The Lego serious play methodology is a problem solving and insight building approach or strategy whose aim is to enhance creative thinking among all participants in organizations (Gauntlett, 2007.p.131).Through the methodology, organizations are able to have the employees and shareholders think and express or speak their true feelings without the fear of intimidation. Through it also, organizations have an opportunity to have everyone on board in the discussion of organizational issues which stimulates learning as well as thinking. The thinking and learning by all participants in organizations leads to new ideas or insights in regard to particular organizational issue(s) (Lockwood & Walton, 2009).
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The methodology is applied in many sectors, key among them education and arts as well as in business. It is related to two main theories namely the constructionvism theory by Jean Piaget and constructionism theory by Papert. These two theories hold that problems are mere constructions in peoples’ minds and thus the solutions to the problems lie within peoples’ minds, that is, people can construct the solutions to their problems (Sioukas, 2003.p.101).
In business setting, the methodology is based on the philosophy that business problems or issues have their solutions from within, meaning that the members or shareholders of a business are the people with the solutions, only that they do not realize. It is also based on the thinking that real solutions lie in having realistic action plans which addresses the real problems or issues but not the symptoms of the problems (SIGCHI Group, 2006).
The methodology is implemented through facilitation by an expert in the same. It involves organizing workshops for all members and shareholders of a business whereby they are engaged with the problem or issue at hand. During the workshop, everyone is treated equally and each and every one’s idea and thinking is acknowledged. The participants are provoked to think and imagine of solutions to the prevailing problem. Their responses, reactions and ideas are all recorded. In some cases, the participants in the workshops are given some physical exercises which reflect the problem at hand to perform (Jenkins & Jenkins, 2006).Through this physical activity which is performed merely as a play, the facilitator or expert in the methodology observes how the participants approach the issue(s) and thus gets to know various versions of dealing with the problem or issue at hand (Ventola, 1987).
The methodology increases innovation and leadership attributes through getting everybody on board and having them think about the way forward in regard to a certain issue of concern to a busies or organization. It enhances leadership in the sense that it is undertaken in groups which must have defacto leaders, who get the opportunity to realize their potential in leadership thus ending up with many people with leadership skills within the organization or business. These defacto team or group leaders become very instrumental in guiding, influencing and inspiring the other employees or shareholders of the business or organization (Gauntlett, 2008).
It enhances innovation in that everybody is given an opportunity to think without intimidation. The idea behind this argument is that people who are motivated to think, and whose thinking is acknowledged are able to think freely without any difficult or bias, consequently coming up with new and independent ideas. At the end, the business ends up with very many new ideas which can be transformed into innovations (McGoey, 2011).
The methodology is not applicable in corporate businesses which have rigid administrative structures; for example, a bureaucratic organizational structure. This is because bureaucratic organizational structures do not allow for team work, employee or shareholders creativity nor do they value group synergy (Kurosu, 2009).It is mostly suited for organizations which are very flexible in their approach to achieving their mission, and more so, organizations which operate in a dynamic socio-cultural, economic and political environment, thus the need of an ongoing problem solving mechanism for overcoming challenges as they come (Design Publications, 1984).
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The main sources of research are based on information from published books, articles, databases that mainly discuss the Lego serious play methodology in a broader aspect. Other sources of research include seminars and conferences where human centered design in creativity is widely discussed. I will also obtain information from online sources where the method has been discussed in social communities and consultancy businesses. Research strategy starts by focusing on the method and its implementation. This is followed by researching on its unique approach and analyzing how leading groups are formed. Further on I will focus on how corporate creativity can be transformed by this method and to what extend this interaction generates real values. I will also discuss real organizations which have implemented the methodology and the results. Finally, I will discuss whether the methodology is measurable or not. Throughout the discussion, the words organization, company, business and corporation are used interchangeably, but with the same meaning, that is, a business which is concerned with providing goods and or services to customers.
Origin of the Lego Serious Play Methodology
The history of the Lego serious play methodology can be traced back to the period between 1891 and 1930, when a Danish carpenter called Ole Kirk Christiansen established a workshop to make wooden toys. Due to its popularity, the workshop came to be known as the Lego company in mid 1930s, during which it was making large volumes of toys. Lego is a Danish word which literally means to play well. At around 1946, the Lego Company had expanded and started making plastic toys instead of wooden ones. This was due to the low density of plastic compared to wood. Plastic was also easy to manufacture than wood (Gauntlett, 2007.p.131).
By early 1950s, the company started making what were referred to as “Automatic Binding Bricks”, following the introduction of the Kiddicraft Self-Locking Bricks patent in 1947 in England. The automatic binding bricks were designed in a manner that they had top round studs and bottoms which were rectangular. This allowed for the easy assembling of the bricks to make them fit firmly into each other, but in a way that they were easily disassembled and reassembled to make a different shape or structure. They also contained various other parts like minifigures and gears which facilitated their easy assembling and disassembling. The multidimensional and multivariate structure of the bricks facilitated the assembling of the bricks into various shapes, forms and objects or structures (Hoover, 2005).
In 1958, the company availed the current Lego bricks after years of intense research and trials of overcoming the challenges of low interlocking ability and versatility of the initial bricks. The Lego group began making the Lego bricks for commercial purposes, mostly for sale to business people to facilitate play. As from 1960, the company, which is based in Denmark in a town known as Billund began making and selling Lego bricks based toys for children and for adults. For the children, the bricks were used merely for play and fun as a way of boosting their thinking, creativity and problem solving skills. For the adults, the Lego bricks were made to be used for sharpening their thinking and problem solving skills in business and organizational context (Hoover, 2005).
During the interaction with the Lego bricks, both children and adults could assemble them to make things like vehicles, robots, bridges, or any other object of interest to them. For the adults, they would assemble the bricks to make objects which mirror certain organizational objects, metaphors or ideas. In their original form, the bricks were made based on the philosophy that for a person to play with them, he or she was to have ‘hands on and minds on’, meaning that the players were to use both their hands and minds to participate in the play (Hoover, 2005).
Up to early 1990s, the bricks were largely used for mere play and fun by children and by adults for leisure or for building insights to some minor problems. It was Roos Johan and Victor Bart who first attempted to use the bricks in the business and organizational context and thus coining the term ‘serious play’ in the sense that the Lego bricks were to be used by managers of businesses and organizations to challenge, describe and create mental pictures of their businesses and organizations (Valsiner & Connolly, 2003).
In coining the term Lego serious play, Roos Johan and Victor Bart were guided by the believe that the ‘play’ was a practical and passionate method of exuding commitment and confidence among managers as well as a way of building insights to challenges and problems facing businesses. Currently, the Lego serious play is a service provided by the Lego group of companies to organizations and businesses. The service is provided on consultancy basis where by the businesses and organizations which require it approach the companies for consultation on how to use the method to boost, enhance and stabilize their businesses or organizations as well as to enable them build insights to organizational challenges and come up with solutions to problems by taking into consideration the views of all members of the organization regarding the problem or the way forward on a certain stalemate (Valsiner & Connolly, 2003).
