Robert Rasmussen was one of the architects behind LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. Training with him, we first heard the phrase: LSP requires a complex challenge and a courageous leader. In professional services firms we are surrounded by main complex challenges. This article thinks about how one of the most complex challenges that many firms face can be supported by something that is often considered child’s play: LEGO®.
What is LEGO ® SERIOUS PLAY ® (LSP)?
LSP is a method that was developed within LEGO® as a means to support the company with strategic ideation. It draws on organisational development, psychology, and learning methodology. It was made available outside of the company and it has grown in popularity for one very simple reason: it works.
Sadly (as with coaching) it is easy for people to say that they “do LSP”. Much like the self-denominated coaches who are not bound by rules, or affiliated with any professional bodies, facilitators can pick up some bricks and use them in order to work with groups. They may do this and generate a buzz, maybe even some learning. However, it is only the facilitators who have learned the LSP methodology and who understand the various techniques that LSP encompasses that can truly optimize the experience and learning of participants.
Why does it require a courageous leader?
A courageous leader is needed because one of the fundamental principles of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is that everyone is equal. Everyone’s voice has equal weight. This means that the leader is on par with the most junior in the room. If the conditions are right, then this can lead to deep insight. It is felt that it takes a brave leader to be open to that, as well as to admit that they don’t have all the answers.
In professional services firms, where there is still a high degree of hierarchy, it can be hard to create the right environment for everyone to share equally and openly. LSP is designed to do just that. It is also a way to get partners to speak equally and openly amongst themselves: which is a separate challenge we see in firms.
Can LSP be used for any challenge?
The short answer to that is yes. The slightly longer answer is yes if the challenge is one that would benefit from a tool that enables the harvesting of collective insight and which requires commitment and buy-in. For this reason, we believe that it has a big role to play in many of the challenges firms are facing, and in particular with the challenges around DEI.
5 ways that LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® can help with diversity and inclusion
Much of DEI is simple, if you believe, as we do, that it is the right thing to do. However, there are many elements to it that are more complex, even if you start there; achieving gender parity at leadership levels, for example, has been a notoriously difficult nut to crack.
Here we set out 5 reasons why we think LSP can help with some of those complexities.
1. The answer is in the system – a fundament principle of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is that the answer is in the system. At Client Talk, we often speak about the need to go wider when thinking about DEI and bemoan how firms are often drawn to fixing the symptoms rather than the cause. The systemic perspective offered by LSP is the reason why we use it for DEI.
2. All conversations are about the model – the ability to point people to a model of the participant's understanding frees up conversations and builds an additional layer of psychological safety in the room. It is about noticing and reflecting; done well it helps to remove the judgments that can so often stand in the way of having open conversations about DEI.
3. It recognises that there isn’t just one solution - if there is one area where this is true then DEI is it. We have written before about the difference between equity and equality. Equity is the means to get equality and responds to the fact that everyone has different needs and motivations. LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® isn't about finding one watered-down solution that everyone can compromise and agree on. It is about understanding what is important to everyone and making sure that the solution is one that everyone can live with.
4. It provides a means of articulating complex networks and relationships - is there a professional services firm that doesn't fit this description?
5. It brings to the surface more than can come out of conscious ideation - this is helpful with all challenges, but with DEI, where so much is unconscious, it can help participants notice things that they perhaps hadn't thought of before.