Playing with LEGO!

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What I learned at the LEGO Serious Play workshop...

When you get to play with LEGO for two and a half hours straight on a regular Tuesday, you feel like the luckiest person in the world. So, when I was asked by my friend, Philip Morley, to attend a LEGO Serious Play workshop I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I mean, who wouldn’t want to play with LEGO at work?

I have fond childhood memories of spending Christmas Day building an entire train station as a kid, but I was curious to see how colourful building blocks and little yellow plastic men with questionable haircuts would help me and my work. Turns out it was very therapeutic (just like I remembered it from my childhood) and the result completely surprised me. Here are a few images from the workshop and 5 things I’ve learned playing with LEGO all afternoon.

1. A duck is a duck is a duck


The first task I got was to build a duck out of a few blocks. I thought we could all agree what a LEGO duck looks like, but apparently not. I built my duck in the only way I thought was possible, and yet, I was told that my duck didn’t look like what others had made previously. It’s a good reminder that even small concepts and ideas can be interpreted very differently by different people - and this was just a duck made out of eight blocks.

2. You discover some interesting sides of yourself

One of my other tasks was to build my work/life balance. It seems like a harmless challenge, but something unexpected happens when building abstract concepts out of LEGO: Your subconscious takes over! And the pieces you pick and the way you place them on your board is very telling.

For the work/life balance, I discovered that I placed the little LEGO figure of myself in front of everything on the board - not in the middle of it.

Also, looking back at the photo of my model, the work side looks ambitious, but also kind of sterile. I’m not sure if it gives a complete picture of my situation at the time, but looking back on it now, I’m wondering why there also shouldn’t be fun, crazy things on the work side.

In any case, LEGO offers a very visual overview of what your thought process looks like.


3. LEGOs are the brilliant building blocks of metaphors

One thing I noticed in the workshop is that I gravitated the giraffes in a lot of the tasks. Why? I didn’t have pen and paper, so I couldn’t write ‘fun’ anywhere. instead, the giraffe became a metaphor of ‘fun’. As soon as I used as ‘fun’ in one scenario, I kept adding giraffes to the other boards.

The same happened when I was building the onboarding app user experience. I found a small LEGO sofa and a coffee table and placed them in the middle of the board. Why? Because I wanted the user experience to be as comfortable as sitting in your own living room. This metaphor came to me after I grabbed the coffee table, proving that sometimes little plastic furniture can help explain a lot of abstract concepts in an easy way.

Giraffes! Giraffes everywhere!

Giraffes! Giraffes everywhere!

4. A break from writing

I’m used to writing everything down: To-do lists, reflections, emails, blog. It’s a natural way for me to express myself. But writing also comes with a filter: Does this sound good? Could I use a better word here? There’s simply no writing without a mental editing process.

Building things out of LEGO was such a nice way to take a break from writing down ideas and reflections. It was a completely different method to explain a situation, which made me see scenarios in a new light.


5. It’s so much fun!

Building the LEGO train station is still a happy Christmas memory. Sitting quietly and just being completely emerged in the creative process. The LEGO Serious Play workshop was exactly like that. No pressure. Just fun and relaxing.

So, after playing with LEGO at work, what’s the conclusion? I highly recommend spending more time at work building your work/life balance, new ideas, user experience, and everything else out of LEGO. Even though I didn't know what to expect, and it completely blew my mind. I’m definitely putting LEGO on my wishing list next Christmas.