Relationship to Theories
The constructivism theory by Jean Piaget
The main proponent of this theory was Jean Piaget, who was a psychologist famous for his pioneering works in child development. Other contributors to the same include Lev Vygotsky, John Dewey, Herbert Simon and Jerome Bruner among others. In his works, Jean Piaget argued that learners, especially during infancy and childhood generate and acquire knowledge from the interaction of their ideas and experiences, a system he referred to as Schemata (Boeree, 2006).
According to Jean Piaget therefore, play is very important to infants and toddlers because it enables them to acquire some experiences in life which they then integrate with their ideas about the world in general. His idea of learning was based on social learning, which is acquired through the process of imitation and identification. To this regard, young children acquire knowledge and skills based on their interaction with their care givers, parents and their significant others.
In his study of the development of intelligence by children, he argued that the development is influenced by their stages of development as well as their mental capacity to assimilate and accommodate new knowledge into the already existing experiences (Boeree, 2006). He believed in the idea that development leads learning, to mean that children are able to learn only those things which match their age or development stage. He identified four intelligence development stages namely sensory motor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational stages (Boeree, 2006). Accordingly, at every level or stage of development, the child is capable of developing his or her intelligence faculties to match that stage or level of development which is influenced by the kind of experience the child has been exposed to. For instance, Piaget observed that children acquire language, which is a sign of intellectual development through imitating their parents or care givers and for this reason, a child acquires the language of the immediate person who he or she interacts with during early age, irrespective of whether that language is of the mother or not.
Lev Vygotsky’s theory of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is a theory which explains the intellectual development of children as well as how children learn new things (Gallagher, 1999). The theory is derived from the tenets of the constructivism theory. In the theory, Lev Vygotsky argued that learning leads development, unlike Jean Piaget who argued that development leads intellectual development. His theory contents that all children learn through the process of imitation, which enables them repeat something they have already seen, heard or experienced. According to the theory, parents and teachers should use as many drawings and illustrations as possible when teaching children.
He argued that the acquisition of new concepts by children paves the way for them to move to the next level of intellectual development. The theory also recognizes the role played by social and cultural environments in enabling children to learn (Gallagher, 1999). According to the theory, children’s ability to learn depends on their socio-cultural environment. Whether the environments are enabling or not enabling may bring in the differences in development rates for different children in different socio-cultural environments (Gallagher, 1999).
The arguments by these two constructivist theorists are related to the Lego serious play methodology in that they associate learning among young children both with mental abilities and practical actions or experience. The Lego serious play toys are used by children to learn various things which are new to them. During the play, the children are given the bricks to assemble and every time they do it, a person disassembles the Lego bricks and the child assembles them again but in a different shape or structure, thus learning that the bricks are capable of making more than one object while still retaining their shapes (Richardson, 1997).
In constructivism, the role of the teacher is replaced by that of a facilitator. According to Piaget, the learning is participatory and the learners are given the opportunity to ask questions, explore possibilities and demonstrate their understanding through doing various physical activities, which involve both their minds and hands.
Learning is also characterized by interaction among the learners, whereby they collaborate in solving various problems. In the Lego serious play, children may be left alone for some time to play with the Lego bricks. During this time, they assist each other in assembling the Lego bricks to make various shapes and also remind each other of how the previous shapes looked like. They also partner in assembling the bricks to make newer objects with different shapes and structures every time.
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The constructionism theory by Seymour Papert
This theory of learning is based on Piaget’s theory of constructivism. The main proponent of this theory was Seymour Papert, who argued that learning should be viewed from the perspective of ‘learning- by- making’ (Kafai & Resnick, 1996). Just like Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, Papert argued that the education system should emphasize more on linking ideas to actual experiences, which he referred to as experiential learning (Kafai & Resnick, 1996).
Papert argued that some subjects like mathematics were better taught in a manner that incorporated practical actions like counting of numbers using some objects like sticks. He also argued that basic languages like English and French were best taught if the teachers combined the names of some objects with the pictures or drawings of the same as well as giving the learners an opportunity to draw such pictures and giving the corresponding names of the objects or pictures drawn (Kafai & Resnick, 1996).
The theory is related to the Lego serious play because children and adults use the Lego bricks to construct a certain reality, which they imagine of or which they have experienced. For example, children may use the Lego bricks to construct a vehicle, which they usually see or a person holding a gun, depending on the kind of experience they are exposed to (Kafai & Resnick, 1996).
Adults use the Lego bricks to assemble an object which is of interest to them. For example, they may use the Lego bricks to construct an organizational structure which they think is good for their organization. They may also use the bricks to construct a pyramid of the priorities of their organization or to construct the manufacturing chain of a certain product which their organization manufactures. This enables them to shape their ideas along what is of interest to them. The construction of such objects or shapes enables the players to clearly visualize the problematic areas in coming up with what is of interest to them. This enables them to learn how to assist each other in overcoming any challenge(s) through brainstorming and contributing insights to the hitch, which consequently enables them to overcome the problem. Although it is done in a playful manner and in a relaxed psychological and physical atmosphere, the play stimulates the thinking of the players especially to think of how to overcome specific challenges.
Since the play operates on a basis of addressing the problem here and now, it enables the players to do what is referred to as trial and error, which makes them learn the best way to do it through their failures. As per the words of Papert, the learning process is enhanced through building on the previous failures and correcting the mistakes made before. The learners should use the failures as a resource to identify what is wrong and where as well as how to address it so as to realize the desired results (Kafai & Resnick, 1996).
How Lego Serious Play Relates To Organizational Culture and Structure
In this section, I will explore the broad concepts of organizational culture and structure, which are the corner stones of many organizations. I will explain the concepts of organizational culture and structure by outlining some forms of organizational culture and structure, then do an analysis of how the two relate to the Lego serious play.
What is organizational culture?
An organization is a group of people who work together with coordinated efforts to achieve certain objectives or goals. Organizational goals and objectives are of various categories and it is this variation of goals and objectives which classify organizations into three main categories namely profit making, service based and social responsibility based organizations (Murray, Poole, & Jones, 2006. pp.45-69).
The study of organizations is made possible by the use of organizational theoretical models or approaches. These theoretical models are mainly used to explain organizations in terms of structure and culture. Organizational culture refers to shared beliefs, values, norms and practices which characterize an organization. Organizational structure refers to how the organization is structured, how power and authority to make decisions are distributed along the structure of the organization and who should take what direction or instructions from whom and when (Robbins, 1996).
Organizational culture is a very important aspect in any organization which aspires to realize its vision and mission. This is because organizational culture determines whether the organization is able to work together towards the realization of the vision. Organizational culture is closely related to organizational structure in that the manner in which decisions are made by the top management influences the relationship between the top management and the other employees, which consequently determines the culture of the organization (Brown, 1998).
A strong organizational culture is found in organizations in which the employees are committed to their work and discharge their duties with little or no supervision while a weak organizational culture is found in organizations in which the employees have little commitment to their duties and are closely supervised so as to discharge their duties effectively (Brown, 1998).
