SALEM — Last week, 37 people gathered in groups around tables in a conference room in the Enterprise Center on Salem State University’s campus to play with Lego building blocks.
The two-hour workshop wasn’t child’s play, however, as two consultants introduced the grown-ups to “Lego Serious Play,” which has a deeper meaning than just the construction of towers and bridges.
Playing with colorful plastic building blocks can help organizations solve complex problems by breaking down the rigid social conventions of the typical business meeting, said workshop facilitators Donna Denio, the principal of S&D Global Partners of Winchester, and Dieter Reuther, an operations consultant with Cast Collective of Boston.
Those in the Lego Serious Play workshop on Dec. 4 were North Shore businesspeople, organization and education leaders, Gordon College students, and even some who are between jobs. As they played with the Lego blocks and spoke about their ideas, they tackled what it means to be an effective leader, to work together on a project, to share ideas and to be creative, almost from the first tower they built.
At its base, Lego Serious Play is a tool to help people communicate better and solve problems by simply having people play with the building blocks and little people, then describe what they have built.
The act of putting together Lego pieces and thinking about the ways they go together, then relating that to a business or technical problem, can draw people out. According to Lego Serious Play etiquette, participants can only refer to flaws with their models rather than to a person’s idea, which acts to defuse egos and make talking about problems far less personal.
For more than 10 years, companies and workshops in Europe have used Lego Serious Play to break through challenges such as finding ways to get more clients; helping with a change in leadership or direction in the company; getting employees to collaborate on a large, complex project; or encouraging individuals to contribute equally in important meetings.