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The Lonely Guy: LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®’s connection to coaching

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® was not designed to be used by coaches. However, many coaches use the technique, and like many of the other tools that coaches can use, it can generate deep insights. Indeed, recent research has shown that team coaching with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® can enhance psychological safety and team cohesion. There are many reasons for this. When thinking about teams in particular, one of the reasons sits with “the lonely guy”.


Who is the lonely guy?


Having been trained by Robert Rassmussen (one of the architects of the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method), the author was introduced to the lonely guy early on in their LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® journey. The lonely guy is the story behind the method, and it is the reason why is it so powerful. LSP is why it is more than just a technique, it is anchored in a value system. A value system that has a lot in common with coaching.


The value system that the lonely guy represents is the untapped potential that lies in organisations. The lonely guy (a term coined by Rassmussen) represents the fact that everyone wants to be heard.


Robert says:

“all of us working on the original launch of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY wanted to help the "lonely guy" in the workplace. By "lonely guy" we were thinking about all the employees who see corporate plans as someone else's plan, who see corporate goals as someone else's ideas, who sit at tables in boardrooms, conference rooms or lunch rooms and listen to others doing all the talking”.

The belief that underpins LSP is that, through listening, you can release individual potential. The more individuals see how they fit in the system, the more they engage and the more the organisation can benefit from their knowledge. This is why LSP and coaching are such strong bedfellows. The answer lies with the individual and the system they are in.


How LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® can be a positive psychological intervention in  coaching

Research has shown that LSP is an enabler for creating new awareness and new insights with individuals (Quinn, Trinh, & Passmore (2021). It also helps create psychologically safe environments. It allows for more time to think and is designed for participants to be in flow. In other words, it can be thought of as a positive psychological intervention when facilitated by coaches.


Why is LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® so powerful?


Some of the science that sits behind the technique relates to hand-brain thinking. This is the notion that our hands are connected to 80% of the nerve cells of the motor cortex. In other words, by using our hands we tap into knowledge that we might not have through other thinking methods. You will often hear LSP facilitators say “just build”. The answers often come seemingly from nowhere.


LSP has been designed with constructivism in mind – this is the idea that we learn through doing. One of the strengths of LSP is that it helps participants to remember what has happened in a way that other methods don’t.


Play helps adults to learn. It has also been shown that play helps sustain positive relationships. In particular with LEGO® there is often a reconnection with childhood that helps encourage creativity and risk-taking in LSP workshops.


Finally, LSP gives the lonely guy time to think – unfiltered by the thoughts of others – and it gives him or her a voice. An equal platform.


Study shows that LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is more effective than traditional team development


Recent research has shown the benefits of using LSP in the context of team coaching. Passmore, Tee, and Gold (2024) found that team coaching with LSP is more effective than traditional team development and it has a longer-lasting impact.


Psychological safety has been defined as: “The belief that one will not be punished, or humiliated, for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking”. Team cohesion is a psychological construct that refers to the degree to which members of a team feel connected, united, and committed to each other.  Both of these constructs have been shown to enhance performance in teams.


The research by Passmore et al, was based on a study where some teams took part in a team coaching day with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® and others a team facilitation workshop day.  The LSP team worked on “several exercises where the facilitator used a coaching style based on behavioural and solution-focused approaches, encouraging self-discovery and sense-making.”  The second group worked on exercises such as 'what are the team’s objectives' and thought about the topics with a facilitator.


The teams were measured before the intervention, immediately after it, and also eight weeks later.  Team coaching had a significant impact on psychological safety and team cohesion, even after eight weeks. However, the impact was greatest when LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® was used.  


This comes as no surprise to us. One of our LSP facilitators, here at Client Talk has previously shown that with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®:

 

  • the LEGO® building process releases thoughts and feelings previously ignored and acts as a buffer between those thoughts and the reality of discussing them with other team members

  • provides an opportunity to explore the meaning of events and relationships more deeply than traditional team-building events; and

  • the coaching process allows time to think, whilst simultaneously providing an experience of being in flow.

 

Here at Client Talk, we love LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® and we are delighted that the academic research is now showing what we knew all along. It works! To find out how we can help create team cohesion and enhanced psychological safety in your organisation, get in touch.



Lego Serious Play
Lego Serious Play lonely guy

 

 

 

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