It is all Serious Play: Exploring the Power of Lego Serious Play

What sort of vehicle does this person drive?


As humans, we tend to look at the first pattern that fits what we know and then stay with it. Thus, when exposed to questions like this, for most of us our automatic response would be based on our earlier experiences. This is true of any situation, because the human brain is designed to “lean in” on previous experiences.

However, this in turn implies that strong subject matter expertise often leads us to view a situation through the lens we are most familiar with and unconsciously ignore what is less familiar.

This limits creativity. It is in this context that this paper seeks to share the merits of using Serious Play as a framework for fuelling creativity to address the brand or a business problem in hand.

Another quick question: What comes to mind when you think about the word coffee?

Take a deep breath and think . . . what do you visualize? A black brew? Does a bitter taste brush against your palate? Do you see a brewing machine in your office or kitchen?

This is because when we see the word coffee, a cascade of electrical impulses links neurons that encode the concept of coffee with concepts of blackness, bitterness, and office.

This example seeks to highlight a fact that neuroscientists have long since established: experiences are stored in the human brain in a nonlinear associative fashion. However, these images are not stored in our brains as colourless text but as visual or sensorial experiences.

Using text or words only to access memories and experiences about your company or brand is limiting and problematic. To learn deeper truths and access the constellation of narratives associated with your brand, you need to go beyond traditional consumer research. Thus, about two years ago at IdStats, we started experimenting with the Serious Play (SP) framework to unlock creativity by a formal process that gets participants to:

Lean in on existing knowledge to build their individual “world view” by building models using Lego toys, and by using the Serious Play process to unlock the hand and brain connection to access memories stored both in their conscious and their subconscious. These “individual world views” or “models” thus represent “individual metaphors” and offer a unique opportunity to explore values, knowledge, and experiences of the individual.

Leverage the power of ‘co-creation’.

Co-creation is a buzz word in today’s business literature and has been defined as “the idea that helps unleash the creative energy of many people such that it transforms both their individual experience and the economics of the organization that enabled it.” (Francis 2010). And this is what Serious Play naturally does: it unleashes the creative energy of participants and transforms it into opportunities, experiences, and changes for the organization or brand.

To elaborate, the Serious Play process is a three-step process, as detailed below:

Stage 1: The facilitator poses the question to the group.

Stage 2: Individuals use toys and other materials to construct individual 3D metaphorical models of their narrative and experience, and share their narrative.

Stage 3: The participants undertake a constructive discussion in which they negotiate, share ideas, and literally build new ideas together using the individual shared Lego models as a starting point.

Successful innovation often results from altering the way that you look at the challenge.

Serious Play helps generate new insights, ideas, combinations, connections, and solutions, and leverages “imagination” through the oft-neglected but pivotal lens of play!