The LEGO Seriousplay method: the serious game that will make you love hard fun.
- 19 Jul 2023
At Smile, several of us are certified in the LEGO® Seriousplay® method and we regularly organize workshops with our customers. This approach enables them to design real-time 3D systems to explore situations and co-construct solutions to the problems explored during these workshops.
What is "hard fun"?
The term "hard fun" is a concept that describes an experience, activity or game that can be both challenging and stimulating, but also fun and rewarding. It's a combination of intense intellectual (or physical, but not in our case) effort and pleasure, which creates an immersive and engaging experience.
Hard fun" involves taking on challenges, solving complex problems or overcoming obstacles while experiencing pleasure and satisfaction. This can happen in a variety of contexts, such as video games, sporting activities, creative projects, puzzles and so on.
The idea behind the concept of "hard fun" is that people are motivated by ambitious challenges and goals, even if they require significant effort. When people are sufficiently invested and interested in an activity, they are willing to persevere despite the difficulties, because the gratification and pleasure they feel are worth the effort.
In short, "hard fun" represents an experience where challenge and pleasure come together, creating an immersive and fulfilling experience. It's a way of approaching activities that combines effort, satisfaction and fun.
What is the LEGO® Seriousplay® method?
In the 90s, the LEGO company found itself faced with the emergence of new ways for children to play, with the massive arrival of video games. Faced with the need for a new strategy, the grandson of the brand's founder, who was at the head of the company at the time, was not convinced of the solutions offered by traditional strategic thinking methods. Paradoxically, the LEGO concept is based on imagination.
At the same time, Johan Roos and Bart Victor, researchers at the IMD business school in Los Angeles, were studying the poor results obtained from this type of brainstorming session.
The three of them met in 1996 to discuss their respective findings and it was from these discussions that an independent subsidiary of LEGO, called Executive Discovery, was born. Its aim was to create a new creative process that could be used in companies, using LEGO bricks for business applications. The first concepts of the method were developed, but it wasn't until 1999 and the arrival of Robert Rasmussen at the head of the development team that the latter really got into its stride and version 1.0 of the method was released, after more than twenty iterations.
Developing the method
From 2001 to 2010, only the LEGO group could train and certify LSP facilitators, and kits were only sold to certified facilitators. Version 1.0 of the method was then opened up and distributed under a Creative Commons license so that the community that had grown up around it could continue to make it live and evolve. This is how The Association of Master Trainers came into being, to develop version 2.0 of the method, released in 2007, which we use today at Smile.
This method, recognized and taught at MIT, the École Nationale d'Administration and the École Normale Supérieure (among others), takes advantage of the fact that it is easier to manipulate a 3D model than 2D representations. By using 'hands-on learning', it overcomes the limitations of short-term memory. When we use our hands to learn, a complex process takes place that releases a great emotional charge: the ideas and thoughts we construct are more explicit, but they are also easier to understand and remember later on.
Version 2.0 of the method and its use in the workplace
Method 1.0, now available under creative-common license, defines certain strategic construction concepts such as identity, metaphor, landscape and broad guidelines. These concepts show 3 types of support:
- Real-time identity for you
- Real-time strategy for the team
- Real-time strategy for the company
The support she provides is fairly strict, and not very flexible or adaptable to specific needs. Although the method changes, the workshop remains fairly structured.
Method 2.0 redefines and transforms the LSP method into a process that enables the facilitator to design a tailor-made workshop for many applications and workshops of varying duration. This is made possible by a modular system based on a core process in 4 stages and 7 application techniques. The 2.0 method takes up the elements of the previous version, making them more flexible and modular, so that tailor-made workshops can be designed.
How it works
Although the very term "Seriousplay" can be taken as an oxymoron, the LEGO® Group has always taken play seriously. Even though play is generally synonymous with pleasure, it is rarely, if ever, considered to be futile.
For adults, play often has a very specific purpose, which is not the case for children. The four purposes of adult play that are used in the LSP method are :
- The social link
- Emotional expression
- Cognitive development
- Constructive competition
To achieve its aims, the LEGO® Seriousplay® method is based on solid research in the behavioral sciences, particularly around narrative and metaphor, constructivism and constructivism.
To sum up, constructivism is based on the fact that we build knowledge structures from our lived experiences. Knowledge is not simply acquired bit by bit, but constructed. In other words, it's not enough to say "here's the right answer". You've probably already experienced this with children. It's sometimes impossible to tell them the truth. They are not empty receptacles into which knowledge is poured, but rather builders of theories who construct and rearrange knowledge on the basis of their experiences of the world.
Constructionism, developed by one of Piaget's colleagues, Seymour Papert, extends constructivism by adding that learning takes place all the better when learners participate in the construction of something "external to themselves", such as a computer program, a machine, a book, etc. The fact of actively constructing something external to ourselves enables us to better fix the knowledge we develop. The fact that we are actively constructing something outside ourselves means that the knowledge we are developing is better fixed. For Papert, when we 'think with our fingers', we release creative energies, ways of thinking and ways of seeing things that would otherwise have never been exploited.
