Getting started

If you use the LEGO Serious Play-method for the first time with a group, you start off with the basics. Together, you will gain your first experience with building a LEGO metaphor and sharing a story. You will notice that everyone can work with The Making of Meaning. The introduction exercises loosen up the atmosphere. After the introduction, you read Psalm 67 together and work on an assignment formulated around the topic of gratitude.

This first exercise acts as an icebreaker. It’s also a good time to acquaint the participants with the available LEGO material. Give participants the assignment to build a tower. After a short while, you can ask the participants to stop building. Announce that you are going to test the stability of the towers. While you are testing a number of towers for stability, proceed to intentionally break a tower of one of the participants. Look at how he or she reacts and how he or she seems to feel that your have destroyed his or her LEGO model. Chances are that the participant is discomforted about this. Now, indicate that you will not break any more LEGO models, but that you did this deliberately, in order to demonstrate that you build an emotional connection with something you’ve made yourself. It is “yours” , which means that it has value and that you handle each other’s LEGO model with respect.

Another important aspect is that we are working with metaphors. Ask the participants if one of them can give a definition of what a metaphor is. Most participants will use the word “image” or “comparison”. In day to day life, everyone uses metaphors. We compare one thing (a person, object, idea) with something else (X is as Y) in order to gain a better understanding of X. For example, we say that a person’s face “lit up”, using the image of a light that turns on and shines. You can also point at someone in the group as an example, for instance by saying: “William is like a bear, he’s big and strong but also cuddly.” Everyone understands that William is not really a bear, but that we are using a bear as a metaphor to explain something about William.

But a metaphor doesn’t always have to be expressed in language; an object can also be a metaphor. Grab a sheet of (non-wrinkled) paper. Explain that the sheet can also be a metaphor, in this case a person’s life. You are born and begin your life as a smooth sheet. But as your life progresses, you experience things and you can get dented. Push the paper together and pull it outwards again. No matter how smooth you try to get it, some wrinkles will always remain visible. Just like with humans. The object has thus become a metaphor. And in this way you can also use LEGO as a metaphor. Grab a pair of LEGO blocks and provide a brief illustration. So for example, assemble a few blocks with different colours and tell the participants that this LEGO structure is a metaphor for your group. You’ve put together a foundation (point to the lowest block), and something new is added each year (blocks above), and even now, new people are being added (point to the highest blocks).

With LEGO, you’re going to be building metaphors that tell a story about yourself and your life. Indicate that a few short assignments will follow that will help with getting to know the method and which will show that anyone can do it.

Now, the participants are going to experience for themselves that they can build a metaphor with LEGO. This part consists of two tasks. The first task is to build an animal, or something similar. Bring to the attention of the participants the blocks with eyes on them, so that it will indeed be quite easy to make something that looks like a creature. Let a few participants show what they have created.

Next task: now modify your creature, so that it reflects what you felt like when you entered the meeting. (You can also give another task, as long as you keep it simple. If, for example, the meeting takes place just after the holidays, you can ask the participants to modify their animal to show how they felt during the holidays. Or you can ask them to, for example, to visualize their “Friday-feeling’.)

The participants are going to alter the creature they have just built, so that it reflects the feelings with which they entered the meeting. They can do this at their own discretion, as long as they take the creature as a starting point. After building, make a round of the LEGO models, and allow each participant to tell his or her story.

At this point the participants will realize that they are really able to build metaphorical allegories with LEGO. You can emphasize this by congratulating the participants on the fact that they all managed to build a metaphor, that they have conveyed a feeling or thought using LEGO.

Example of a LEGO-creature.

The creature has become a metaphor. 1)Both images are from a slideshow by David Gauntlett http://www.artlab.org.uk/lego/slide00.htm

This assignment will improve the ability of the participants to work with metaphors and to tell a story based on the LEGO model. Tell the participants to build something arbitrary, of their own choice. Some participants will find it difficult to think of something, but you can encourage them by emphasizing that everything is okay.

After a few minutes, you can quite abruptly ask them to lay down their work and ask the participants to explain, taking turns, why their LEGO model is a perfect example of a certain term. Beforehand, think of a number of terms (use the number of participants) like “marriage,” “life,” “my children”, “fear”. With the first participant, you point at his or her LEGO model and say, “your LEGO model is a perfect illustration of marriage, can you explain that?” The first participant you point to will have to make a switch, but will use his or her imagination and creativity to explain why his or her LEGO model illustrates marriage. Then you can move on to the second participant, and you say “your LEGO model is a perfect illustration of life, can you explain that?”. And so you move around the table.

This assignment is aimed at gaining experience with building metaphors that relate to (the identity of) people. This assignment is quite essential, but due to time restraints with regards to the main assignment you can choose to skip this exercise.

Ask the participants to build the most “difficult” person each of them can imagine. Make it clear that they do not have to portray or take in mind any particular person. Their structure does not have to look like a person with arms and legs, but the point is that it depicts those elements that the participant perceives as difficult. You can give an example, for instance that you could portray a person with a negative aura using many black squares. After the building is done, make a tour around the participants and let them tell their story.

You can variate on this assignment by, for example asking them to build the “sweetest” person or the most “annoying” colleague.

The story of Theo: “For me, difficult people are those who do not love truth, and therefore keep many people caught in their net. “

Assignment based upon Psalm 67

Take time to explain the final assignment. The previous assignments have hopefully loosened up the atmosphere, but right now it is important for the group to settle down a little. In the final assignment, the skills that the participants have gained in the previous exercises will put to action.

Ask participants to listen carefully, because they will get an assignment based upon a Bible-text. Read Psalm 67 out loud (or have it be read out by one of the participants). Read it out loud again, if necessary. The assignment is specifically about verse 7 and 8. The verses express a sense of rich blessing by God. Now ask the participants to explain with LEGO what they are thankful for in their lives, what makes their heart full of gratitude towards God.

Psalm 67

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us—[b]

2 so that your ways may be known on earth,  your salvation among all nations.

3 May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.

4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.

5 May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.

6 The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.

7 May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

(NIV-translation)

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1. Both images are from a slideshow by David Gauntlett http://www.artlab.org.uk/lego/slide00.htm