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Frequently asked questions about LEGO SERIOUS PLAY™

1. What is LEGO SERIOUS PLAY? (click to view) 2. What happens in a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop? 3. How do I plan a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop? 4. Who is using LEGO SERIOUS PLAY? 5. What do clients say about their experiences? 6. What is the science of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY? 7. Do you have a website with more information? 8. Where and how can I get LEGO SERIOUS PLAY? 9. What is the history of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY? 10. I have more questions, please contact me!

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52 Farmington Avenue, Longmeadow MA 01106 Tel. +1.413.567.0977 Cell. +1.413.348.7190



LEGO SERIOUS PLAY (LSP) is a thinking, communication and problem solving technique for groups and teams. It is a scientifically based process that has been rigorously tested and since its launch in 2002 has been used by more than 250 organizations world-wide, incl. companies such as DaimlerChrysler, ebay, Ikea, Pfizer, Eli Lily, Unilever, Vodacome, NASA, SABMiller. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is for exploring and dealing with real opportunities and issues in real time. It is not a training course you attend. The results of a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop or event are immediate. Workshops are lead by certified facilitators that follow the proprietary and patented process. Step 1: Individuals and teams build 3-dimensional models using special LEGO bricks in response to questions from the facilitator on relevant challenges – everything from “What’s your vision for this project?” to “What’s your worst nightmare for this design outsourcing initiative?” to “How can our team benefit from this new technology?”.

Our challenge is to get the product OUT!

What if the unexpected happens?

Step 2: Once the model is built you share its meaning and story with the rest of the team. The use of metaphors, imagination, and story-telling is integral to the process. Each member of the group tells their story to the team. This gives 100% participation during the entire workshop which again builds commitment to shared action.

Step 3: The culmination of the process is a complete picture of the current business system, incl. team roles, relationships, and culture. Testing the system with future, specific scenarios, team members gain insight and understanding in dealing with their challenges. The analysis is used to develop actions plans and guiding principles for the team’s decision-making.


What happens in a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop?


A. There is a very high level of engagement, participation and enjoyment LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is based on the beliefs that: • leaders don’t have all the answers. Their success is dependent on hearing all voices in the room • people naturally want to contribute, be part of something bigger and take ownership • allowing each member to contribute and speak out results in a more sustainable business • all too often, teams work sub optimally leaving knowledge untapped in team members

B. Teams and groups developing strategies, solving organizational issues, formulating visions, creating new product concepts, improving effectiveness etc. and at the same building better teams. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is equally applicable to groups and teams of any size. The ideal group size for an in-depth 1 or 2 day workshop is from 8-12 with one trained facilitator. When LSP is used for larger groups from 40 – 200 the participants still work in smaller groups from 6 – 8. The lengths of these workshops are 3 - 6 hours. C. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is most widely use for: • • • • • •

Strategy Development and Decision-making Innovation and Product Development Improving Operational Effectiveness Change and Culture Processes Team and Communication Improvements Project Management


How do you plan a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop?


Each workshop or event starts with listening to our client describing the issue or situation they want to address. It can be a business situation, organizational issue, team or personal matter: “One of our cross-functional teams, consisting of experienced designers and programmers with different areas of expertise, has been struggling over the last few months to keep with their delivery dates. We don’t know what the real cause of the problem is and how to get the team to deal with themselves.” ”Our company is experiencing explosive growth and we are forced to radically change our organizational structure. We want to develop a strategy that is optimal both for the moment and long-term.” “We have decided to merge two departments. The climate between the two management teams is very hostile and untrusting, one department feels their contribution isn’t valued and the other department tends to behave more as if they are "taking over" rather than being merged”. “Our strategic focus this year is our innovation culture. We are looking for ways to build a culture, where every single employee company-wide continuously feel empowered to act with an innovator’s mind-set.”

