You’ll notice we use different kinds of referent for LEGO in various places on this site and in our book – or Legos, as they say in the States. (Alison has to keep reminding herself to use this version, which does not come quite as naturally, but ends up remembering too late and calling them “Lego-S” (you have to imagine a slight hiatus in pronunciation here). That’s because sometimes we are talking about the toy, or the company or a whole range of uses of Lego (S), some of which we touch on in Other Things Lego. When we talk about LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, however, we are referring to the adoption of a systematic set of instructions and techniques for exploring complex ideas with Lego bricks. You can find an excellent explanation of what LEGO Serious Play actually is here on the Inthrface website
Since first drafting our LEGO and Labyrinths chapter in 2012 Alison has worked extensively with LEGO and LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, beyond the case study and examples we feature, and in corporate, as well as educational contexts. These have included working with high level executives in France to elaborate strategy and exploring threshold concepts and assisting new postgraduate students in London to figure out what ‘postgraduateness’ is. (One of their number was even studying a Masters degree in Applied Imagination, which seemed wonderfully aligned with the spirit of the workshop. Her course also serves to illustrate the ways in which we are becoming more explicit about our explorations of what imagination is). In between she has worked with 40 teenagers from non-traditional backgrounds, attending taster days to see if a future in fashion is for them, supported student teams working collaboratively with industry to diversify their product ranges, and explored with executive coaches and MDs how LEGO SERIOUS PLAY might help them develop as professionals and serve their teams. Alison also set up a university community of practice – Legolab – dedicated to experimentation with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY for educational purposes, and its blog is here.
Now that LEGO SERIOUS PLAY has become open source and Alison has developed the confidence and repertoire to adjust its applications to the needs of diverse learning contexts, she is further discovering how developing a metaphorical language can help us loosen up our thinking. To enable such a thing to be a fruitful and enjoyable experience, she has become conscious of the importance of paying attention to, and working with, the following things:
- the mood of participants and how this evolves in the course of a session, usually from wariness to acceptance but with a whole gamut of emotions in between and many more elaborations of these two
- the pace at which quite powerful insights, feelings, associations or subjects may be tapped into and how to handle these
- how quickly individuals can develop a metaphorical language and how far they need slow coaxing to either reduce resistance to doing so, or build confidence in being able to do it without feeling silly
- sound levels and behaviours in the room which let her know how people are engaging: typically high levels of speech, laughter and activity in skills-building early on, and then silence as individuals become absorbed in building their own models. A different kind of noise and activity takes shape later when individuals are negotiating a shared model and building collaboratively