, Salem, MA


December 12, 2012

Building ideas, breaking down barriers

Lego workshop inspires creativity


“I try to use every piece I can,” said Clarence Wallace, a heavy equipment operator from Georgetown. “I try to make it sturdy.”

Later, Wallace spoke at length about the importance of safety in a construction job.

There is no one right answer as to what the tower should be.

“It’s a tower if you say it’s a tower. You can tell a story with a single brick,” Denio said.

“I was thinking about alternative energy, so I built a windmill,” said Deborah Mason-McCaffrey, an assistant professor of physics at Salem State University.

The simple task forced participants to think and then use their imagination to come up with all sorts of designs.

“This is my tower, and I turned it into a boat,” said Anna Blumberg, a junior at Gordon College. “On every boat, there has to be a plank.”

Participants were then asked to build an aspect of their work that is energizing. Some made coffee coasters, and others tried to build models describing their work, including Paul Speidel, a self-employed Beverly consultant who said he works with scientists, so he added a propeller to the head of one of the figures.

Speidel said the workshop immediately broke down barriers between participants, as both the students and experienced businesspeople used the blocks to help them describe their ideas.

“It immediately tore down the barriers you accept and put up,” Speidel said.

The next challenge involved building an important aspect of leadership, and the final challenge was putting them all together to create a model that describes an effective leader. Many of the tables created circular models, but the trick was relating them in some way to define a leader’s quality and interpret that.

“There’s something about going through the building process,” Denio said, “making what we didn’t even know ourselves concrete.”

The most important answer came at the end when a participant asked if participants got to keep their Lego sets.

“Yes,” Denio replied.

If this had been a longer workshop, the technique would have been applied to solve a real-world business problem, Denio and Reuther said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.

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