There are various models of organizational culture. One such model is the power culture which is characterized by centralization of power to some few people within the organization. This person(s) is usually very influential in the organization and therefore everybody else tends to foster a good relationship with the person(s). In this culture, employees are motivated to the degrees into which they emulate that central person(s). In this type of culture, decisions are made easily because there are no many hierarchical positions in the structure of the organization (Gordon, DiTornaso & Farris, 1991.pp.18-23).
There is also role culture, which is characterized by doing things as per ones position, meaning that an employee only cares for what is of concern to him or her or what lies under his or her docket. This culture is also characterized by rigidity in decision making because of the bureaucratic nature of the organizational structure which leads to inefficiency (Fey & Denison, 2003.pp.686-687).
Task culture is characterized by the formation of groups which are composed of people with some expertise or knowledge to perform some specific tasks. In this type of culture therefore, group work is very important and authority as well as supervision play little or no role because the teams are trusted by the management with their tasks (Murray, et al, 2006. pp.45-69).
Lastly, there is person’s culture which is characterized by a feeling of superiority among the employees, who think that they are very valuable to the organization. In such a culture, unity and cooperation among the employees may be rare because each employee thinks that he or she is the best and therefore not ready to share what he or she knows with others without extra remuneration by the organization for the same (Murray, et al, 2006. pp.45-69).
Organizations vary greatly in terms of their mission, vision, objectives, resource base philosophy and coverage. Due to this, each and every organization must cultivate a culture which is unique to itself so as to achieve its mission and objectives. This means that what may be considered as values or norms in one organization may not be considered as such in another organization. However, despite these variations and differences, there is the importance of having a cohesive organizational culture regardless of the organizational structure, mission and objectives (Bakar, 2001.pp. 64-69).
One reason is because organizations are run by people for the benefit of people. All employees in all organizations are social beings complete with needs, feelings and emotions. In many countries for instance, it is almost impossible to separate personal life and work among employees, which calls for an integration of employees lives with their work environment so as to make work both satisfying and enjoyable as well as a means of deriving happiness and fulfillment in one’s life (Bakar, 2001.pp. 64-69).
This argument is based on the human relations model of organizational theory pioneered by Ludwig von Bertalanffy in 1928, which brought a radical shift from the classical management theories pioneered by Taylor, which emphasized on scientific management of employees as if they were machines to be operated by their managers (Cooke & Lafferty, 1987).
But what is a cohesive organizational culture? Many organizational researchers agree that a cohesive organizational culture is the one in which all members of an organization hold to similar beliefs and values which glue the organization together. These beliefs and values may be implicit or explicit to the organization, meaning that they may be or not be publicly declared in the organizational core values. In this kind of culture, it does not matter the organizational structure but what matters most is the commitment of each and every member of the organization to these believes and values. For example, an organization may value hard work, honesty and team work and believe in transparency, utmost good faith, ethics and morality. A cohesive organizational culture has got many benefits (Keshavarzi, 2007).
One benefit is that it leads to high motivation among the employees because they share common believes and values. When employees are highly motivated, there is minimal use of resources in their supervision which in turn increases their productivity because to them, what matters most is the good of the organization as a whole but not personal good.
Another benefit of cohesive organizational culture is that it facilitates the alignment of organizations for the achievement of their objectives, mission and vision without much difficulty. This is because the employees are not only fully aware of the mission, vision and objectives, but have also internalized them thus making them to work hard to achieve them. This makes them more motivated to accomplish the set organizational goals, targets or objectives (Martins & Terblanche, 2003.pp.64-65).
Strong organizational culture also boosts organizational efficiency because of the internalization of what is required of each and every employee when and where. The sharing of values and beliefs creates a good working environment free from any kind of confusion, ambiguity or lack of understanding among the employees, which apart from increasing efficiency also saves on time wasted when things seem not to move in the right direction because the employees are able and free to consult each other without the fear of victimization or intimidation especially by the senior managers. Employees also portray good behavior at work because they know what is right to be done and what is not right (Martins &Terblanche, 2003.pp.64-65).
Furthermore, strong organizational culture leads to cohesion among various departments of an organization which leads to harmonization of all organizational procedures, policies and practices in each and every department. This cohesion leads to proper utilization of organizational resources without sabotage as well as sound, logical and relevant polices on how to coordinate organizational activities in a manner that would maximize the organizations’ chances of realizing their mission and vision. Cohesion among various organizational departments also leads to the sharing of information by various departments which increases the employees’ levels of understanding of how various departments work. This is very important because it enables employees to multitask especially in times when staffs in some departments are not available. For example, the understanding of administrative issues in the organization by the head of accounting departmental may make him or her work on behalf of the head of the administration department when he or she is not present ( Mathew, 2007.pp.677-678).
Strong organizational culture enhances control, good coordination and consistency within an organization. This is because the employees and the management are in good terms and thus are able to agree informally on various procedures and practices without compromising the quality of the organizational practices and objectives. This saves on time because employees implement the changes which they find necessary without having to wait for bureaucratic board meetings and discussion to approve even the slightest change in procedures or practices ( Mathew, 2007.pp.677-678).
Lastly not the least, cohesive organizational culture enhances team work, group leadership and collaboration of the employees in various tasks. This is of crucial importance to organizations because it opens the room for employees’ creativity, innovativeness and openness to positive criticism which makes work not only enjoyable, but also enriched with a multiplicity of ideas. This in turn leads to increased achievement levels by the organization as opposed to situations in which employees’ creativity and innovativeness are not entertained by the management of the organizations.
What is organizational Structure?
Organizational structure refers to the chain of command in an organization and who takes what directives from whom, when and why. An organizational structure is very important for the proper functioning of the organization because it determines how decisions are made regarding various issues touching on policy and public relations (Thompson, 2003).
There are various organizational structures which are based on the objectives of an organization. The most common organizational structures are bureaucracies. These are based on Weber’s idea of bureaucracy as a way of managing organizations. The bureaucratic structures are characterized by strict chains of command, clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each and every employee as well as recruitment based on merit (Thompson, 2003).
Another form is the post- bureaucratic organizational structure which includes matrix structures, the six sigma and Total Quality Management. These structures are formed on weber’s bureaucratic ideology, but leaves out the irrational aspects of an ideal bureaucracy. In these structures, there is a lot of flexibility in terms of task performance, meeting deadlines, utilization of resources and time management. In other words, post -bureaucratic organizational structures de-emphasize the idea of centralization of decision making on some minor issues relating to organizations’ functions, but rather empowers employees with the freedom to make various decisions to make their work more efficient, effective and enjoyable (Thompson, 2003).
