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Is LEGO seriously good for business?

The LEGO® Serious Play® Method (LSP) was developed in the late 1990s by Professors Johan Roos and Victor Bart from the Institute for Management Development, Switzerland. It might seem childish at first, but it utilises three very powerful ideas from social science to be effective;

  1. intrinisic motivation
  2. constructive learning
  3. hands-on creativity

These can have huge transformative impacts on real business challenges. Read on to learn how.

Intrinsic Motivation through Play

Play offers us the opportunity to develop competence and mastery, and in the ‘sweet spot’ of a challenge that is achievable but stretches our abilities we are completely absorbed. Csíkszentmihályi described this as ‘flow’, which we often experience in sports and leisure activities.  But it’s rare to feel it in business meetings! By introducing serious forms of play such as LSP, companies can engage employees’ intrinsic motivation to create ‘leaning in’, or direct and active engagement in the present problem or objective.

Constructive Learning

Human beings are natural experimenters, building new solutions out of previous successful and unsuccessful experiences. This experimental attitude is the basis for problem-based learning and relies on a constructivist theory of learning, that we build knowledge rather than absorb it from others (there’s an in-depth post on learning theory here).  Papert expanded on this in the 1990s with constructionism, arguing that learning is most effective when we create a meaningful product as part of the process. By thinking about learning as building, it’s clear that we don’t learn directly from simply listening to other people’s talk of their experience or understanding –  that would be like ordering some flat-pack furniture and waiting for it to build itself! Instead we combine what we already know (previous assembly) with resources (screwdrivers), stories (instructions) and feedback from others (“It doesn’t look straight, honey”) to build something new. It’s even more effective when we collaborate within a community and learn together.

This model of learning also applies to organisations; as individuals learn and adapt they pass the knowledge on to others. However, it can be very difficult for managers to ensure this process if productive, visible and effective when dealing with more abstract challenges. The building practices of LSP focus on creating visible representations of ideas that can be a focus for collaboration. Using LSP or similar processes, businesses can learn from changing environments to enhance services, strengthen teams, and develop and revise strategy more effectively.

Hands-on Creativity

Although an area which is still undergoing detailed research, the creative potential of physical building activities (‘think with your hands’) is widely praised. Neurological research into creativity suggests that activating parts of the brain which are not usually connected can be a requirement for creativity, as can the release of dopamine (which may be stimulated by play). So having an enjoyable experience such as building LEGO models can help promote a creative mindset suited to improving services, innovating new products and collaborating on visions for the future.

 

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Learn more about LEGO® Serious Play® Workshops

Selected academic sources

Pichlis, D et al.(2015) “Empower a Team’s product Vision with LEGO® Serious Play®” in the Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Product-Focused Software Process Improvement 9459:210-216 https://tinyurl.com/y9ookxb3

Primus, DJ & Sonnenburg, S (2018) “Flow Experience in Design Thinking and Practical Synergies with Lego Serious Play” Creativity Research Journal https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10400419.2018.1411574

McCusker, S (2014) “LEGO®, Seriously: thinking through building” in the International Journal of Knowledge, Innovation and Entrepreneurship http://www.ijkie.org/IJKIE_August2014_SEAN%20MCCUSKER.pdf

James, A (2013) “LEGO Serious Play: a three-dimensional approach to learning development” in the Journal of Learning Development in HE http://journal.aldinhe.ac.uk/index.php/jldhe/article/download/208/154

0 comments on “Migrations LARP and the value of play”

Migrations LARP and the value of play

After our run at The Smoke in January, earlier this summer Dr Chloe Buckley and myself ran a small LARP workshop as part of the Manchester Gothic Festival, during the International Gothic Association Conference. This game was open to the public and offered participants the opportunity to experience a gothic-style narrative from the inside, as characters. Inspired by the world of HP Lovecraft’s novels and its surrounding mythos, Migrations aimed to introduce participants to the feeling of being trapped and suddenly ignorant of the basic rules of the world – a common enough experience for characters in Gothic novels.

The scenario for this game, a university talk gone wrong, builds on participant’s existing knowledge and experience of university activities. From unreliable powerpoint slides to disorganised lecturers, we began the scenario with the usual ‘gone wrongs’ that can reliably be encountered and understood. However, drawing on the mythology of Lovecraftian tales, a whole other dimension of ‘gone wrongs’ were about to unfold.

For our participants, the foolish actions of one character caused the entire group to be suspended in a trapped no-space, between our world and another one, one in which ‘magic’ through appeasement of ‘gods’ flourished though threats abounded. Participants had to make sense of the magic and perform it in order to craft their own escape; or refuse and accept their inevitable doom.

In previous and forthcoming research, we have outlined how the construction of experiences in live roleplay games rely on a range of preconceptions based on participant’s experiences, and also on participant’s learned ability to focus on what is relevant. Many experiential games which are now popular share this feature with LARP, such as escape rooms, yet these games are usually a challenge of competence and mastery. In most such games, the environment is highly controlled with game components clearly separated or distinguished, A particular set of skills, usually including pattern-recognition, spatial and numerical problem solving, with a little cultural knowledge, will help you emerge from an escape room as a ‘winner’.

However, in Lovecraftian narrative there are rarely, if ever, any ‘winners’. In LARP more generally, a play-to-win attitude will rarely offer the best experience. In our recent Migrations LARP, participants all to some degree aimed to ‘win’ through survival of the scenario. To strive to understand and to thwart the unknown mystical forces which were effectively ‘counting down’ their last moments. Only a few participants considered or embraced a narrative of loss; whether by abandoning their known world and home or through individual failure in the hope of collective success.

On reflection, we propose that this game experience foregrounds our attachment to ‘known unknowns’. From participants feedback we are aware that most identified the workshop as a bit of fun, the sort of entertaining activity that might be part of a conference social programme or festival. With most participants never having played in a LARP before, the very workshop itself was an unknown quantity. Yet as a learning experience, we would suggest that participants reflect upon their attachment to the known, and consider what the Gothic form can teach us about the barriers, of comfort and success, that must be breached to extend our knowledge.