Is the core-process of the LEGO® Serious Play® methodology a U journey of U-Theory? Are our hands a way of activating mindfulness? My prototype developed and shared in these last years would seem to validate so.
To become a LEGO® Serious Play® facilitator, a very intense certification training is needed (4 days, one of which ends in the middle of the night) that uses LEGO® Serious Play® as a training tool. Within the certification process, during the theoretical reflections, the U Theory is sometime being introduced.
All the LEGO® Serious Play® facilitators in the world meet in autumn in Denmark in Billund, the LEGO® headquarters. During the sessions the facilitators spend a lot of time together and it is an incredible moment of peer learning. In 2015 the group of Japanese facilitators introduced me to the EdX MOOC of the U.Lab and the Presencing Institute. We discussed a project to illustrate U theory using LEGO® Serious Play®. This activity was carried out by Osamu Kikima of Kyushu Sangyo University, and by Masao Ishihara LEGO® Serious Play® Trainer in Japan. From this experience, after having followed (only partially live) the edX MOOC in 2015, my first prototype was combining the two methodologies (http://bit.ly/LSP4UTheory).
During 2016, with the growth of my experience in the use of LEGO® Serious Play® and with the deepening of the U Theory, thanks to a steady frequency of the EdX course and above all attending the U-Lab Hub of Rome, I realize that the entire LEGO® Serious Play® core-process was very similar to the U journey. My 2016 prototype was (http://bit.ly/LSPcoreU) to validate the idea that in a LEGO® Serious Play® workshop we walk the U over and over again.
Core-process and U
The relationship between core-process and U is intimately connected to what a single participant naturally does in a LEGO® Serious Play® workshop to answer the facilitator’s open question. The core-process tells us that in response to the question posed by the facilitator the participants construct an individual model with LEGO® and use this model as a 3D metaphor to tell to the others their answers to the facilitator question. The methodology requires that everyone builds and everyone talks, therefore, during the storytelling phase, helped also by the facilitator, there is a process of reflection and cocreation.
In order to build a 3D model with LEGO® individually in response to the facilitator’s question, the participant seems to follow this path:
- Forget what he knows (i.e. he/she cannot answer following usual paths)
- See around with fresh eyes
- Sense what surrounds him/her
- Find what he/she does not know
- Crystallize vision and intention (the LEGO® model that takes shape)
- Prototype the future (the 3D model and the story that results)
- Implement what to do (reflection on participants stories)
- Downloading past patterns
- Seeing with fresh eyes
- Sensing from the field
- Presencing connecting to source
- Crystallizing vision and intention
- Prototyping the new by linking head, heart, hand
- Performing by operating from the whole
Hands and brain
In the U Theory workshop these are achieved with mindfulness. In LEGO® Serious Play®, hands are used to construct the answer to the facilitator’s questions and the use of hands activates the brain wholly. So through the hand participants activate mindfulness.
In fact, “the whole list of recently acquired and uniquely human behavioral attributes must have arisen during the long process of brain enlargement that began with the expansion of novel and inventive tool use by Homo habilis. (Wilson 1998). Jean Piaget, the father of our modern understanding of intelligence, introduced the idea that intelligence grows from the interaction of the mind with the world. Thus, the complex, abstract ideas such as time, causality, space, etc. are all active operations that grow from the feedback processes between the living mind and the encompassing world” [Robert Rasmussen].
This massive use of the U is also one of the reasons why a LEGO® Serious Play® workshop
- 100 PERCENT PARTICIPATION GUARANTEED – The highly structured LSP process design guarantees that every person in the workshop participates equally.
- GIVES SHY PEOPLE CONFIDENCE – Having time to think during the building process, a model for reference, and a specific time to speak builds confidence.
- FRESH PERSPECTIVE GUARANTEED – The number of options and solutions generated and the fact that each model is an original expression (instead of building on an idea that has already been voiced) guarantees that fresh perspective emerge.
- GETS TO CORE BELIEFS AND VALUES – You learn everyone’s REAL fears, areas of disagreement, hopes and dreams (instead of the sanitized, politically correct business-speak or lips-sealed-shut silence we have come to accept).
- AUTHENTIC EXPRESSION (NO LIES) – It is difficult to misrepresent or inflate your reality when using LSP to express ideas.
- CREATES A COMMON LANGUAGE – Professional training and cultural norms inform each person’s verbal expression so words can mean different things to different people. Some words or phases are only understood by people with similar professional training. The LSP models each person builds creates a common language that can be seen, questioned and understood without challenging the model builder.
- CLARIFIES COMPLEXITY – The process supports creating a landscape which makes connections and relationships among and between components clear, concrete, and easy to understand.
- GROUP ALIGNMENT GUARANTEED – The highly structured LSP process in combination with skilled facilitation assures that every person’s core ideas, values and concerns are incorporated in the final solutions.
- MEMORABLE RESULTS – It has been said that one picture is worth a thousand words. Three-dimensional LSP models, stored in your memory as pictures of recognizable objects (such as a gear, globe or tiger) trigger access to the workshop’s key insights.
- SAVES TIME – In post workshop surveys and interviews, participants agree that LSP workshops accelerate trust and consensus building at two-to-three times the speed of other traditional methods for group decision-making or strategy development.
It is something surprising, often unimaginable before the workshop, that from what built individually by any participant emerges common shared solutions, cocreated; where negotiation is easier and the result belongs to everyone. The focus of LEGO® Serious Play® is the individual, not the group. It involves everyone in the decision-making process, increasing the likelihood that all participants will share and commit to the decisions and solutions made during the workshop.
I shared my prototype first of all with the participants in the many workshops I have done and I’m doing since then. In every situation I have found that people contributes to the value of the prototype (giving an implied validation) through their comments in the retrospective analysis I always do with them while I rearrange the material; this is one of the richest moments of the workshops when finished, some people stay with me to reflect about the experience. Many of them found themselves on the U Journey and that was the core-process that led them on the U. Many have testified that through their hands, who think and build the model (the 3D metaphor for sharing stories, true focus of the interaction between the participants), they achieved presencing and crystallization of their intentions. This discovery also produced a great deal of interest in U theory.
In November 2017 in Billund I shared my prototype with the group of Japanese facilitators and other facilitators who know the U theory. For many of them the prototype and the interactions with the participants are a solid basis that can validate the idea. Moreover the prototype shows that the idea is strong and has also been reflected in their practice. It is clear that my prototype does not change anything of the two practices, but the awareness of a common path helps a lot of those who, like me, use holistic knowledge in the use of different facilitation tools.