Ah, the return of Lego Serious Play! But first we had a warm-up exercise to think of as many new and innovative ways to monetise a ton of ball bearings which we had acquired at low cost, selling them to manufactures of pachinko machines or using them in fashion for example. This was designed to set the theme for the day, developing a creative and problem solving mindset.
Lego Serious Play was introduced as a way of transferring an internal mental map or concept into an external physical form that can be shared, examined and discussed to get other people’s opinions and therefore help you to reach greater clarity. Also emphasised were the importance of the act of building without giving it too much prior thought, using metaphor to tell your story, and questioning the model and story during the discussion phase rather than the person directly.
The first model we were asked to build was an individual one in three parts, the first part showing your superpower, the second showing a secondary, under-utilised superpower, and the third the barrier or barriers that stop you from using it. My model, shown in the photo above, shows my superpower of diligence and attention to detail (somehow) being used to lead my team across a sea of troubled waters to success, as represented by the shining tower and gold bar; the second part, my underused power, is technical ability which I don’t get to use as much now; and the third part, I don’t want to say too much about what it means as I had something very specific in mind, is meant to be the evil Tower of Sauron looking over everything with a broken heap that needs fixing at the base.
There followed a discussion on the difference between working in your business and working on your business, designed to show that as a leader your resources are best placed by developing and empowering your team so that you can focus on forward thinking and strategy. This was evidenced by case studies and research summaries showing that team based start-ups and organisations with team based structures tend to be more successful as they can call on a greater variety of talent and networks.
The second exercise with Lego was a team build where we had to construct a model to demonstrate how we were going to reduce the environmental impact of a large multi-national corporation. Each team then had to pitch their idea to a stand-in company board. My team’s model demonstrated a recycling bank which scanned a code on empty packaging and gave a credit back to the customer which they could choose to keep or donate to an environmental cause. At the top of the bank was a live read out of the corporation’s carbon footprint which should be showing a decrease as each item is recycled. We won.
Finally the day ended with a discussion about the factors that can enable or hinder creative thinking. Enablers include time, space, rewards, having an open mindset, a supportive organisational culture, clear goals, and a committed leadership who can motivate their staff. Factors that can hinder include the anchoring trap (over-relying on your first thoughts), giving the status quo an advantage over any options for change, the sunk cost fallacy (committing yourself to a course of action that is already under way, even if there is evidence that it isn’t working), confirmation bias (looking only for evidence that supports your conclusions or point of view), and finally the incomplete information trap – jumping to conclusions based on limited data.