The most effective organizational structure is the post- bureaucratic because it makes organizations to be efficient and effective, unlike the bureaucratic structure which is characterized by inefficiency especially when it comes to making minor decisions. Organizations can determine if they are structured in the most efficient and effective manner if they meet their objectives in an efficient and effective manner without delays in decision making caused by rigidity in organizational chains of command. In such organizations, employees are free to be creative and innovative and are also encouraged to work in groups, which simplify work due to group synergy (Thompson, 2003). Before going into the discussion of the relationship between the Lego serious play and organizational culture and structure, I would briefly explore Total Quality Management and Six Sigma and how they work in a business setting
Total quality management (TQM) is a business strategy employed by companies or profit making originations to increase customer satisfaction as well as improve their internal processes (McNamara, 2011). Six sigma on the other hand is a methodology applied by companies and organizations in defining, measuring, improving, analyzing and controlling the quality of all companies’ processes, products and transactions with an objective of minimizing or eliminating defects (Brown Freelance Limited, 2010). TQM and six sigma therefore focus on overall improvement of companies’ production through establishment of short term and long term strategies and processes. Different companies use either TQM or six sigma as strategies to improve their business quality. In the implementation of both, there are some factors which must be considered. The main implementation issues associated with TQM include understanding of TQM and what it entails, establishing an organizational culture which can support the implementation of TQM, aligning TQM implementation with the priorities of the organization and understanding of the time frames necessary for the implementation of the TQM. All these are very important especially to the top management of the organization or company (Seattle, 2003).
The main implementation issues associated with six sigma include data collection on customer satisfaction, minimization of defects in process of product production, training of both the top management and the workforce on six sigma process, and a shift in thinking by managers from thinking in terms of events to thinking in terms of processes. This is an orientation strategy which encourages the management and the employees to commit themselves in the improvement of quality of processes and products for the company (Slide Share, 2011). Many companies have implemented TQM. An ex ample of a company which has implemented TQM is the Xerox Corporation which deals with photocopying machines and other information technology accessories. One company which has implemented the six sigma approach is the Motorola Company, which deals with mobile phones.
THE Xerox Corporation used the TQM to increase its competitiveness among other companies which deal with similar products and goods at the international level. The implementation of TQM by the organization included the implementation of programs like reducing the supply base, benchmarking and the formation of leadership teams. This made the corporation win the quality prize in the year 1980 (Brownie Freelance Limited, 2010).
Motorola Company is an organization which has implemented the six sigma successfully for over 25 years. The use of six sigma has helped the company improve on the quality of its products and services, making it very famous among its competitors. Even though the company has successfully implemented the six sigma, the technology manager Karen Ridges acknowledged that they were faced with the challenge of sustaining the knowledge gained through six sigma in the future activities of the company (Slide Share, 2011).
The relationship between the Lego serious play and organizational culture and structure
As outlined above, the culture and structure of an organization determines its effectives and efficiency. Organizations which have weak organizational culture are not only ineffective and inefficient, but are also boring to the employees because of lowered motivation. The structure of an organization influences the culture in the sense that the manner in which decisions are made and how power and authority within an organization are distributed largely determines the relationship especially between the top management and the junior employees.
For instance, in bureaucratic organizational structures, there is a lot of rigidity and irrational adherence to rules and procedures. In such structures and especially bureaucracies, the employees are assigned specific tasks as individuals. The tasks are accompanied by well-defined rules and procedures on how to execute them. The employees are also closely monitored and supervised by their immediate seniors and or supervisors to ensure that they stick to the laid down procedures, rules and regulations while discharging their duties.
This leads to a situation whereby the employees perform the tasks for the sake of performing them, meaning that their lives and their jobs are not integrated which leads to lowered motivation. This lowered motivation leads to a weak organizational culture characterized by high turnover rates, decline in profits, low cohesion among employees and poor relationships between the employees and top management as well as problems of increased pilfering in both warehouse stocks and supplies in some organizations.
The Lego serious play methodology cannot be applicable in such organizations because of the rigidity in the organizational structure and the poor relationship between the top management and the employees. The fact that the top management views the employees as machines to be operated to bring the desired outcomes makes it almost impossible for the top management to think of engaging the views of their employees.
The Lego serious play cannot therefore work in such organizations because the management and the employees are not free with each other and thus cannot open up and bring forth some insights for the success of their organization. The applicability of the Lego serious play methodology is further inhibited by the fact that many organizations with bureaucratic structures are controlled from the top down wards but not in a lateral or from a bottom up approach, which values each and every member of an organization and their views, opinions and ideas regarding the welfare of the organization.
Such organizations also do not believe in team or group work and that is why they assign each and every employee specific tasks to accomplish within a specified time frame with some sanctions if they do not complete the tasks within the stipulated period of time. The management therefore cannot even think of taking their employees to the Lego serious play workshops, which is a form of capacity building and empowering the employees with a diverse knowledge about the organization and its functions and seek their views on how to move the organization to the next level of performance, achievement and excellence.
The opposite is true in organizations which have liberalized organizational structures like Total Quality Management and the Six Sigma which I have discussed above. Such organizations with liberalized organizational structures usually have low turnover rates, high employee motivation and cohesion, high employee productivity and few instances of conflict between the top management and the employees.
In organizations with liberalized organizational structures, the employees own the organization and to them, work is not only an extrinsic motivation but also an intrinsic one in the sense that they derive satisfaction in their job. The lives of the employees and their jobs are integrated and this enables them to work with minimal supervision to attain good results in a timely manner.
The organizations are characterized by an ongoing training of employees to empower them with multiplicity of skills as well as with a diverse knowledge on the best practices for the achievement of the organizational goals. The employees not only clearly understand the mission and vision of the organization but also internalize them, leading to objective based practices instead of the irrational adherence to strict rules, procedures and practices inherent in bureaucracies.
In such organizations, employees are left to work in teams and groups. In these teams, there is what is called group synergy, which is characterized by sharing the tasks and undertaking the duties in a collective manner instead of working alone. This group synergy enables the employees to perform many tasks within a very short time because they are given the leeway to use their creativity and thinking to discharge their duties in the most efficient and convenient manner possible.
In such organizations also, the employees come up with their own work schedules and establish what are referred to as group norms and sanctions for violating such norms. This makes them supervise themselves which enhances cooperation and discipline among them
The Lego serious play is therefore most applicable in this kind of organizations. This is because the management attaches great value to the input of the employees and is committed to their welfare, just the way the employees are committed to the welfare of the organization. The Lego serious play may therefore be implemented in such organizations because of their ease to understand their organizations in and out.
In such organizations, any problem is owned by each and every employee, same as the triumphs, success or excellence. Such organizations are therefore not threatened by challenges because of the believe that a problem shared is a problem partly solved. This means that once the problem or a challenge emerges, it is quickly brought to the attention of every one and solutions are easily and readily availed.
This can happen best in the context of the Lego serious play, which enables the employees to brainstorm, think and come up with insights to the problem and consequently come up with multiple solutions, which are filtered by the management to see which works best for the purposes of implementation.
How Lego Serious Play Methodology Works
The Lego serious play is a problem solving and insight biding strategy employed by businesses and companies to tap the knowledge, skills, experience and insights of each and every employee in the company so as to come up with solutions to problems on the basis of ‘right now and right here’. It is a service provided by the Lego group of companies (SIGCHI Group, 2006).
In an organizational context, the underlying principle of the Lego serious play is that each and every individual in an organization is capable of positively influencing the discussion and outcomes of any organizational issue. This approach is based on the business philosophy that success comes as a result of being open minded, collaborative and sensitive to other peoples’ views instead of running a business as a one man show (SIGCHI Group, 2006).
