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To play or not to play? Report from my first workshop

Graduate Stories: Blog post by Trevor Ray, graduate of SeriousWork facilitator training.

To be blunt, when I first heard of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® I had pretty mixed feelings. On the one hand I am a firm believer in people having fun whilst they learn, on the other I was concerned whether using children’s building blocks would cross the line too far into play and loose learning impact.

In his essay “Some Paradoxes in the Definition of Play,” psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (see footnote) described play as "a subset of life..., an arrangement in which one can practice behaviour without dreading its consequences" – isn’t that exactly what a good training programme does? A well facilitated course enables participants to practise new skills, behaviours and attitudes in the safety of a training room where there are no ‘dreaded consequences.’

In my first workshop that I faciliated this week for a cleaning company, the initial attitude to seeing packs of LEGO® bricks on the table was very similar to my own mixed feelings a year or so ago. But as participants began to use the bricks, this scepticism quickly faded into very active engagement from everyone – even those that have previously failed to participate in more traditional courses.

By the end of the workshop, the room was absolutely buzzing with excitement and more importantly – with very positive outcomes for the team and company as a whole, including:

  • Those that were quieter and felt ‘bit parts’ in the service had a new sense of value and worth as they understood how important their ‘small’ part in the process was
  • A previously poorly engaged member of staff has shown a radical improvement in his teamwork and therefore in his team’s efficacy
  • Greater shared understanding of the roles of different departments within the organisation and how they are all striving for the same goal i.e. delighted customers
  • A shared vision, across all departments, as to what ‘excellent’ looks like
  • A shared understanding of both positive and negative behaviours that will impact their service vision

I could go on!

The simple fact is that by using something that is simple, that everyone understands and that is inclusive and engaging, every member of staff now sees their value in the organisation, sees how important their individual role is and shares in the company vision.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1981). Some paradoxes in the definition of play. In Cheska, A.T. (Ed.). Play as context.

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