A standard planning and implementation process has four steps:

1. Assess

Each intervention and workshop is tailored to the specific issue our client wants to explore or address. It is a dialogue with focus on the general purpose and context for the workshop. This conversation also clarifies whether LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is the appropriate and optimal solution in this case

2. Design

The design of the actual workshop is based on a shared understanding of the overall situation. Next we develop a schedule of work specifying the purpose, content and expected outcomes for session. The design phase happens in close cooperation with the client, who approves the final design.

3. Facilitate

We facilitate and lead the workshop through all its steps. The facilitation process is based on the latest science from learning and psychology. Our facilitators are all certified and licensed by the LEGO Company. On a global scale we are among the most experienced in facilitating LSP.

4. Incorporate

We not only guarantee a workshop that is effective, fast and fun. We ensure that the results don’t succumb to the ‘honey-moon effect’, where an immediate impact isn’t sustainable and fades almost entirely within three to six months.


Who is using LEGO SERIOUS PLAY? Selected Clients Avaya, CO Coney Island Hospital, NY DesignWare, MI ebay, Germany First Organization, NH Goldman Sachs, NY GEI Consultants, MA Kaman Music Corporation, CT LEGO Company, Denmark MIT Media Lab, MA NASA, VA Orange Telecom, United Kingdom Pfizer Healthcare, NJ Pfizer Healthcare, Sweden Solid Cactus, PA Simmons School of Management, MA Unilever, Brazil Webster Bank, CT Sample Testimonials "The immediate experience with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY was great. With this tool the facilitator truly gets every person in the room highly involved and talking in an amazing way. But even more fascinating it is to look back at the workshop (and the company model we still have in the office) almost a year later: We actually did stick with our shared goals and followed the course we all - as a team - did commit to during the workshop, because really involved each and every person on our team." Justin Rattigan, Solid Cactus Vice President, Sales

"Dinner the night after the workshop was so different from the previous night, and the next day we had the best staff meeting ever. We had become a team. We continued talking about the business scenarios we tested in the workshop, and the team now wants to discuss a different scenario question at each staff meeting". Lori Sibert, Avaya Senior Manager, Logistics


“The LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop was a very effective exercise for us. In particular, the playful aspect of expressing work/job related issues through building LEGO models brought out some great insights. It left us an even stronger and more agile team" Marcus Riecke, ebay Senior Director, Category Management

References – please contact directly Renee Shull, Kalamazoo MI HR Manager, DesignWare Tel.269.349.2626 Bruno Jorge, Sao Paulo Brazil Global Brand Manager, Unilever Tel. Lori Sibert, Denver CO Senior Manager Avaya Logistics Tel. 720.444.0110 Cell 720.205.5674 James J. Dowd Jr. Boston MA Harvard Business School Senior Fellow, Executive Education Tel. 617.496.9914 Paul Gudonis, Manchester NH President, First Organization Tel. 781.710.2800 Justin Rattigan, Wilkes-Barre PA VP Sales Solid Cactus Tel. 888.361.9814 Mitchel Resnick Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, MA Tel. 617-256-9783


What do clients say about their experiences?


July 19, 2005. PCH Colleagues Try Their Hand at 'Serious Play' Work is typically seen as the complete opposite of play, but as a group of PCH (Pfizer Consumer Healthcare) colleagues learned recently, that doesn't always have to be the case. Armed with nothing more than colorful LEGO pieces, these colleagues discovered that playing can unlock the power of their imaginations and help them be more innovative at work. Whether it’s conducting a clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of a potential new product or tracking the safety of our products once they’ve reached store shelves, the colleagues who work in PCH R&D’s Medical/Clinical group around the world have some pretty serious jobs. So what were they all doing a few weeks back in a hotel conference room in Parsippany, New Jersey, building soap box derby cars out of LEGO pieces? “We were engaged in ‘serious play,’” says Mark Gelbert, Vice President, Global Medical Affairs and Clinical Research. Gelbert hosted the meeting, which emphasized innovation, not only with the LEGO activity, but also in its overall design and format. “Our hands are connected to 70-80% of our brain cells,” said Robert Rasmussen, one of the pioneers of Serious Play, who facilitated the Innovation Workshop portion of the three-day meeting. “Research shows that hands-on learning, therefore, produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its possibilities. Serious Play also enables participants to communicate more effectively, to engage their imaginations more readily, and to approach their work with increased confidence, commitment, and insight.” At the beginning of the Innovation Workshop, colleagues were asked to imagine that they worked for a small company that makes soap box derby cars for children. They were then given a few minutes to build a model of a car from a bag of LEGO pieces. The challenge then became a little tougher: forget about soap box cars and build something that will enable children to enjoy some type of exciting physical movement. The final challenge? Forget about the children’s market altogether and build a marketable product using only excess inventory.