The organizations or companies which need the service approach the providing companies and share a bit of company information in regard to what is that they want to achieve through the Lego serious play methodology. The providing company then organizes a workshop for a day or two, depending on the complexity of the issue at hand (SIGCHI Group, 2006).
During the workshop, the Lego serious play tools are customized to the needs of a particular organization. The workshop is overseen by a facilitator, who has been trained on the method. The role of the facilitator is not to teach, but rather to create an enabling environment for the organization members to think (Gauntlett, 2008).
At the workshop, the organization members are provided with the Lego play tools and then are divided into groups without any discriminatory criteria. The teams use the Lego bricks to construct what is in their minds. During the workshop, each group comes up with a defacto leader, who directs the others and leads them on a step by step basis during the construction of what is in their minds (Gauntlett, 2008).
The Lego serious play therefore literally means thinking through the figures. This is because the participants use their hands to construct what is in their minds. Each and every group member is given an opportunity to construct what is in his or her mind. The person may construct anything, provided that it is coming from his or her imagination. They are also given the opportunity to verbalize their thoughts by telling to the others about what they have constructed using the Lego bricks (Gauntlett, 2008).
During the explanation and verbalization, every member listens to each other on how they perceive various organizational challenges and how they think the challenges may be overcome. The Lego serious play is therefore owned 100% by the team members. During the play, the team members are all equal in the sense that they all use the same tools (the Lego bricks) to construct what is in their minds (Gauntlett, 2008).
The Lego sessions are full of fun because each and every person usually has a different idea in his or her mind and sometimes it becomes amusing to see how different people construct different shapes; some which are awkward, others funny looking and others being un proportional. However, this does not mean that there is room for negative criticism but rather, what is there is that each and every team member gets an opportunity to understand what the others think about their company. This is usually a good avenue for the management to understand the weaknesses of their organization from the employee’s perspective and work out strategies to overcome those weaknesses (Gauntlett, 2008).
After getting each and every one’s imagination about the company, the group then works together to construct what they think is a true reflection of the company, taking into consideration the views of everyone in the group. During the assembling of the Lego bricks to construct a harmonized model of their thoughts, the group members usually realize that there are some missing links in their organization; for example, they may think of constructing a mental representation of an administrative structure for their organization which they think is better than the existing one. After the construction of what they think is the preferred organizational structure, they may then compare it with what is in reality, that is, how their organization is structured. This enables them to make recommendations for the changes to their organizational structure (Design Publications, 1984).
The Lego sessions also enable the team members to learn how to positively criticize the views of each other as well as how to positively welcome such criticism. The cooperation among the team members during the Lego sessions has a powerful bonding force because all the participants’ minds and hands are joined towards a common issue or problem of interest to them. They therefore learn how to best work in teams as a result of the opportunity to consult each other and the freedom to make any contribution irrespective of how awkward or funny it may sound (Design Publications, 1984).
The Lego bricks act as catalysts to trigger and stimulate thinking in the minds of the participants, who end up unlocking their reasoning thereby generating new ideas on how to address certain challenges. They also learn how to effectively communicate what is in their minds, which increases their insight, confidence and commitment to the organization (Design Publications, 1984).
Areas Where the Lego Serious Play Methodology Is Applicable in organizations
The Lego serious play methodology is applied in organization in many ways. Some of them include organizational development, change management, conflict resolution and strategic planning. These are discussed below.
This is the development of organizational human resources so as to make them better than they were. It basically involves empowering the human resources (employees) with a diversity of skills, competences and knowledge. The essence of organizational development is that the organization is better prepared for any change which may be triggered by internal or external organizational environment. For example, a global financial crisis, (an external force) may necessitate the laying off of some employees. When this happens, those who are retained are able to multitask due to their extensive knowledge and understanding of the functions and processes of their organizations. Organizations may also grow and expand (an internal force) thus the need to open other branches or departments in other regions or countries. When this happens, the organizations does not face the challenge of getting people to be in charge of the new branches because they already have very competent and knowledgeable workforce at their disposal. Organizational development areas which can be improved through the Lego serious play methodology include the creation of self-managing teams, leadership, innovation and creativity. These are discussed below.
Creation of Self-managing teams
What are self-managing teams and why are they important?
Self-managing teams are also referred to as self-directed teams. A self-managing team is a group of people who coordinate, oversee and manage the work they do on a day to day basis. They collectively handle assignments; make decisions related to the production of the organization, as well as make decisions regarding their work plan or schedules as well on how to approach problems or challenges which face them in their operations (Rivera, 2011). Some characteristics of self-managing teams include the task of producing a definite product, one on one interaction in their work, control in the management and execution of tasks and exercising control over interdepended tasks or duties (Rivera, 2011).
Self-managing teams are best suited in situations whereby the tasks to be accomplished do not require specific skills and are able to be divided into small other sub-tasks. In situations where specific skills are required, it is wise for the management to organize task force for such tasks, which are tasked with the responsibility of coming up with recommendations about the issue. The recommendations are then used in decision making by the management of the organization.
Devolving decision making to self-managing teams by the management of organizations increases its efficiency and effectiveness. This is because the teams are able to organize their work properly through development of work plans and schedules, which are in harmony with the uniqueness of the tasks to be accomplished and the teams’ themselves. It also increases flexibility among the employees because they work as per their schedule, which can sometimes give them some time to relax and or do their personal things, as opposed to situations whereby the management or the top leadership decides everything for the employees, which may make them alienated by the organization in decision making, thus lowering their commitment and devotion to what they do. Sometimes, this may make employees do their tasks just for the sake of doing them, which may hinder the progress of the organization because the employees do not put their passionate input in their responsibilities in the organization.
The devolution of decision making by leadership of an organization to self-managing teams also helps to build a good organizational culture, in which the employees work mostly not for payment, but due to the fulfillment and enjoyment they find in their work. This culture is very important for the stability and progress of the organization because the employees themselves act as a driving force of the organization. This reduces employee turnover, which is triggered by poor organizational culture. The low employee turnover ensures that the organization saves on resources and time in recruiting new staff every now and then, who take some time before they familiarize themselves with their roles and responsibilities in the organization, which may slow down the growth and progress of the organization.
Self-managing teams are able to improve their working environment based on the 5S Japanese methodology which include Sorting the necessary from the unnecessary, Simplification of access by ensuring that everything is in its proper place and time, Sweeping to ensure that their working environment is clean, orderly and safe Standardization of the work across and within groups to ensure harmony in the groups’ operations and Self-discipline (Rivera2011).
Self-managing teams are also crucial for the management of the organization when it comes to implementing and effecting some changes within the organization. The self-managing teams are consulted through their leaders, and give their recommendation or views about the change. The leaders of the self-managing teams may be useful in helping their groups understand the importance of the change and its rationale. This may minimize change resistance among the employees as opposed to a situation whereby the top leadership may engage with the employees directly in initiating and implementing the desired change.
How does Lego serious play help in building self-managing teams?
