LEGO® Serious Play® Workshops

What You Can Expect at a LSP Workshop

When you attend one of my LEGO Serious Play (LSP) workshops, you are most likely attending because you are at a fork in the road and you need strategic decision making in one of three areas:

  1. Career goal-setting
  2. Personal goal-setting
  3. Personal and workplace relationships

It isn’t that you lack the ability to make decisions; more often it is because you have too many choices or you are pulled in so many different directions that you seem to be unable to make the right decision for you. There is no age range for the workshop and there is no requirement to be a LEGO ninja – in fact, the less you know about LEGOs the better because you will focus more on the story you should tell, rather than your building technique.

No one can be a passive observer. Everyone builds, everyone tells their story about what they built, and everyone asks questions about other participant’s models. Cell phones are off and there are only a few breaks through the day (refreshments are provided). Snacks and lunch are included in your registration fee; the goal is to keep everyone on-site and building. We begin the workshop with a couple of simple building exercises. These initial builds help you learn the “LEGO language” and they also help you to know your fellow workshop participants. After that, we embark upon builds that answer questions that require deeper reflection and explanation. LSP is built on the assumption that we consciously use only a small part of our brain at any one time; there are troves of deeper knowledge that we all have but need help in recalling. It is this deeper knowledge that can help us make strategic decisions. The deeper and more complex the build question, the more you must think through what you built and why you built it. As a facilitator, my goal is to keep our focus on the models and to make deep inquiry that helps “flesh out” that knowledge you forgot you had. By the end of the workshop you should have a plan for action – without writing a single word on a piece of paper! You are invited to take photos of your builds as a reminder of your next steps and you are welcome to write some final notes if it will help keep you accountable. While total workshop time depends on how many people have registered, it is safe to plan on an 8-hour session. I provide all the LEGOS (no, you don’t get to take them home); just bring an open mind and a willingness to participate.

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Why LEGO Serious Play Works – an Experiential Learning Primer


experiential learning

To explain how Lego Serious Play works its magic, it would be helpful to understand a little bit about how your brain learns by experience. I have been around education theories for as long as I can remember; I could throw out terms like constructivist or constructionist learning or I could name drop early development researchers such as Lev Vygotsky or Jean Piaget. What I would rather do is explain experiential learning using an example that most everyone can relate to: Driving a car.

Think back to your earliest memories of being in a car. Maybe your parents let you play behind the wheel when the car was parked in the driveway (hopefully not running). Maybe you had a little petal or electric car to drive around your driveway. That was all child’s role play but as you got older, you knew the day would come when the car would no longer be a toy. This impression of a driving was registered in your sensory cortex (#1 in the image); your brain received direct sensory physical information from the world and you were in an environment to learn.  At this moment, the information received by your brain was not necessarily unique – everyone in a similar circumstance may have similar sensory input.

As time got closer to the age where you could drive (#2 in the image), you were probably making reflective observations (daydreaming) of driving. You were imagining where you would drive, who would be in the car with you, what music you would have playing, and how your parents could no longer embarrass you in front of your friends. As you let your mind wander, your back integrative cortex was making mental images and associating meaning to the idea of your driving. As far as you were concerned, you were already driving but you haven’t yet turned on the ignition. As this point, your brain has begun to internalize information according to your preferences and you are making connections between something new (driving) and something you already know (places you would go).

Once you were convinced you were going to be an icon of driving perfection, the actual mechanics of driving came into play (#3 in the image). The frontal integrative cortex (the portion of the brain that assembles plans for action) had to translate all that daydreaming into actually learning how to drive. You had to understand the sequence of checking oncoming traffic before pulling out, parallel parking, and the rules of the road. If you couldn’t prove sufficient mastery of these skills when test-time came along, you were not granted a driver’s license and you had to review the information before trying again. This coordination of mental information, visual stimulation, and physical action helps to reinforce development and is specific to you.

