One person takes the role of leader. The leader prepares the meeting, supervises the introduction exercises, reads out the assignments and moderates the conversation. The moderator has a facilitating role, he or she allows others to be “absorbed” in the game. He or she – if possible – also participates in the exercises and assignments.
This method is subject to a number of rules (for more information, read the LEGO Serious Play Open Source Brochure, page 10. LEGO Serious Play Open Source Brochure.); it’s up to the moderator to keep these rules in mind. It is not absolutely necessary to list all the rules ahead of time, better is to introduce them in a playful manner. )
It may be tempting to skip the introductory exercises, so that the available time can be spent on the primary assignment. However, in practice it has turned out that this reduces the effectiveness of the method. It is not enough to simply explain to participants that they can use LEGO as a metaphor for thoughts, feelings and beliefs; they have to experience it in person. Participants also become familiar with the rules during the introduction, such as listening to each other’s stories, looking carefully and asking questions.
Challenge, build and share
The method uses three stages: challenge, build, share. Usually you repeat this cycle several times in a session, both during the exercises and during the main assignment(s). The proper execution of the stages is crucial, read more about these stages before your go through the other rules.
It is also important to indicate how much time everyone has for building. Make sure that participants do not feel pressured, because this is often at the expense of creativity. Sometimes it is better not to mention the exact amount of time participants have, but to indicate that they have, for instance, between 10 and 15 minutes. You will know when most participants have stopped building, and at that time you can give rest a few more minutes finish.
After the assignment has been given, it is important that the participants start building as soon as possible. Some participants may be hesitant because they don’t know what to build, or because they want to think out their plan of action first. Encourage the participants to begin nonetheless. Experience shows that something can come into being “out of itself”. New insights usually arise when you are not trying to plan out your thoughts in advance (and how you would want to represent them), but when you let yourself be swept along with, and inspired by, the “building process”.
It is understandable if participants perform a final adjustment to their LEGO model after building has stopped. Always give participants the opportunity to do so. Then ask them to be silent, so that attention can shift from their own building to the LEGO models of others and everyone’s stories. Becoming silent also helps towards generating a process of reflection.
There is no “pretty” LEGO model and no “right” answer
This method isn’t about making “beautiful” LEGO constructions. Although everyone will feel a sense of pride in her or his LEGO model, the focus should never be on what structure “came out best”. It’s the story of the LEGO model and the corresponding views that are important. Behind a seemingly “beautiful” LEGO model can lie a violent story, behind a simple LEGO model a profound insight. This educational method elicits the sharing of very personal stories. In addition to this, there is no right or wrong answer to the question from which everyone has started building.
After the building has ended there is time to ask questions, but first it is important to listen to each other: the moderator invites the builders to elaborate on what they have built. After each explanation, participants can ask questions. It’s best to first ask questions about (the whole and detail of) the LEGO model, because this is what the participant uses to tell his or her story. Try to understand what the participant is saying with his or her LEGO model and it’s accompanying story, by asking questions.
In the first place, questions should be aimed at the LEGO model and the builder’s elaboration on it. Make sure that attention remains focused on the model. Sometimes the story can give opening for a personal conversation, shifting away the focus from the model. This can bring forth something of value, so let this happen, as long as it fits the setting in a natural way. However, please make sure that there is enough time for everyone to be heard.