If an organization wishes to build self-managing teams described above, one of the best options for them to use is the Lego serious play. This is because during the Lego play sessions, the employees are given the opportunity to interact with each other openly without any form of barriers. They are able to share what is in their minds irrespective of how emotional it may be due to the playful atmosphere during the Lego play sessions. During the sessions, the employees acquire group skills which enable them to navigate in group processes, procedures and proceedings without much difficulty. Through the Lego serious play therefore, organizations have the opportunity to either form or strengthen self- managing teams using the Lego serious play tools and materials. The team work and group skills are important resources to organizations because such employees increase the productivity of the organization, thus increasing their competitive advantage as well.
What is leadership and why is it important in organizations?
Leadership has been defined as the ability of a person to influence other people to do things which they would not have done without the influence. People with this ability are referred to as leaders. Leaders are found in different settings and contexts ranging from the family, school, government and organization; formal and non-formal, as well as profit and nonprofit organizations. In an organizational setting, leaders are responsible for showing others “the way”. The leaders may have or may not have executive powers in the organization and they may be or, may not be, managers (Northouse, 2009).
Leading in an organizational context entails the leader consolidating the efforts and resources of the organization and focusing on the future by setting up a vision for the organization, which it intends to achieve in a given period of time, using the consolidated efforts and resources. According to Russel Consulting, leading entails some distinct elements which include building and sustaining teamwork, strategic thinking, managing conflicts, coaching, inspiring a shared vision, problem solving, performance management and accountability, decision making, delegation, systems thinking, leading change, dealing with ambiguities, developing trust, employee development, customer service, innovation and creativity, emotional intelligence, servant leadership, quality and productivity improvement (Russell Consulting, 2011).
The effectiveness of any organization largely depends on the type of leadership that exists in the management and development of the organization. Leadership planning and development is vital for the leader and for the team in achieving its objectives. Leadership is more of an intuition than experience. What matters is whether one can demonstrate enough leadership skills in order to succeed. This means being focused, negotiating good deals, hiring the right people, making correct decisions and instilling confidence in others (Northouse, 2009).
Having a leadership plan is paramount to setting down standards and actions that are to be followed. Proper leadership plan helps leaders in their self-introspection, planning and execution. In the plan, leaders analyze their strengths, weakness and vision. Leadership planning also aids leaders in viewing the stand of their organizations and the challenges to be overcome for the achievement of objectives. Therefore, leadership plan is important in creating a roadmap for the leader in the quest to increase organizational productivity (Kippenberger, 2002).
In leadership, leaders learn and adapt to leadership styles which they feel may deal with diverse personalities and evolving situations. Many leaders have combination of positive traits that form their leadership style and philosophies (Kippenberger, 2002).
Transformative leadership involves developing motivation, morale and performance of the team through variety of mechanisms. The leader connects to the follower’s sense of identity, challenges the team to take greater ownership for their work and understanding the strengths and weakness of the team so that the leader can align them with tasks that they can perform well. Transformative leadership helps in realizing positive change. Leaders using this philosophy are energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate. In this sense, the leaders are concerned, involved and also focused on helping every member of the group to succeed (Ojo, 2008).
Transactional leadership style entails exchange between the leaders and the followers. This is achieved by motivating and directing followers by appealing to their self-interest. The goal of this leadership is to enhance the team to follow instructions through a system of rewards and punishments. The exchange between the leader and the team aims to achieve performance goals. This leadership style is insufficient in developing maximum leadership potential because leaders emphasize on detailed short term goals, standard rules and procedures (Ojo, 2008).
In situational leadership style, leaders adopt differing leadership styles with different people and at different times. The nature of work done, level of skills of the team and the needs of the leader makes him adopt this style. In this case therefore, the leaders link their effectiveness to the current environments. This means that effective leaders need to adopt a leadership style depending on the situation that is, depending on employees’ competency and commitment (Winkler, 2009).
Under the participative leadership philosophy, all members of the team are involved in identifying essential goals and development procedures for reaching those goals. The leader facilitates rather than simply issuing orders or making assignments. Individuals are able to express their creativity and demonstrate abilities and talents. The team gives their suggestions freely and is involved in decision making. Morale, capacity and relations between the leader and team are greatly improved. This leadership style contributes to teamwork and employee’s performance as well as contributing to productive work environment. If participative leadership style is adopted by leaders, employees are more likely to use their skills and capabilities to their fullest (Ojo, 2008).
How Does The Lego Serious Play Help To Build Leadership In Organizations?
As highlighted elsewhere in the discussion, the Lego serious play makes the employees work in groups. During the group sessions, each group usually has a defacto leader who emerges out of the challenges which face the group as they assemble the Lego bricks to construct what is in their minds. These defacto leaders can be explained as ‘natural leaders’ in the sense that they are not nominated by anybody, but rather, they just step out to show the others they way on how to approach the challenges before them (Ventola, 1987).
The defacto leaders are therefore very crucial for the organization because they are able to influence the other team members in a certain directions and inspire them, not through coercion, but through their strong insights, intelligence, hard work, resilience and commitment to organizational goals, values and objectives. The management can use such leaders to seek the views of the employees regarding certain issues which keep on emerging. Due to the trust the team members have in their group leaders, they are always ready to give their views on any issue. These views are then used by the organization for its development (Ventola, 1987).
Such leaders are also a resource to an organization which aspires to expand and open new branches in other areas. The organization can post such leaders to the newly opened branches to work as management leaders. This makes the organization increase its productivity due to the input of such leaders (Lego, 2011).
Once posted to new branches, the leaders are able to mentor others employees to become leaders through the use of the Lego serious play methodology. The end result is therefore an organization which has the culture of leadership. This culture is very important because it enriches the organization with a diversity of ideas, insights, knowledge and experiences of various leaders at various departments of the organization.
Innovation and creativity
The Lego serious play is widely credited for its ability to instill innovation and creativity in organizations. Innovation and creativity have to do with coming up with something new, be it an idea, insight, thought, or an object or a strategy. Innovation and creativity are very crucial assets for organizations especially when it comes to competition.
In the current corporate world, there is what is referred as liberalized trade, meaning that anybody can do business anywhere in the world, especially due to enhancement in information and communication technology as well as electronic funds transfer. What this means is that competition keeps on rising, which is a real threat to many businesses (Lego, 2011).
Organizations therefore need to have in place people who are able to think of new ways of doing business and new strategies or methods of interacting with stakeholders and customers as well. Organizations which do not adapt to the ever changing corporate environment face the threat of closing down or becoming obsolete and irrelevant. This is therefore a real challenge to business executives and managers in today’s world (Lego, 2011).
One of the ways of overcoming this challenge is using the Lego serious play method. During the Lego sessions, employees are presented with a challenge which they contextualize through assembling of the Lego bricks. They may for example be required to think of how to increase their customer base or their sales. During the Lego sessions, each and every employee is given an opportunity to construct a model of what he or she thinks should be done to increase sales and how to do it (Lego, 2011).
