By Mark Young
President, Rational Games, Inc.
As a serious practitioner of teaching and doing negotiation playfully, I have for some time been intrigued by the apparently rather sophisticated series of training and certification courses on offer from Lego Serious Play. I decided to attend one and so spent several days last week in Vienna learning the method from the highly competent Jens Droege.
First offered to the public in 2002, there is a fair amount of serious empirical research under the method. It makes extensive use of metaphor (what does this stone represent and why?), explores imagination, constructionism and the direct connection between the hand and the brain, and encourages an autotelic enjoyment of games for their own sake.
My take on it: it was well worth the effort. There is lots to like about LSP. It is universal: we all grew up with LEGO and we all get it. It is visual, using the right side of the brain to build models as opposed to formulating positions or arguments. And it is highly collaborative, even when used in situations of conflict. And it is fun!
What I didn’t like so much: I found the pieces (at least in this course) difficult to manipulate and attach. There were far too many of them (the instructor called it “stone soup”). And the method seemed unnecessarily constraining (and not playful): “using the pointer, tap on each stone and explain what it is”.
Nevertheless, I see three clear applications for this in my negotiation and mediation work.
- For organizations (Boards?) doing workshops to formulate strategy and vision LSP is clearly invaluable. It is a far richer discussion when viewing and improving a three-dimensional model of our organization’s future than wordsmithing over mission and value statements.
- For mediations it also has obvious value. Even for parties locked in serious conflict, LSP is playful enough to get them to respond by building their own visual model of the solution and from there synthesizing with that of the other party. There is a fairly elaborate process for this, but I have no doubt that it works.
- For any kind of creativity training, this is a gym session for the right side of the brain. We don’t often think in pictures or colorful plastic models , and learning how to do that does indeed unlock valuable new insights. Great for startups!
On the whole, a very positive experience. Comments welcome!