Building Teams Brick By Brick


Er, LEGO? That’s how we’re going to resolve this? There may then be a side glance at a colleague, a nervous cough, maybe even a lengthy silence. You can see they’re thinking, He seemed OK when we asked him to help out with the trust issues in our team, but now we’re not so sure…

Perhaps I’ve been lucky, but I’ve only had a few cases of the above. Mostly, we’re getting used to gamification and the crazy idea that people can have fun while they’re working on important stuff, meaningful stuff, serious stuff.

I’m really hoping this is not old age talking, but I’m in the fortunate situation of not being able to remember how many LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshops I’ve run now. They’re all individually memorable but as a whole number? Tumbleweeds….

Fortunate because other than coaching, I can’t remember (here we go again, a pattern?) coming across anything else that said ‘Look at me. I’m brilliant. Use me’ as strongly as LEGO does.

I’ve worked with the most sceptical physicians and C Suite members through to the most analytical process types in L&D, the guys who pick everything apart to see if it works (it does – they agreed).  From people who have lived with LEGO all their lives through to those picking up a brick for the first time.

I’ve used it for teams, for coaching with someone who was struggling to articulate their goals, even for a bit of self-exploration – but, wow, it’s hard to switch off the inner facilitator / coach when you do that…

In organizations, a common application is around strategy development or visioning, and then identifying the values and behaviours that are going to support or hinder a team achieving that vision. That may be the explicit aim, but as we get there, the participants are collectively problem solving and, most importantly, learning more about each other. Sounds like teambuilding, doesn’t it?

As a way of getting people talking, it has few rivals. The gift with LEGO is that everyone participates, including the quieter ones who may never talk up in meetings or brainstorming sessions. It’s an open way to contribute – having your model represent what you’re thinking somehow makes it safer and less judgmental for speaker and listener to share and consider.

It gets people out of their heads. The focus of making something with your hands opens up creative thinking and new ways of looking at issues, providing fresh insights and ways of understanding colleagues. The integral elements of building, sharing, listening, and reflecting truly foster team understanding and trust as well as learning in itself.

And it’s infinitely tactile. Leave the bricks on the table and participants will immediately reach for them, even those who weren’t too convinced at the start of the day.

The trick, as ever, is to know when not to use it. As the man said, you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold. It’s a tool. We always need to remember it’s there to facilitate and not dominate. When the doors are open and people are talking, let them talk. Otherwise you’re just using LEGO for the sake of using LEGO (kinda cool, but clients can be ever so funny about paying for this).

And finally, just spare a thought for those of us who have to sort through the bricks come the end of the workshop…..

Yup, this is an unashamed plug for the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology. And if you want to know more, reach out to Sean at ProMeet. Your teams won’t regret it.

About Julian King

Julian King is an international HR consultant and certified executive coach with a keen interest in intercultural matters.