EU-MACS Coordinator: Prof. Adriaan Perrels,
parentPage= 676

Lego Serious Play

- Author: Ines Vaittinen (ENoLL)

Communication is important in any kind of collaboration – and when bringing together stakeholders from different fields with varying levels of knowledge across domains, communication becomes especially important. While experts in the field frequently use specific terminology relating to their field, other stakeholders and end-users are often not familiar with the terminology. In some cases specialized terminology may seem as a completely different language.

Through co-creative processes, Living Labs operate as intermediaries between the different stakeholders, facilitating the interactions and driving the innovation forward. Living Labs are based on a multi-method approach where the most suitable method for collaboration is selected to fit the purpose. In this case, the need for a collaborative tool was identified, facilitating discussions among the different stakeholders.

Lego Serious Play is one of such methods, in this case selected for the purpose of allowing participants to communicate, collaborate and co-create around one table while speaking the same language. The method encourages creative thinking, improves common understanding and ensures that each participant around the table has a turn to speak and share. Through the use of models built from Lego bricks the participants are directed towards a simplified language enhanced by hands-on learning and reflection.

During the Lego Serious Play workshops participants from private, public and academic institutions were brought together in a structured problem-solving activity involving Lego bricks. The challenges were formed to investigate the different points-of-view, current information needs and ideas for climate services for each of the quadruple helix stakeholders: public, private, academia and citizens.

Workshop methodology

The methodology starts with a short introduction presentation explaining the history behind Lego Serious Play and the reasons why the methodology is so powerful. While built on playing with Lego bricks, the methodology is also serious play, and the results that can and have been attained through this methodology need to be explained first for participants to understand it’s seriousness, and to keep an open mind.

Once convinced that playing with Legos is worthwhile, the participants must acquire a few skills to be able to follow the process: (1) technical: often combined with a team-building or introductory activity, in the technical skills building participants familiarize themselves with the available Lego bricks and build their first model.

(2) metaphors: a few simple bricks may represent many different things. It only takes two crossing bricks in the same configuration to represent an airplane, a scale, a bridge, a cross and so forth. Now this assembly may also represent travel, freedom, flying, weight, justice, connections, moving forward, religion, faith, belief and so forth. With a little bit of imagination, Lego bricks can thus represent anything you want them to. (3) story telling: mastering the art of metaphors, participants can now build stories around their models. Stories allow the builder to reflect and to expand on their initial thoughts through dialogue.

After the introduction and skills building exercise, the participants were guided through a structured problem-solving process, where a challenge was presented in the form of a question, participants were given a set period of time to build their answers to the challenge, each participant was allowed to share and reflect on their model and story.

The exercise focused on finding the different types of information needed by the different quadruple helix stakeholders, as well as ideating on the types of climate services that could be created to answer these needs. When arriving to discussions about the citizen’s role the groups were divided to consider four specific types of potential users: house owners, commuters/travelers, farmers/gardeners & environmental activists. These four user groups were identified through previous sessions (see guideline 2: citizen involvement). The final results were synthesized in the form of a debrief report, outlining the types of information, types of services, and design principles for the design of the services, for each individual stakeholder.

The last step in the workshop was to consider the costs and benefits related to climate services from the different points of view. In this section the “six thinking hats” methodology was used to consider the problem from six different points of view: (1) benefits (2) problems (3) planning (4) ideas (5) emotions (6) facts.

Lego Serious Play

Lego Serious Play workshops are run by a facilitator who provides the introduction, skills building exercises and challenges for all participants. When participants are split in groups each table also needs a facilitator in charge of facilitating the discussions among their table, ensuring that the findings are recorded and asking the right questions to encourage reflection among the participants. Facilitators are trained to enforce the three rules of the game: (1) think with your hands: build first, think after. Participants should grab Lego blocks as soon as the challenge is presented, rather than waiting to think of the answer first, allowing their hands to do the thinking. (2) everybody builds their own model. When working on the individual models stage, as done in this workshop, each participant builds their own model. With more time you may also plan a common, integrated model where participants work together on the same model. (3) Reflect on what you’ve built: having built their models, it’s time to share. When participants are explaining their models and the stories behind, facilitators encourage reflection by asking meaningful questions (for example, was there a reason behind choosing a green brick for this? What does this flag signify? Etc.)

See the facilitation slides used during the workshop here and the instructions for table facilitators here.

Debriefing a workshop is an important step in the process, gathering and synthesizing all insights that arose during the workshop. With a clear debrief report the learnings from the workshop can be taken up in the next steps in the process, and implemented in the design of the climate service itself. The conclusions of this workshop highlighted the importance of information such as urban versus non-urban simulations, soil condition, localized information and information about the magnitude or frequency of extreme events, among others. Ideas for climate services included the spatial location of main problems, training technicians & citizens in the use of CS, aggregated scenario building tool responding to adopted practices, warnings and risk maps, among others. Considerations were also made towards the design principles: the ways in which such information should be presented and what to keep in mind in the design of the climate service. Such design principles included, for example: considering integration at planning level, considering policy and transparency, improving the information sharing between institutions, presence of a central authority and the varying levels of knowledge, skills, beliefs and worries of different stakeholders. For more details on the workshop findings see the workshop debrief report here.

Six thinking hats

Through the six thinking hats methodology, participants are guided through a process of considering the same problem through different vantage points. This methodology guides discussions to include considerations to the different aspects, and following the Living Lab way, the exercise was expanded further: as well as deploying six thinking hats, the exercise divided participants to think from the different perspectives of a variety of stakeholders. As a result, a discussion was simulated that involved different perspectives as well as different topics to consider, allowing each to encourage the ideas through the benefits hat and to play the devil’s advocate through the problems hat, and so forth.
The workshop slides explaining the applied workshop methodology and the challenge presented can be viewed here.