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Duck v Tower? Which is best in a LEGO Serious Play Technical Skills Build?

Most trained LEGO Serious Play Facilitators begin workshops with a skills build and 'build a tower' is a common first build task. In this short video, ProMeet Associate Caroline Jessop argues that asking participants to build a model of a duck is a better first build. What do you think?

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Listening and how to improve it

This post is by SeriousWork author Sean Blair, who spends most of his time facilitating meetings and workshops for clients in many countries on behalf of ProMeet, a professional facilitation business.

Firstly he proposes that there are five levels of listening that we use in meetings. Next he explains how LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® uses three modes of communication that results in higher levels of listening. Finally, for facilitators familiar with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, Sean shares how to help people listen and understand even more fully.


Who's not listening?

Imagine a meeting or workshop where everyone showed up - then paid no attention to each other at all. Imagine no one listening to anything anyone said. Can you picture that? Maybe you've even seen or felt that??

Begin by reflecting on listening

At most ProMeet workshops this year, (with or without LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, ProMeet workshops don't always use LEGO) we've begun by inviting participants to think about listening. This is a good thing to do at the beginning of a process like a meeting or workshop.

To help participants reflect on how they might listen we invite them to explore this model:

Levels of Listening

Framing a workshop as a listening process, and an opportunity for each of us (including me) to learn about how we listen helps create a healthy meeting culture where people are more self-aware and respectful.

Of course setting out intending to listen at the higher levels doesn't mean do listen. If participants begin to 'talk over each other' or if group attention drifts towards the lower listening levels a facilitator can ask where the listening level is (or call it) and participants can remember that listening-to-understand is a better way to achieve shared aims and develop respectful relationships.

Try it yourself, at the beginning of your meeting or workshop. Share a slide or handout and invite the group to give examples of their experience of each of the levels of listening, then as the meeting progresses, ask where the level is if it drifts.

Listening is deeper with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®

One of the KEY benefits of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is what we call 'enhanced communication', where participants use three modes of communication together:

  1. Auditory communication - speaking
  2. Visual communication - illustrating the thought or idea using a model as a prop to hold peoples attention
  3. Kinaesthetic communication - involving body and movement as you talk, move and animate the ideas mediated through the model

You can see a short video describing these benefits in a little more detail here.

When participants know how to activate these three modes (we teach these skills at the outset of a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop), LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® has a big advantage over traditional meetings when it comes to listening.

When these modes are used well, listeners are more fully engaged by the speaker, as they listen with their ears and eyes but also though a wider perception of people and space.

STRATEGY WITH LEGO SERIOUS PLAY

Participants at a recent ProMeet workshop using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® to develop strategy

People may or may not be conscious of their resulting sensory and mental states in reaction to the auditory, visual and physical stimuli, but what's clear, and what the photo above tries to show, is the level of listening is greater than you usually see in traditional meetings.

Understanding meaning

Listening does not equate to understanding.

In LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Build Level 2 - Shared Model Building, (see a model with all three build levels) participants build shared models then take turns to explain what the model means. The differences in individual story telling give the group an opportunity to explore the different meanings people have and though dialogue understand and agree on common meaning.

For those familiar with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® this is a very common and familiar process.

Facilitate meaning, not talking.

Last week I was running a workshop where we were creating a vision of what success looked like in 12 months time for a small senior leadership team. One of the participants built this lovely and complex model of his vision for the team.

Team Vision with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY

An individual participant model of his vision for his team in 12 months time

As with every LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop after he built it, he explained his vision to the others using the model, next (with his permission) I passed his model to another member of the group and asked the other to explain what it meant.

The immediate implication of this move was a) it tested the extent to which the others had been listening, and as second person told their understanding of the model b) it allowed the builder and the new teller to explore and understand what the builder had meant, not what the listener had heard.

Usually at Build Level 1 Individual model building LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitators don't ask people to explain what each others individual models mean, but in this experiment, I did, and it seemed to help the level of listening remain high at Level 3: listening to understand.

Try this idea during one of your LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshops and see if it makes a difference to the already great level of listening LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® creates.

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What does our LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Facilitator Training look like?

Serious Work does not teach LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. Instead we train you how to professionally facilitate using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.

This re-frame means we provide lots of opportunities for participants to practice their facilitation skills and build their confidence to use the method.

