Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Lego play

I attended a Lego Serious Play (LSP) event yesterday, with the intention of finding out a little more about the system.

Lego Serious Play is a system that is endorsed by Lego, and can be used in a variety of different ways, but the overall concept is to model, visualise and communicate the business system.  This allows communication and sharing with other members of the team.

The principles of the system are quite straightforward - break the ice and then work toward a visualisation of "as is" and "to be" models.  Working alone and then coming together to make a consensus view is similar to other systems such as Business Activity Models (BAM), Soft Systems Modeling (SSM), Porter's Five Forces and others, so I felt quite comfortable with the content and that there was something solid behind it all.  This type of thing is critical to joined-up business.  I've seen many times where there are different people pulling things in different directions and the reality is that you need to have a way to bring all that out of people, get it discussed and get to a consensus.  Until that happens, then you're all running separate, competing businesses.

I love using graphics in business and I've never really understood why many businesses like to convert these graphics (which is easily understood) to a narrative (which isn't).  Businesses need to get over the whole "writing it up" thing and accept that their teams will naturally engage better with something simple and visual than something that they have to put effort into, like 70 pages of text.  Once you accept that people don't read the text, then it sets your mind free.  I'm not religious but I know the basis of the 10 Commandments whereas I don't know the text behind it.  I don't know most of the policies where I work and neither do your employees in your business.  They say that a picture is worth 1000 words and I really do believe that.

One reflection is that the Lego system allowed people to use some really weird abstract things to represent various business objects, and I felt that this then meant that the participants needed to explain the visuals more than if a car was represented by a car, for example.  I just felt that if you represent your cashflow as a leopard then it probably says very little about your cashflow unless you explain further.  Even your own organisation might not understand the "cashflow as a tiger/tree" concept without more narrative, but then maybe that's the point - you have to get people talking about their perspective and listening to the perspectives of others before you can develop a fully-formed model.

I've seen the phrase "permission to play with xxxxxx" used in these types of events, and I can imagine that there are some businesses where this approach would work well, and others where it wouldn't.  I'd love to get a C-suite playing with Lego for a day and see their reactions.  I've rarely seen anyone not pick up some Lego and make a little something or other, so I imagine that it would work better than you might think.

Would I use the system fully?  Perhaps.  I've got some icebreakers that use Lego and people genuinely engage with those tasks in a way that I've not seen with silly questions, who you'd throw out of a balloon, etc.  So, I think I'll be giving it a try and seeing if I can use it further before I become a LSP practitioner.

Dave @jugglingsand

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