These three challenges were designed to tap into three different types of imagination: Descriptive Imagination, Creative Imagination and Challenging Imagination. Most people are naturally inclined toward a particular type of imagination. The key is to take advantage of the fact that most teams likely include people who prefer different types of imagination – and to leverage this “diversity of imagination” to discover opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have come across. Participants were able to put this idea into practice by working together in small teams to build LEGO structures that symbolized PCH’s current strengths and areas of opportunity related to innovation. “What struck me the most was the level of energy created by the LEGO sessions,” said Bruce Kohut, Senior Director, Dermatology, who co-sponsored the meeting. “During the wrap up, when all the workshop groups presented their three dimensional ideas on innovation, there was so such energy in the room. We were truly innovating in a highly engaged fashion on multiple dimensions and this level of engagement was facilitated by the physical display of the ideas in the form of the LEGO models.” According to Holger Kraiczi, Clinical Pharmacology, the meeting's other co-sponsor, "Colleagues that I spoke with found the Innovation Workshop to be refreshing and relaxing. Most appreciated the opportunity to switch active brain sites for a while, to let their hands and senses take control, and to just have fun."


The Green Roundtable A Handy Way to Improve Collaboration in Design Teams

else does…and that’s me under the table, unable to cope with all the competing agendas!”

Green Roundtable’s April Roundtable centered on the idea, “It is human nature to build.” Robert Rasmussen, one of the developers of the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY program, led the group through a session filled with hands-on exercises, while connecting these activities to daily team interactions. The concept and methodology is designed to help organizations solve complex business issues by tapping into the experience, knowledge, and imagination of their people. Envision 48 people with LEGO pieces scattered in front of them, and you’ve got the context.

These responses demonstrated that built constructions in a group conversation facilitate the creation of a climate where “dark spots” can be more openly discussed, by dis-identifying the speaker from what he is saying: he is, after all, just describing a model. When a group can openly explore and address such dark spots, they’re much more likely to generate a solution that will truly resolve the problem they are tackling.

Highlights from Robert Rasmussen's April Roundtable

Modeling Ex. 3 - “What is an ideal green building project like?”: Again, four dozen different built answers emerged:

Robert explained, “Not everyone can draw, but everyone can build. And if you think of the brain as a hard drive, the hands are an exceptionally powerful way to access the files. Your hands know more about how to access the files than you consciously realize. So when you ask someone to ‘build’ an answer to a question, the process of building actually allows them to access, clarify and integrate ideas they might not have tapped in a more conventional way.”

• One construction had only a few points of contact with the table, even though it stretched over a large area: “I wanted to make something with a small footprint that gently touched the earth, but reached out into the landscape.” • Another found a way to include and communicate shading, natural ventilation, transparency and thermal comfort.

Modeling Ex. 1 - “Build a Tower”: Even though everyone started with an identical collection of pieces, and they used the same flat black rectangle as their base, within minutes, 48 entirely different towers had come into being.

•Yet another concentrated on using the least materials possible (a single brick) while collecting water and keeping constructed material out of the landfill.

