A child’s imagination forms the building blocks of lifelong creativity, which is why it’s not such an outlandish notion that LEGOs can help adults unlock their more creative side.
In fact, bringing playtime from the playgrounds to the conference rooms has become a popular trend that’s earned its own methodology: LEGO Serious Play, which is actively used by companies and organizations recognized across the globe.
LEGO Serious Play is comprised of sessions where a facilitator will ask a series of questions, such as “What’s one challenge preventing your company from growth?” Participants must then build their answers using LEGO bricks. The facilitator will then ask follow-up questions to get a better understanding of the creations each participant made with his or her LEGOs.
These sessions have been used by well-known companies, including Coca-Cola, Toyota, Google, and even NASA, as a way to help solve any series of problems, be it remedying a media crisis or addressing an underperforming business strategy.
An overwhelmingly number of workers these days are affixed to screens of all sizes, and rely on the workings of their minds to get the job done. The internal dialogue that occurs during cerebral work can easily prevent employees from taking a step back and thinking outside of the box. When it comes to solving a problem, employees might have a hard time getting outside of their own worlds (and heads).
LEGO Serious Play removes the modern worker’s modus operandi and taps into their creative, imaginative subconscious. Here’s how:
LEGOs have existed, unchanged, long before modern technology was born, thus manipulating them means having to unplug from one’s monitors and smartphones. The iPhone serves no purpose when building with LEGOs. There is no app for that.
Stepping away from technology, alone, can serve to spark creativity and innovative thinking. But LEGOs do more than just pull you away from your screens. The manipulation of LEGO blocks requires your hands to do more work than they’re used to (such as type on a keyboard). They’re asked to find a solution to a problem that your mind – up to this point – hasn’t been able to do on its own.
This hands-on kinesthetic component of playing with LEGOs is a way for people to tap into their subconscious and uncover things they didn’t know they knew. Think of it as a friendlier form of hypnosis, without all that hocus-pocus involved.
Many brainstorming sessions fall into an unfortunate 80/20 trap, where 20% of the group will talk 80% of the time. The same people (or person) will do the talking, including pitching an idea. Another member of the vocal group will agree with the idea, and will offer up slight changes, while yet another has completely tuned out of the conversation.
Clearly this isn’t the most effective approach to solving problems. LEGO Serious Play is designed to destroy this type of environment by getting everyone involved in problem solving. Rather than have one-way conversations, everyone is allotted a few minutes to construct their own solutions – with bricks. Then, with the help of a facilitator, a follow-up conversation will ensue where everyone’s ideas are shared and processed.
The addition of LEGOs into the workplace also helps signal to employees that against-the-grain creativity is encouraged. We all might say that we feel free to offer ideas to our colleagues. However, the further we venture from our childhoods, the more likely we are to try to conform to certain expectations or unspoken workplace conventions. The natural hierarchy of a workplace setting contributes to this phenomenon.
But playtime (even as adults) helps to level the fields. With LEGOs in their hands, C-level employees, call center agents, managers and others interact in a way they’ve never done before, all on a path toward delivering freethinking results designed to solve longstanding problems and build camaraderie.
In an age where complex toys and technologies rule the shelves, it’s refreshing to know that perhaps the most simplistic toy on the planet could hold the key for all of us to unlock the creative geniuses that live within.