LEGO® Serious Play® with Liminal Play

Image credit: Amelie Mourichon on Unsplash

Published on 5 May 2021

Origins and evolution of LEGO® Serious Play®

The LEGO Serious Play method is a facilitated meeting, communication and problem-solving process in which participants are led through a series of questions, probing deeper and deeper into the subject. Originally created by Johan Roos and Bart Victor in the late 90’s to reinvigorate strategy development, the method included three specific applications and was limited to licenced partners and facilitators. 

In 2010 the LEGO® group made the method and materials open source under a Creative Commons licence (see footer for details), resulting in widespread evolution of the methodology and an ever-growing number of applications.

A decade on, the crisis of COVID-19 gave me the privilege to be one of the early adapters and adopters of LEGO Serious Play to online environments. Different yet satisfying and effective, online LEGO Serious Play provides an accessible and environmentally-sensitive option for people across the world to come together in meaningful ways.

The Liminal Play approach to LEGO Serious Play

Consciously or unconsciously, every coach and facilitator has their own inner stance. My approach to LEGO Serious Play is informed by the principles of both Gestalt and systemic coaching and constellations. Continually evolving, this stance is characterised by the following key principles: 

1. Seeing the whole

To understand what’s happening in a system, we need to see it. LEGO Serious Play helps people form three dimensional maps of an inner situation and wider systems. Mapping is particularly useful when representing abstract elements of the whole, and allows individuals to see an issue (not just talk about it), enabling distance and perspective.

2. Acknowledging 'what is'

While chasing change is the prevalent mindset within our organisations and wider culture, I draw on Gestalt’s ‘Paradoxical Theory of Change’ which suggests the greater our capacity to engage with the reality of ‘what is’ now, the more readily we can move into the next ‘now’. By intentionally slowing down and focusing on deepening our awareness through the model building process, meaningful change will more naturally arise. 

3. Unlocking new possibilities

The phenomenological stance above supports the restoration of clarity and coherence, enabling problems to be more easily diagnosed, hidden dynamics illuminated, and the resources needed to enable subsequent change identified. 

4. Sharing story

Storytelling is woven into our humanity, helping us to make sense of our lives and feel connected to others. By building and sharing our stories with each other, participants experience a felt sense of being part of something bigger. It also supports greater ‘contact’ – a Gestalt term for the quality of our experience of each other. As well as verbal language, LEGO Serious Play draws on the power of metaphor and symbolism – catalysts for engaging emotion, meaning, senses and creativity – resulting in an approach that integrates both ‘left’ and ‘right’ brain functions.

5. Embodied and experiential

In addition to an integrated mind, the LEGO Serious Play method draws on the premise that answers are ‘already in the room’ and invites us to also ‘think with our hands’ as we build awareness and understanding. As well as the maps built, participants take away the experience of what they have encountered; affecting the head as well as the heart, a lasting connection remains.

“Systemic interventions create conditions for a relational system to flourish, nourishing and resourcing people to be human in their life and work.” 

– John Whittington, systemic coach and author

At Liminal Play, LEGO Serious Play is used within three contexts

Rehumanising work through play

I work with teams to facilitate conversations that strengthen team performance and relationship. 

 

By exploring purposeful alignment and resonant relationships, individuals experience a sense of mattering, teams engage in more meaningful work, and leaders are able to see new patterns in the kaleidoscope of work – enabling individual and collective thriving even in adversity.

Group coaching

Available on-line and in person, these sessions facilitate personal exploration of themes such as meaning, mattering, wholeheartedness and emotional agility within supportive small groups. 

 

These sessions have taken place across a wide range of setting and participant ages including professional L&D, community groups and residential aged care. 

One-to-one coaching

From time to time a coachee and I may introduce LEGO Serious Play into our coaching sessions.

 

Utilising the distance and perspective of built models – as well as opportunities for creative experimentation and seeing the wider whole – can provide individuals with unique and powerful insights.

 

Typical workflow for facilitated teams and groups

1.
Chemistry call

A complimentary 60 minute chemistry call which provides a shared exploration of the key needs and to understand whether Liminal Play’s approach to LEGO Serious Play is appropriate for this context.

2.
Detailed proposal

If both parties agree to proceed, a detailed proposal will be developed. Custom-made for each client, proposals identify the key needs of the current context, introduce relevant theory from a range of fields, and propose session objectives and format. The price will also be quoted at this time.

3.
Contracting & invoicing

Once both parties have agreed the details of the proposal, contracting and initial invoicing are finalised. Terms may vary but typically include pre-payment for session design and shipping of bricks.

4.
Session design

Bespoke session design is completed over approximately one month, the most time-intensive phase of the project. This considered approach allows time for reflection and feedback.

5.
Session logistics

Liminal Play works with clients to prepare participants for their session, including pre-event communications. For online LEGO Serious Play sessions, bricks are either shipped or participants are advised on suitable commercial alternatives in their country. Participants are also briefed on technical set ups and offered complimentary personal 15 minute familiarisation calls.

6.
On the day

Depending on the proposal, sessions take place in person or online. Online sessions are typically one or two half days (3 hours) whereas face to face sessions may extend to one or two full days.

7.
Session summary & debrief

Capturing reflection summaries and visual records of the models are simple but powerful ways to support integration of the insights generated and facilitate longer-lasting change within groups. Additional recommendations are also typically provided to the client during the valuable debriefing stage.

8.
Final invoicing

Final invoicing is completed.

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