After each and every group member gets an opportunity to construct what is in his or her mind, the group then harmonizes the ideas of everyone and develops a model which is a representation of how the company can increase its sales. During the construction of the model using the Lego bricks, each employee’s input is important because time and again, the model would not be in line with what the group visualizes thus the need for new and different ideas on how to make it (Lego, 2011).
Through these sessions, the organization is able to harness different ideas, views and insights from all the employees. These views are then put into a context by the management of the organization, which ends up with new ideas, which are then integrated with the existing business strategies to solve a problem or increase the productivity of the organization.
Organizational change refers to the restructuring of an organization to make it have new functions, procedures, processes, priorities and approaches to meeting its objectives. Organizational change happens due to changes in the internal or external environments to the organization. Internal factors may include things like financial shortages, turnover, and change of objectives, mergers and acquisitions as well as expansion. External factors include things like global financial crisis, stiff competition, increased taxes levied by a government and political instability (Lego, 2011).
When an organization is faced with these issues, it usually needs to make wise decisions so that it may continue being in business and making profits as well. When organizations are faced with these issues, it is wise for them to use the Lego serious play. This is because through the methodology, the management is able to benefit from a variety of opinions from the employees (Lego, 2011).
During the Lego play sessions, the employees are presented with the problem at hand and are asked to come up with the way forward. They then brainstorm and give their views and insights about what they think is the best strategy to be used by the organization to navigate through the change process successfully. The good thing with the Lego serious play is that it generates instant solutions, which are based on the employees’ understanding of the organization’s history, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities (Lego, 2011).
Strategic Planning on its part involves setting the organizational mission and vision, then working towards achieving them. Strategic Planning involves aligning the mission with the vision, so as to achieve the vision using the available resources. Mangers are therefore responsible for coming up with any change initiative which they think could be of help in making organizations stay on course in attaining their vision (Keys & Fulmer, 1998).
One of the ways through which the managers can do so is by using the Lego serious play methodology. This is because the method involves everyone in the organization. During the Lego play sessions, the employees are stimulated to think of how the organization can enhance meeting of its objectives. The employees come up with varied ways and approaches which are harmonized by the management to make a strategic plan.
One advantage of making strategic plans through the Lego serious play is that the plan is universally acceptable by the employees because they are the ones who originate with it. This in turn makes them own the plan and internalize it, thus making the organization move together due to shared understanding of where they are, where they want to go, when and how to get there. They also share believes and values which underlie the strategic plan. The organization may also use the Lego serious play to explore new plans, which may be integrated with the already existing ones to enhance the achievement of organizational goals and objectives. Similarly, the Lego serious play may be used by organizations to improve their organizational efficiency by getting the views of each and every employee on the best practices which the organization can adopt to improve its efficiency (Lego, 2011).
Conflict is a form of a disagreement between two parties on a particular issue which is of interest to them. In organizational context, conflict may occur between organizations (inter-organizational conflict) or between members of one organization (intra-organizational conflict) which may involve individual employees and their management and or intergroup conflict. Conflict may be substantive or affective. Substantive conflict is usually perceived as objective and to some extent, positive while affective conflict is usually negative and subjective (Carsten & Vliert, 1997).
Since conflict may be substantive or affective, organizations usually strife to minimize the negative effects of the conflict while maximizing its positive effects. This is what is referred to as conflict management and it entails developing strategies and establishing systems, procedures and processes of ensuring that any conflict which occurs in an organization or between organizations is transformed to an important resource, especially through implementation of organizational change as well as giving the conflicting parties an opportunity to learn new things (Carsten & Vliert, 1997).
In organizational context, conflict management is usually done by managers, supervisors or team leaders depending on the nature of the conflict, its cause and magnitude. Minor conflicts like personal disagreements between employees are usually handled by group leaders or by individual employees while major conflicts, like pay increase or dispute over working environment are usually handled by the top management of organizations (Rahim, 2010).
Organizations usually differ in terms of their mission, vision, objectives and resource base as well as the scope of their objectives. This means that organizations experience different conflicts for different reasons, which means that each organization should have its own way of conflict management. It therefore follows that conflict management styles are as many as the conflict types and their causes. One of the most common conflict management styles is the Lego serious play methodology (Lego, 2011).
Through the methodology, employees learn the how and why of working in groups, which usually set up group norms and rules which they should follow as they undertake the tasks. The groups also come up with sanctions for members who default the rules and the set norms. Through the Lego serious play methodology, the management gives the employees an opportunity to learn how to work in groups and set up their own work time tables and norms as well as sanctions for each and every group member (Lego, 2011).
Through the Lego serious play also, the organization is able to integrate management leadership and the ideas, creativity, innovativeness and hard work of the employees. This helps in managing conflict because the employees once given some degree of autonomy to manage their work and time, they would feel appreciated and motivated to work hard for the benefit of themselves and the organization as a whole (Lego, 2011).
The Novo Nordisk Company
This is a multinational organization which deals with health care issues like diabetes, hemophilia, hormone therapy and replacement. The company boasts of over 88 years of managing diabetes, which is a disease of concern to many people in the world. The organization has got its headquarters in Denmark; with over 30,000 employees working in more than 70 countries world-wide. It has got its shares listed in Copenhagen and New York stock markets (Lego, 2011).
The organization has been growing and expanding, opening new branches in new countries due to the demand of the services it offers to people. Just like any other organization, it usually faces challenges when it comes to restructuring and expanding. During the opening a new facility in Brazil, the company was faced with a real challenge given that according to the plan, it was to build a facility which was twice the size of the first one, at a whooping cost of over $200 million. The organization was to deploy a dozen of its managers to Brazil to oversee the establishment of the facility, which was to be completed in a time frame of two years (Lego, 2011).
Usually, a venture like this one requires a lot of cooperation, horse trading, brainstorming and teams work for it to succeed. The main challenge was how to make the managers work as a team while in the country. This was because they were not used to it before. There was also the challenge of addressing the problem of how the managers and their families would relocate to that country, settle and adjust to the new environment (Lego, 2011).
After extensive consultations and dialogue, the directors of the organization opted to use the Lego serious play in collaboration with management teams in Brazil. To this regard, it organized a two day Lego serious play workshop which was facilitated by an expert in the same. During the workshop, all the managers were brought together where they brainstormed on how best to adjust to the new corporate environment of Brazil. They got the opportunity for the first time ever to know each other’s views on how best to work together and the importance of doing so. With the use of the Lego bricks, they were able to construct an organizational structure, which they thought was workable in such a new environment. They were able to understand that going it alone was not possible because the organization did not have existing infrastructure in Brazil and therefore the need to work as teams regardless of one’s position and department (Lego, 2011).
After the Lego serious play workshop, they came out more organized, motivated and inspired to work hard to see to it that the new facility picked up within the stipulated time. They were able to come up with strategies of how to market the organization in the country, how to recruit new staff and how to relate with key stakeholders, including the government and the revenue authorities of Brazil. They also applied the same approach, that is, the Lego serious play to help their families settle and adjust to the new environment. Through the method, they realized that the families could easily adjust to the new environment if they all settled in proximity to each other, so as to weaken the influence of culture shock (Lego, 2011).