Consider the implications for collaboration:

Robert’s reflections - “So, if this were a real project, I would say, ‘You can’t have 8 different models on the table. Push back and negotiate what you are going to put together as an answer from the group.’ When it seems the group is drawing to a conclusion, it is important to ask each person in the group, ‘Are you okay with this final solution?’ If a person feels that some of what he or she brought to the table is incorporated in the final answer, his or her commitment to making it happen will be higher. And everyone leaves the room with a clearer idea of what the commitment actually is, because it isn’t just words.”

• “Each person has their own unique response to the idea of ‘tower,’ and their own organizing principle. If we assume everyone is saying or thinking the same thing when they are not, THAT creates problems. Using physical constructions in group discussion can help to make our different perspectives and approaches visible, while depersonalizing and defusing potential tension about those differences.” • “In a meeting, when an important question for group investigation is posed, some members of the group will inevitably think and speak more quickly than others, which shapes the initial response, and where the conversation goes from there. In many cases, the rest of the group will never finish their own thinking or express their thoughts.” Having everyone in the group “build” an answer to an initial question avoids that shortcircuit, while simultaneously providing an enriched way for individual group members to express their thoughts. So using physical constructions to facilitate group work not only ensures that each person’s perspective makes it to the table, it also enhances the depth and clarity of the contribution, potentially increasing its value.

In summary, this kind of serious play is most useful when, on the one hand, you want to/need to: • address a complex problem; • provoke learning while stimulating new ways of thinking; • interrogate reality and explore alternatives; • create a climate where dark spots can be openly discussed; while at the same time, you need to/want to: • get results with immediate and lasting impact; • avoid team frustration, increase team spirit; • use time efficiently; • develop full commitment to the implementation of team decisions.

Modeling Ex. 2 - “When you start a new project, what is the biggest concern that you have before the first meeting?”: The built answers were as varied as the towers. Some of the responses were: • “I’m afraid my designers will overbuild, when what’s really needed is a simple, elegant solution.” • “I’m worried the owner won’t want to explore the things I’m really interested in.”


• “See this here?? This little model is about EGO. Everyone is doing their own thing. There’s the clown on the table, the guy with the flag who is only concerned with championing his own agenda, this other guy with an eyeball floating out in space who thinks he sees what nobody

About Robert Rasmussen: Currently, he serves as a professor at Tufts University on topics related to learning, creativity, and education, while conducting facilitation and business consultancies through Robert Rasmussen and Associates.

Our thanks for a wonderfully fun and instructive Roundtable goes to: Robert Rasmussen and Associates 7 Moody Road, 2D Enfield, CT 06082 413-567-0977


What is the science of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY?


1. Research shows that people are changed significantly and irreversibly when movement, thought, and feeling fuse together during the active pursuit of personal goals. LSP users make use of multiple intelligences—visual-spatial intelligence, linguistic intelligence, and bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. The limbic brain gets engaged, which means learning is deeper and the experience becomes memorable, almost “hard-wired.” Quite simply, users bring the unconscious to the conscious by building, giving it meaning, and telling to others the story of what they’ve built. 2. The importance of metaphors for organizational learning is widely researched and shows that: • metaphors generate radically new ways of understanding things • a series of dominant metaphors shape the way we understand organizations in which we work • metaphors transform us in their potential to uncover perceptions, attitudes and feelings which previously were subconscious or unarticulated 3. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY focuses attention on the model, not on the creator of the model. LSP is built on the theory of Constructionism from Seymour Papert at MIT and his idea of concrete thinking--thinking with and through concrete objects. Constructionism proposes we gain knowledge when we construct something external to ourselves. When you build in the world, you build in your mind. Research has also shown that the use of objects as part of an inquiry process can make hidden thoughts more discussable. By building physical models that can be examined, shared, and discussed, it becomes easier and less intimidating to talk about emotionally-charged issues. LSP allows “dark spots” in the conversation to be more openly discussed, by separating the speaker from what he is saying: he is, after all, just describing a model. “LSP equalized diversity and differences that were inherent in the group” “Biggest difference was how people were involved” ”LSP overcame cultural and linguistic barriers” “LSP enabled discussion of sensitive issues without becoming personal”

4. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY ensures all participants have a chance to express their own viewpoint before being influenced by the rest of the group. Research shows that the use of physical models enhances the depth and clarity of individual contribution to the conversation. In a meeting, when a question for group investigation is posed, members of the group will think and speak more quickly than others. This immediately determines how the conversation proceeds. Often, the rest of the group will not finish their own thinking or express their thoughts. Having everyone in the group “build” an answer to an initial question avoids that short-circuit.


Where and how can I get LEGO SERIOUS PLAY?


The LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is a patented and proprietary methodology owned by the LEGO Company. The service is marketed through a world-wide partner network of independent consultancies referred to as Partners. The certified and licensed partners are the only ones permitted to deliver and facilitate LEGO SERIOUS PLAY services. The facilitators have all gone through a comprehensive training and certification process.

Robert Rasmussen & Associates LLC is a licensed and certified Partner. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is what we do. It is our core competency designing, facilitating and incorporating workshops and interventions using this unique methodology. We are a group of committed individuals, who share the values underpinning the idea and LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is the cornerstone of all our services. We are curious, practical minds, which enjoy the creative process of tailoring solutions to each client. Robert Rasmussen is one of the main architects of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY. Over the course of several years and more than twenty iterations he and his team developed the idea into the reproducible and robust methodology it is today. Drawing on 7 years of experience with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY we design and facilitate workshops for any size group and for almost any purpose. Our clients use LEGO SERIOUS PLAY for • Strategy Development • Innovation Purposes • Operational Effectiveness • Change and Culture Processes or • Team and Communication Improvements Our clients come from numerous industries, various size organizations, multiple continents and include companies such as Unilever, eBay, Pfizer and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For companies who wish to design and facilitate their own LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshops, we are one of a few LEGO SERIOUS PLAY consultancies licensed to train and certify in-house consultants and trainers. Our main office is in Massachusetts, USA with associates located in Boston, Denver, Toronto (Canada) and Tokyo, Japan.


What is the history of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY?


The first version of the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY product was launched in late 2001. The idea however started several years earlier. In 1995 the owner and CEO of the LEGO Company, Kjeld Kristiansen was dissatisfied with the results of company’s strategy-making sessions. While his business was about imagination, the results from these sessions were decidedly unimaginative. At the same time, two professors from IMD business school in Lausanne, Johan Roos and Bart Victor were also noting the poor results from traditional strategy development techniques. When these parties connected in 1996, they noted their similar dilemmas as well as shared values around people as the key to company success and strategy as something you live as opposed to something stored away in a document. Kjeld agreed to fund research on this problem by creating a separate LEGO subsidiary called Executive Discovery. Over time, the business school professors hit upon the use of building with LEGO bricks as means for tapping into unconscious knowledge that each individual possesses. However, they still had not figured out how to bring their academic interests into the mix of better strategy-making concepts like identity, metaphor, landscape, and simple guiding principles. In my role as director of product development for the educational market at LEGO, I was brought into the project in 1999 to more systematically investigate the feasibility of using LEGO bricks for strategy development. Once we realized that these strategy concepts could be more than just theory, our work moved into developing the process itself and to make the results reproducible and the methodology robust. Over the course of several years, there were more than twenty iterations of the formal process. We also discovered a pattern of working with the bricks that produced consistent results across different groups - an etiquette of sorts on how to facilitate LSP successfully. One of the themes that emerged from our work with test bed companies was helping groups see the entire human system they are a part of in order to be better prepared for the future. By having a complete picture of the current system, including team roles, relationships, and culture, and by testing the system with specific scenarios, team members gain more confidence, insight, and commitment in dealing with future events.

By Robert Rasmussen


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