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LEGO? Are you serious?

You probably wouldn’t blink an eyelid upon hearing a revolutionary organisation has built its success on innovative thinking. Or seemingly whacky work places. So it's no shock Google is using gameplay to overcome complex workplace problems. 

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But hearing of professionals in traditional, behemoth organisations such as Qantas, Ernst and Young and Accenture playing with Lego? You can’t be serious. 

"You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation.” 

Dead serious. There’s even a name:  Lego Serious Play (LSP). Workshops are being run across workplaces as the value serious play delivers is slowly being recognised.

Credible? Yes – according to Plato: “you can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation.”

The term serious play refers to a number of playful inquiry and innovation methods that serve as a vehicle for complex problem-solving. The LSP methodology in particular has been popularised in recent years due to its malleability in adapting to different workplace needs.

Various organisations are beginning to recognise that benefits it can deliver in:

  • Building deeper and broader understanding of a challenge or strategy;
  • Preparing a team to deliver a solution in a complex, unpredictable environment;
  • Generating new solutions to complex challenges; and
  • Uniting a team around a common goal.

Growing body

There is a growing body of both academic and popular literature supporting the view engaging in playful processes and applying a playful, open mindset can foster creativity and innovation. In his book Creative explorations: new approaches to identities and audiences David Gauntlett writes “the non-judgmental environment of play, it is claimed, is more likely to foster surprising and innovative ideas”.  

Serious play methods can be used as vehicles for engaging workplace teams in the human-centred design (also known as Design Thinking) process of empathising, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing.  

While the concept of 'serious play' may sound like an oxymoron, it comes with an intention which goes beyond just having fun. The serious aspect requires focus on solving the problem at hand; whilst the play aspect encourages imaginative solutions through pushing boundaries towards potential possibilities.

The sum of these two components of 'seriousness' and 'playfulness' foster a deeper engagement for the group working through the complexity of the problem, by placing people in what is known as a 'state of flow'. Colloquially, also known as 'being in the zone', flow is characterised by complete absorption in the activity and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time. 

LSP is one of the best known examples of serious play. As the Danish brick maker says, “The Lego Serious Play methodology is an innovative process designed to enhance innovation and business performance. Based on research which shows that this kind of hands-on, minds-on learning produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its possibilities, the Lego Serious Play deepens the reflection process and supports an effective dialogue – for everyone in the organization.”

bluenotes sat down for a chat with Luke McManus, ANZ Technology Project Manager to talk about the experience of running his first LSP workshop.  

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Melissa Currie is Visual Production Editor at ANZ bluenotes.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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