The power of LEGO®

Strategy & Innovation


Today organizations are more and more confronted with wicked problems: complex problems of which the thesis statement alters regularly or whereby many different stakeholders are involved. Visualization techniques help to make that sort of problems insightful and solve them. Or why you better take Lego® Serious Play® serious.

How do you find the balance between profitability and social responsibility? And how do you match the long-term strategy of your company with short-term market changes? These are only two examples of ‘wicked problems’ where business leaders and CEO’s struggle with.

“Wicked problems are complex, often service related challenges where mostly several stakeholders are involved with”, says Maka De Lameillieure general director of Expertise Center Business Design & Innovatie. “also underlying, invisible aspects, play a role hereby. That makes the problem compkex and ensures that every endeavor towards a solution leads to a new definition of the problem.”

Insight is the key

Techniques whereby visualization is deployed seems to be the key to finding a solution for such complex challenges. “Visualization makes a problem insightful in all its facets and brings the underlying, previously invisible, aspects of the problem to the surface”, says Maka. “The economist Bill Philips adopted this technique already when he visualized the economic system of the UK in 1949 concerning fluids. With his Moniac-machine he could transfer money flows (read: colored fluids) from the treasure to e.g. health care and see what its overall effect is. Or the other way around: reaching over the treasure with water from tanks that represented the incomes stemming from taxes. Thanks to the machine the complex functioning of the economic system suddenly became very clear.”


Determining strategy with LEGO®

Additionally, Lego® Serious Play® is such a technique. This specially designed packet with building blocks and connectors helps the company deepen thought processes and stimulates an effective dialogue between the different stakeholders. “We used it with Business Design & Innovation to help determine our strategy starting from 2016. One of the steps in that thought process was making a stakeholder analysis for our organization. By means of Lego® Serious Play® we placed our own company and our stakeholders on the map.”


Confrontational image of reality

This visualization was very confrontational: a very big work field appeared with a number of players, and not always the most obvious. “Because we are a small organization, ‘health’ for example is a very important building block for us. If three of our contributors turn ill, we could barely work. Lego® Serious Play® brought us that insight; without visualization, we probably would not have thought about it. But it is even more interesting that you could remove the different building blocks and players to see what kind of effect it has. The technique is a true eye-opener: it helps to estimate the effects of potential threats for your organization and to respond on that. And to come up with a thoughtful strategy faster.


Taking serious

The United Nations also use Lego® Serious Play® to gain insight in conflict situations such as in Syria. But still, many companies don’t seem to take these techniques serious. “Unfortunately,”, says Maka, “because their added value is big. Admittedly, the first half hour it might have felt a little weird to work with Lego stones, but that is to be forgotten soon. With us everyone was quickly deepened into the underlying, strategic thought process. It is a participative technique, that creates more involvement, insights, ideas and for better decisions. Some companies write insights on a post-it or hang the company slogan on a poster against the wall. Actually, that is not that different. With the additional benefit that people can remember the insights they gained through visualization longer and eventually that it makes the affairs less personal. Giving feedback on a Lego-construction is easier than on the suggestion of a colleague!”

Do you want to know more about LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY™? Contact our Expertise Center Business Design & Innovation. We have authorized LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Facilitators.