If you're curious to know what our masterclasses look like the photos and video below show you a Serious Work Masterclass in action and comments from course participants might give you a sense of the feel of our way of training (thanks Paul and Caroline!)

The overarching course objective

Our London training venue

The masterclass brings to life the ideas in our book

Practicing the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Skills Build

Facilitating individual model building

Facilitating shared model building

Experiencing system model building

Learning about video and photography

Designing and facilitating group tasks

Facilitating a first workshop on the evening of day 2.

And thanks for the kind words from masterclass participants, Paul and Caroline.

Paul Brown: Abductive thinker, perpetual learner and product guy

"I have had the pleasure of being instructed by Sean on two different Lego Serious Play courses now and I have to say, both times I spent a fantastic couple of days learning and doing the practices with him and the other wonderful people who shared the training experience with me. I am a huge fan of what and how Sean does what he does - I have learned SO much from him.

He is the kind of mentor / teacher everyone wants and deserves; thoughtful, strong, hugely knowledgeable, empathetic and with a level of technical and interpersonal skill that I have rarely seen. I feel very lucky indeed to have been able to share time with him and I look forward to continuing to build on our relationship in the future as a student, client and friend."

Caroline Jessop: Coaching and Facilitation

"Just a thanks, as one human to another for creating such a lovely learning space. I feel like you crafted a lovely warm Petri dish of agar jelly for us all to grow in, and I was one happy microbe!

It's said, that people may not remember what you said (though in this case we hope they will!) but they will remember how you made them feel. There are many moments in the future when all of us will channel our inner Sean, which is a very powerful thing to have imparted.

Please print this message, and put it somewhere illogical. I have the hope that at some point in the future you might unexpectedly come across it and be reminded of what you achieved for us today."

Reserve your place on a Masterclass http://serious.global/learn/book/

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A LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® meeting identification flowchart

If you are a trained LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator perhaps you’ve heard the odd debate about what is (or isn’t) LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. This diagram seeks to demystify the obvious. Obviously.

View or download PDF in at http://www.serious.global/Is-that-LEGO-SERIOUS-PLA...

“LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is entering a new phase. New applications will be developed by the international community of users, and may be shared online. In this new phase, we welcome creative uses of these tools, and innovation in the community”

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® OPEN SOURCE GUIDE 2010 (link)

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What is LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®?

If you ask different people what LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is you might well get different answers. The reason? Because it's many things in the same package.


LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a Method

It is a systematic method that enables people to use LEGO® bricks to solve problems, explore ideas and achieve objectives.

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a Process

It is a structured process where participants proceed through a series of steps to think, build, tell a story, reflect and refine, to develop a shared understanding on the issue at hand.

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a Communication tool or language

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® enables three modes of communication: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. The models enable enhanced expression, deeper listening and better memory.

Shared model building allow teams to understand each others interpretation and create deeper shared meaning of key ideas.

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a Service

It is a service provided by trained facilitators, trainers or coaches who use LEGO® bricks hand in hand with other material tools to help individuals or teams achieve objectives and create outcomes.

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a Framework

As a framework or philosophy LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a participatory mode of leadership that is democratic, all-inclusive, playful, goal-driven and constructive.

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a Product line

It is also patented and trademarked product line of LEGO® corporation. LEGO® and its subsidiary Executive Discovery patented LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® in early 2001 as “a program, method and materials for enhancing creative thinking, communication, decision-making and strategic planning.” (U.S. Patent no. 20020103774-A1)

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a Meeting tool

While some applications might need a five day LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop we also have witnessed its power to activate people in small and large groups, in brief interventions of just 10 minutes to workshop over several days.

Reproduced from the introduction to SERIOUS WORK: HOW TO FACILITATE MEETINGS AND WORKSHOPS USING THE LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® METHOD

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Duck v Tower? Which is best in a LEGO Serious Play Technical Skills Build?
Most trained LEGO Serious Play Facilitators begin workshops with a skills ...
Listening and how to improve it
This post is by SeriousWork author Sean Blair, who spends most of his time ...
What does our LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Facilitator Training look like?
Serious Work does not teach LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. Instead we train you how ...
A LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® meeting identification flowchart
If you are a trained LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator perhaps you’ve ...
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If you ask different people what LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is you might well ...
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