It has been more years ago than I care to admit but I still remember the day I took my over-the-road driving test. I begged my mother drive us to a testing station that was two hours from our home because it was my birthday, I was old enough to legally drive, and all the stations closer to home were booked. I had daydreamed enough, I had passed the written test, and I was ready for ACTION. This active testing (#4 in the image) is triggered by the motor cortex of the brain and carries out the plans and ideas of the first three phases. I remember starting the test that day in our GIGANTIC Ford family station wagon with a matronly test inspector that seemed to lack any sense of humor whatsoever. I followed her instructions and thought I was doing well until…the dreaded parallel parking maneuver. With a lump in my throat, I backed the wagon into the parking space, cursing my mother for not having instead buying a family VW Beetle. I finally stopped the car and put it in park, allowing my inspector to get out and determine whether I had knocked over the cones that marked the parking space. I turned the car off, got out of the car, and went back to see for myself. The back bumper of our family station wagon was touching the cone but had not knocked it over. I PASSED. Of course, the two-hour drive back home was spent with me trying to negotiate car privileges as if I had been driving all my life. Active testing is highly personalized and involves repetition to not only master a task, but to develop critical thinking skills and the ability to teach the task to others.

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How LEGO Serious Play uses Experiential Learning

To learn by experience you need to coordinate actions visually, mentally, and physically. If all those things are working together, you are in the ZONE. Really – there is a term for this and the LEGO method capitalizes on it. It is called the Zone of Proximal Development and it was coined by Lev Vygotsky:

“the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86).

What this means in non-educator terms is that when you are in “the zone”, you are in that space between a) what you know and b) what you are capable of knowing or discovering. Getting from point a to point b is where skilled facilitation comes in, along with collaboration with your peers. In LEGO Serious Play, you learn the LEGO language (#1 in the image) but the rest of the time you are making a cycle along steps #2-#4 in an effort to get you from what you know to what it is possible to know. It WORKS – and it works in less time than other, traditional methods of discovery.

I’ll give you my own example. I had been following LEGO Serious Play for two years before I was finally able to be certified in the method. I had decided to become a solo practitioner; a lot of time, energy, and money had been spent in getting to this moment. This career was my choice, for better or for worse. Of course, like anyone who has to make a career or life decision, I was scared. I was afraid to fail, I was afraid no one would find what I offered to be of value, and as a result I would be a professional and personal failure. Does this sound familiar?

During my facilitator training, the 13 of us who were in attendance were asked to build a model that represents our business identity. I built a model (the model used in this photo) and when it came my turn to articulate my model, I thoughtfully explained the WiseGuides purpose. Our facilitator was Robert Rasmussen, one of the creators of the LEGO Serious Play method; this man knew exactly what questions to ask to get an individual into the zone. He began asking questions that at first made me feel defensive. Why did he want to know why a particular piece was in my model and why it was important to me? With each question, I found that I had to dig deeper into my soul to find the answer. I found myself in a strange place between frustration, tears, and facing the fact that I really couldn’t answer his questions.

Robert finally asked something akin to why this model was important to me – why WiseGuides was important to me. I had reached the bottom of my soul and just blurted out in front of everyone, “I believe God put me on this earth to help others find their voice.” That was IT. That was WHY I had put all the time, energy, and struggle into making WiseGuides happen. I felt that I had a calling and this wasn’t just a choice among choices for a profession. It was something I felt I had to do in order to give back to the world. That moment caused a huge shift in how I approached my work. Yes, there are always steps in my work that make me second guess what I am doing. But in the pit of my soul I know this is the right vocation for me and I believe THE defining moment that makes me push forward is that moment when Robert pressed me into the zone and I dug deep for an answer.

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What You Can Expect

Expect to be uncomfortable. Expect to laugh at yourself and with your peers. Expect to find answers. Expect to be tired – this digging takes a lot out of you. I found it to be like group therapy on steroids. But it will renew you – it will give you a new perspective and it will make you glad you did it.

Finally, a disclaimer. These workshops are for development; they are not a substitute for counseling or therapy. Please read the disclaimer before you register for any workshop.

**The information provided by WiseGuides is solely for developmental personal use and education. It should not be treated as a substitute for professional assistance, psychotherapy, or counseling. In the event of physical or emotional distress, please consult with appropriate health care professionals. The application of information in any session is the choice of each individual, who assumes full responsibility for his or her understandings, interpretations, and results. WiseGuides assumes no responsibility for the actions or choices of any client.

I hope to see you at a workshop – if you want more information about any workshop or if there will be a workshop in your area, please contact me through the contact form on my website or at (386) 212-3663.