I recently spent a week training as a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY facilitator. The method is designed to facilitate communication, problem solving, and effective meetings.
It was an intense week! The idea of working with LEGO initially made me think of frivolity and playfulness. The training certainly was fun, but it was also very challenging. I was surprised by how much the method and the trainer pushed us.
There were some elements of the method which didn’t work for me, and that I would therefore struggle to use as a facilitator. However I can definitely see potential. I’m pleased to have another facilitation technique to add to my bag of tricks!
Here are a few initial thoughts about the method and how it might fit within my work…
Space to think
LEGO exercises follow the basic structure of ‘build, share, learn’. I.e. you’re asked to build a model which represents your response to a particular question. You then share your model (and thinking) with the group and learn from each other. The exercises progress and grow in complexity so that you start to think about how your model(s) relate to the rest of the group.
The time spent building my individual models provided valuable space to think. I was so focused on my building that I didn’t find the silences at all awkward. I also found that I was less likely to be thinking about what I wanted to say while others were talking. I think that was because I had already had time to formulate my answer to the question.
Level the playing field
The main reason I am interested in arts based facilitation techniques is because they can help to create more equality within meetings. That equality is particularly important when you are bringing together people from different backgrounds (e.g. patients, clinician’s, researchers).
I was pleased to hear that LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is also very concerned with helping people to contribute equally. I can see how the structure of the exercises could help to stop one or two people dominating a meeting. Also the fact that it is likely to be a new method for the majority of participants, may go some way to creating a level playing field.
My only reservation about this is that some people may feel less confident about working with LEGO generally, which could create some inequality. For example, some health conditions may cause people to have less dexterity and feel concerned about building with small bricks. Others may feel less comfortable with the use of metaphor which tends to come with these workshops. As with any facilitation, I think the key will be adapting it to meet the needs of each group and the purpose of each workshop.
Speaking to the Model
Throughout the workshops we were encouraged to ‘speak to the model’, rather than each other, and the facilitator continually challenged us to only speak about what we had built. I can see how that technique might help people to open up about sensitive topics. This made me think about theatre workshops where I’ve seen people project their thoughts and feelings on to characters within a performance. I think something similar could potentially happen with LEGO models.
My concern with this aspect of the method is that it may limit or shut down valuable dialogue. This is something I need to think more about once I have run a session.
I’m hoping to run a pilot workshop soon. I will report on my progress!
I’d be really interested to hear from any other LEGO facilitators working within a health / participatory research context.
Finally, a big thank you to the rest of the training group for sharing their insights and experiences with me throughout the week.