Why Lego® Serious Play® is particularly interesting for start-ups.

An interview with the University of Oldenburg

In an interview, our trainer Katrin Elster told us more about the Lego® Serious Play® method. The focus of this article is the use of Lego® Serious Play® in the start-up environment and why this method can be used to the advantage of corporate strategy and team building. 

What exactly is Lego® Serious Play®?

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a group process for developing strategies and solutions.
Teams represent their ideas, thought models and visions for a complex project using Lego models. They test these new solutions against an uncertain future to make them robust and ensure implementation based on shared principles.

What distinguishes Lego SP from other creative methods, e.g. design thinking?

It is the ideal process for making an uncertain future tangible and developing it as a robust solution based on a shared understanding.
LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a real-time strategy process in which the team jointly anticipates the future of the endeavour and identifies systemic relationships early on to proactively shape success today. In this process, the Lego models are artefacts of our thinking to make ideas and the strategy tangible.

How does a "typical" Lego® Serious Play® workshop work?

A LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® always begins with a so-called onboarding. The onboarding prepares the participants for the next steps, both methodically and in terms of content. After the warm-up, the actual topic is tackled by building larger models and modelling the success of the project.

First we build individually and then together, because every successful change starts with the individual. Everyone shares responsibility for the design and implementation. Together, the team then takes a bird's eye view and jointly designs the ecosystem in which the project takes place in order to understand connections and feedbacks. In the next step, the team uses various scenarios to experience the real-time strategy by playing out potential events on the entire model and deriving ideas and principles for current action.

What can start-ups use Lego® Serious Play® for?

Start-ups in particular need visions that anchor success in the future in order to work agilely towards it. In addition, it is exciting for start-ups to find out what the ideal team life should look like in the future and what values should be applied when working together. LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is also a great way to find out.

How exactly does team development work with Lego® Serious Play®?

The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® team process makes the - often implicitly lived - values or principles of the team explicit and thus tangible. These are further developed in the course of the workshop along the current and future challenges of cooperation. LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® places a high focus on values or principles of cooperation, as these allow the individual team members to act flexibly and appropriately to the situation and still act in the sense of the team. The team process with Lego® is about the contribution of each individual team member and a look at the togetherness in team life.

How can start-ups develop a strategy with Lego® Serious Play®?

Start-ups face the challenge of presenting a clear, stable vision to funders, customers and employees while remaining flexible enough to sustain the continuous learning and development process. This is the unique superpower of the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® process, because at its core is the development of a shared vision from which future decision-making principles are developed. These decision-making principles enable the start-up to develop in an agile way and give the certainty to continue working on the basis of the shared VIsion. They form the compass for a successful future.

What role do scenarios play in this?

Scenarios are used to test the shared vision for its robustness to possible future changes in the environment. They serve as mental and strategic preparations for the external forces that will have an impact on the vision and its implementation. Possible and desirable strategies for successfully dealing with these possible future developments are developed. This prepares the team to better face the unknown. In addition, common decision-making principles are agreed upon for the team based on the solution strategies developed in the workshop.

What is prototyping? Can Lego also be used for this?

We call LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® prototyping mental models. This is different from prototypes in design thinking, which are concrete images of solutions or even usable products. In a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop, prototypes of shared visions, target images or business models are built. For these results, the Lego models are prototypes that allow the idea to be concretely captured, tested and dynamically adapted during the workshop or afterwards. Thinking with the hands and storytelling on the model make the ideas extraordinarily tangible and achieve that the results are better remembered.

Read the whole interview