The Lego serious play therefore enabled the organization overcome the eminent challenges and establish the Brazil facility within the stipulated time frame. After establishment, the organization has been using the Lego serious play methodology in many times especially when faced with some logistical or technical challenges regarding organizational functions, processes and procedures (Lego, 2011).
The ABSA and Vodacom alliance in South Africa
These are two giant corporations operating in South Africa. ABSA is one of the leading financial institutions while Vodacom is one of the giant telecommunication organizations in South Africa. For some years, the directors of the two organizations held talks in meetings which were aimed at coming up with a way of establishing a partnership, which would see the two organization work together as partners not as competitors (Lego, 2011).
For these many years when the organizations held the talks, the directors were having an inherent fear and speculation on how each was to benefit from such an alliance and how to ensure that one partner does not benefit at the expense of the other. Their partnership was also inhibited by hypocrisy among the directors, who struggled to sway any agreement on the partnership to incline towards their sides (Lego, 2011).
After years of trying to establish a partnership without much success, the directors of the two organizations agreed to try the Lego serious play approach and see whether they may reach an agreement on how they may partner in a win win situation for both of them. They organized a Lego serious play workshop for two days, which was attended by all managers of the two organizations (Lego, 2011).
During the workshop, the Lego serious play apparatus stimulated the thinking of the participants, which made them to share their inherent fears and threats of their partnership. They were able to express their ideas openly as they assembled the Lego bricks. After the workshop, one thing emerged, that is, the two could share their customers by a way of establishing new products which could require the customers to utilize the services of the two companies every time they accessed the service or product (Lego, 2011).
After a period of two weeks, the two organizations established a task force which pioneered and designed the new product which was availed in the market within a period of one and half months. This was made possible by the Lego serious play because it made the managers of the two organizations unlock their reasoning and think outside the box. The end result was a win win situation for the two companies (Lego, 2011).
The Blue Ridge Bank in Missouri
This is a Missouri based bank owned independently by private investors. The bank is one of the leading financial institutions in the State of Missouri in the United States. On its formation, the bank was involved in large scale banking which targeted large organizations and corporations. After some years in large scale banking, the owners of the bank decided to expand and include retail banking so as to increase its capital base (Lego, 2011).
This was not an easy task because such an initiative meant that the bank had to be restructured due to the creation of new job positions. As usual, all employees of an organization usually have resistance to any form of change because they are usually reluctant to leave their comfort zones. This problem was real in the organization and was hindering the restructuring since the changes required the senior managers to perform the tasks performed by the branch managers, who were to be posted to the new retail branches to be opened in the country sides of the State (Lego, 2011).
The other challenge was that the organization was not used to the culture of team work and in fact, there was no cohesion between the senior managers and their juniors because the senior managers time and again intimidated the junior managers, making them to work independently of each other without any form of consultation or collaboration. The organization was also characterized by some form of witch-hunting, though it was not rampant and openly practiced (Lego, 2011).
The owners of the bank then approached some organizational consultants who advised them to take all the managers for a Lego serious play workshop. At the workshop, the senior managers and their juniors got an opportunity to interact openly and freely for the first time ever; in fact, the junior managers could not believe that they were sharing a platform with their seniors, whom they had perceived as too proud and intimidating (Lego, 2011).
After the workshop, the employees realized that team work was not only inevitable if they were to establish retail banking, but was also very enjoyable and interesting. The Lego bricks enabled the managers to realize that they needed the input of their fellow managers to come up with the way forward in regard to the challenge which was facing the organization. They learned that everyone in the organization was capable of contributing to the discussion in a positive manner. They also learned to swallow their pride and put the organization before their personal interest and good, which was to make the organization unlock its potential for growth and expansion. After opening the new branches in the country sides, the organization stuck to the spirit of team work, which has been working wonders for it since the year 2005 (Lego, 2011).
This is a multinational corporation dealing with the development of financial management soft wares with its headquarters in Belfast in Northern Ireland. The organization manufactures soft wares, which are used by financial institutions to manage and track their finances. After years of operation, the organization made a break through and invented a new brand of software, which enabled customers make huge savings. The new brand of software enabled the customers to operate their financial management systems without having to purchase other gadgets to manage their financial systems (Lego, 2011).
After the breakthrough, the organization’s customers increased by many folds due to the demand of the newly invented service. This huge demand and sales of the new product increased the organization’s profits, thus expansion. The expansion which had not been anticipated grew out of proportion and became unmanageable. This led to decreased employee cohesion as well as poor communication between various organs and departments of the organization. This was a real challenge which threatened to throw the organization into disarray. In order to save the organization from disintegration, the directors opted to use the Lego serious play strategy so as to align and streamline everything within the organization in order for it to benefit from the breakthrough (Lego, 2011).
After a series of Lego serious play sessions which involved all the employees of the organization, the organization got new ideas, insights and suggestions from the employees on how best to restructure the organization so as to make it able to manage the growth and expansion brought about by the breakthrough.
Is the Lego Serious Play Methodology Measurable or Not?
The Lego serious play methodology is measurable. This is because it’s used as a means to some end. The method may be measured by observing indicators such as increased employee motivation, increased organizational productivity, improved organizational efficiency and effectiveness, reduced turnover rates, presence of team work and collaboration, presence of cohesion among employees regardless of their positions in the organization, increased employee commitment, the invention of new products as a result of employee creativity and innovativeness, and the adoption of various strategies by various organizations in meeting their objectives.
The method can be properly measured by having two organizations of study, with one acting as a control experiment. The organizations should be as similar as possible in terms of geographical locations, the nature of business which they do, the organizational client and customer base, the age of the organizations and the profiles of employees. The reason for having two organizations which are as similar as possible is to control for what is referred to as confounding bias, which makes researchers attribute results to other factors, other than the intervention or treatment.
After having the two organizations which are as similar as possible, one organization is taken for a Lego serious play while the other is not. After sometime, the researcher observes any changes which may be present in the organization whose employees were taken for the Lego serious play. The researcher then tracks the organizational changes, which did not exist before the employees were taken for the Lego serious play. The two organizations are then studied again with an aim of identifying any differences especially those which were not present before the experiment. The differences are then attributed to the intervention, in this case, the Lego serious play.
In this assignment, I was discussing the topic of Lego serious play methodology and how it is implemented in business. In the discussion, I have explored the topic based on literature obtained from various sources. In the assignment, I have argued that the methodology is based on two major theories namely constructivism by Jean Piaget and constructionism by Papert. I have also discussed the relationship between the methodology and organizational culture and structure, where it has emerged that the methodology is best suited for those organizations which have strong and cohesive organizational culture and a liberalized organizational structure.
I have also discussed how the methodology works and on the same, I have discussed various areas where it is applicable which include organizational development, organizational change management, and strategic planning as well as conflict resolution. I have also discussed real organizations which have implemented the methodology and the results. These organizations include Novo Nordisk, ABSA and Vodacom, HARCO technology and the Blue Ridge Bank in Missouri. At the tail end, I have included a discussion of how the methodology can be measured by comparing two organizations with one acting as a control experiment.
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