As our brain is limited in the amount of information it can process using our short-term memory (or working memory), the LEGO® Seriousplay® method allows us to go beyond this processing limit by using our hands and the brain-hand relationship. It's a bit like what happens when we learn. By using our hands, it's no longer just a question of learning instructions or storing information, but an emotional charge is created that enables knowledge to be fixed. So, by using LEGO® bricks, we build our ideas and thoughts with our hands, making them more explicit and easier to understand and remember.
The method also puts everyone on the same level, neutralizes the monopolization of the floor by opinion leaders and gets the more reserved participants involved. By using facilitation and construction techniques, the group will move forward together, capturing 100% of the participants' attention.
There is no such thing as a standard, ready-to-use or off-the-shelf workshop. Every situation our customers encounter is unique and requires the preparation of a tailor-made workshop plan. It is therefore essential to plan ahead, during which we, as facilitators, devise workshop scenarios with several alternative plans. We also play out these plans to test their limits in the light of our experience of how a workshop can be run, in order to perfect them.
For a workshop to be beneficial and to run smoothly, it takes between one and two days of workshop with a novice team. A team that is more experienced in the method can run shorter workshops, often used as a synchronization point to test a model in the light of the latest developments and changes in the company and its environment.
The ideal size is eight, plus or minus two, people per facilitator. It is not uncommon to have two facilitators, even for a small group, in order to better capture all the comments and emerging issues that may arise during the workshop.
How can you maximize the chances of a successful workshop?
The first thing to know is that everyone in the workshop room is either a participant or a facilitator. No one else, especially not a "leader", is allowed to observe. This is essential if everyone is to get involved in the workshop. It's also why we don't record the workshops.
As for the participants, as with a design thinking workshop, it is preferable to have a diversity of profiles. This allows for different points of view, richer ideation and stronger questioning.
It is also important to set aside a specific time and place for the workshops. As they often last a whole day, participants need to be able to free themselves from their professional obligations, put away their telephones and means of communication and dedicate themselves to the workshop. To facilitate this, we often organize our workshops in third-party locations within the company, to force our brains to stop thinking about all the work that may be waiting for you outside the room.
Participants also need to trust the method in order for it to work. It can seem a little unsettling at first, to put almost blind trust in a method. That's why we always take the time to explain the scientific underpinnings and insist on validation by trusted knowledge authorities at the start of the workshops.
Another important point is to approach the workshop with an open mind, in a spirit of sharing and caring. We make it a point of honor to help participants express themselves positively, including about their own achievements, and to let others speak without interrupting them or suggesting words or turns of phrase.
Last but not least is the logic of hard fun. For a workshop to work well, participants need to be placed in a balance between fun and work. This is the role of your facilitator. Keep the participants in a state of "flow".
What are the deliverables for a LEGO® Seriousplay® workshop?
A LEGO® Seriousplay® workshop is prepared, experimented with and explored, but not deployed. The main benefit is the vision built together and shared by all the members, and their ability to recall, instantly and in detail, this experience. At the end of a workshop, the model can be used to guide them in their decision-making and, if necessary, in the development of a detailed, step-by-step plan. This is not one of the deliverables.
On the other hand, you don't leave a workshop empty-handed. At Smile, we document the final stories in images, audio and video. We also make sure to collect as many views of the model as possible, especially if it is not kept. These elements allow participants to reactivate memories of the workshop and are also good supports for sharing knowledge.
In some cases, the workshops can lead to the formulation of what the method calls "broad guidelines". These rules, which are open to interpretation and should not be seen as strict instructions, help to guide decision-making.
What can I explore with a LEGO® Seriousplay® workshop?
It's often said that if you can't answer your questions with more traditional workshops, or with design thinking, then maybe a LEGO® Seriousplay® workshop can help. But that's not all. If the complexity of your problem is the first point to consider, you should also ask yourself whether you are open to the idea of bringing out different, but all valid, answers and then arriving at a collective response.
To run a workshop using the LEGO® Seriousplay® methodology, you need both a complex problem and a courageous manager (The Association of Master Trainers in the LEGO® Seriousplay® Method 8).
To put it simply, if there is no obvious solution, no single answer, but the manager admits that he or she is not a rocket scientist and is prepared to take into account the opinions of all his or her employees.
Some examples of LEGO® Seriousplay® workshops:
- Develop your innovation strategy for the next 5 years
- Create a winning and innovative corporate culture
- Workshop for a business operations team
- Department identity
- Integrating new companies and new employees
- Developing scenarios for the future
- Develop a new service, a new offering. E.g.: A chatbot, for whom, for what?
- What does the future hold for my organization in terms of the possibilities offered by digitalization?