for the Skills Build 3 so that it gets a little bit more personal before we dived into the main topic. After everybody built and shared, I encouraged curiosity by asking a few questions.
We then moved on into the main topic. I posed the build question: “Build a model of what “identity” means to you.” and gave 5 minutes building time. I was then very surprised by the some of the sophisticated answers that were shared.
We reflected briefly on some of the common themes before I asked the group to build a shared model of the group’s mutual understanding of the term. It is here, where things really kicked-off. I could see the “analytical” personalities opening up, everybody leaning in and they jointly created an impressive model of what “identity” means to them.
At the end, I asked the group for some feedback and was stunned. “This is an amazing approach to bring every view into a discussion.” This was mentioned by a usually more quite, analytical character. “I loved to see the different representations of the other participants and by building a shared model and co-creating, I have learned not only about “identity” but also got to know new people.”
Below timelapse shows a social gathering with the objective to create a shared understanding of what "identity" means to the group.
This was, of course, only the beginning. I have created the Facebook Group (“Abu Dhabi LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®”), a focused Instagram account (@Philipp_plays), am sharing content on LinkedIn and am currently setting up the Abu Dhabi Meetup. Then, I am creating Go-2-Market materials to bring this to my clients but before that, I will run a session for my team to update our team’s vision. There is lot’s to do.
Thanks, Sean and Caroline. It is not only this innovative methodology but also your mastery in teaching – from curating a group of excellent individuals to executing a thoughtful training experience – that has made this an exceptional first step in a journey.
Note from Trainer Sean Blair: Well done Phillip - It's great to see you helping groups exploring meaning. This really is one of the power features of LEGO Serious Play. It's never the words that matter (written or verbal) but always the meaning. An inspiring story, thanks for sharing.
Jesse works at Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong and flew to London in October 2018 with his colleague Christina. A couple of days after completing his training and certification (and flying back to Hong Kong!) Jesse ran his first workshop.
Jesse has kindly allowed us to share the email he wrote to the other graduates of his class, reporting on his first workshop.
Email From: Jesse Lui
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2018 12:14 PM
To: Graduates of SERIOUSWORK London Training 25-26 October.
Hope you had a good weekend and got some rest. Christina went on to a holiday and I traveled back just in time to return to work on Monday :)
I had my pilot workshop with my team here, which went great!
We ran the skills build exercises:
After all the skills builds, participants worked on individual model of our greatest customer experiences.
Then participants worked on a shared model of our greatest customer experiences.
What was encouraging were their reflections. I came away from the training fully believing in the method. The spontaneous responses of my team gave me a boost of confidence. If you’re interested, take a look at the last page of the deck I built to capture yesterday’s workshop (below).
Keep in touch, everyone! Look forward to hearing your stories on what you are learning from applying LSP!
Miss you guys already!
Note from Trainer Sean Blair:
Well done Jesse - That's a record!
Just 3 days (over a weekend and an international flight!!) before facilitating your first workshop, that's getting into practice right away, the very best way to embed the skills leant on your training. Thanks for sharing!
Two weeks after our September training course four graduates shared their reflections.
"Literally seven days after our training, I facilitated my first LEGO® Serious Play® strategic workshop. I can’t imagine any other training program that would’ve given me the skills, resources and confidence to run my own session (with a fully fledged paying client!) within such a short timeframe."
Arief Abraham, Principle Voyager Consulting
"KERPOW!!! Is the only way I could describe the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Training delivered by SERIOUSWORK. Too often training courses are drab theoretical affairs, not this one, right from the beginning we were hands on, learning by failing fast! As an practised facilitator I’ve never experienced or observed the depth of engagement and organisation development that LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® enables, this has proven true not only in the training environment but with a live client."
Nick Richmond, Director, Tricordant Ltd
"I will be forever grateful that I chose to train as a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Facilitator with Sean and SERIOUSWORK. I had looked at the four-day course but it seemed very theoretical and who wants to just look at Lego? This was one of these best training courses I have ever been on. The training is immersive, hands-on, builds confidence and I left ready to take this fun, creative and fabulous tool into my business to support my clients. Only wish I had discovered it sooner!"
Sonja Gibson, Founder, Wild Orange Wellbeing
"Yesterday I completed the Lego Serious Play facilitator training designed, developed and led by Sean. One word...WOW! What an informative, supportive, innovative, creative, exciting and valuable 2 days! It is clear that Sean is a gifted facilitator and trainer and his generosity in sharing this wonderful knowledge and experience with the group was felt by us all. I have come away from this course not only with an awesome tool in Lego Serious Play but also with a hugely improved set of facilitation skills. It was clear how much time, attention and care Sean has put into designing this course and to leave having such wonderful practical and hands on experience allows us all to venture into the world not just with a certificate but with the true ability and confidence to lead some awesome workshops using this incredibly powerful tool."
Rebecca Godfrey, Team, Leadership & Pharmacovigilance Consultant
Thanks to Arief, Sonja, Nick and Rebecca for your kind comments.
A model built by participants on a SeriousWork in-house Lego Serious Play training course to explain the fundamental skills needed to facilitate Lego Serious Play. The process was also facilitated by the course participants. (The build question was "Build a model to show the fundamental or key skills you need to facilitate Lego Serious Play".)
Learn how to facilitate like these students here. With many thanks to IDB, especially Carolina who is telling the story.
Knowledge, Innovation and Communication team
Inter American Development Bank
Regarding the training, the outcome was more than we expected. It was hands-on, and thoroughly enjoyable; Sean gave us examples that were relevant to our corporate mission. And most importantly, he not only demonstrated complete mastery in the use of the methodology, but also provided powerful insights beyond his book and material.
In addition to the training, Sean run two strategic planning workshops: i) with our management team and, ii) with our whole sector consisting of about 150 participants. He took the time to understand well our organization, its challenges during the merger of three units, and was fully committed to deliver an exceptional service. Sean is an engaging and effective communicator, who establishes a customer driven experience from the very beginning. Outstanding facilitator, always positive, and with a pleasant disposition. Thank you so very much Sean. It was a genuine pleasure to work with you!"
Graduate Stories: Blog post by Dr Tammy Watchorn, graduate of SeriousWork facilitator training.
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) I 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?
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