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LEGO builds creativity

In 2010 the LEGO Group decided to offer the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Methodology as a community based model under the Creative Commons License Deed. That was about the time I started to hear about using LEGO for adult learning and fostering creativity. There were very few people teaching the methodology and the training that I could find seemed to entail very expensive tuition costs.

After 9 years, I convinced my sister to take the plunge with me and we completed the first 3 day course in Whistler with Strategic Play. We are now able to facilitate teams and groups. We even managed to book a session with Lululemon in Vancouver; working with a small product development team. They progressed through exercises of building various models to create a final representation of their best ways of working together as a team. It was an impressive manifestation of how the methodology works.

Despite the effectiveness of the methodology, I still meet people who are dismissive of LEGO as a creativity tool. In fact, there is a resistance to doing anything different in order to bring about new ideas or innovation. Which is so strange to me. Isn’t creating something, which did not exist before, progress? Doesn’t that kind of ideation bring about novel ideas? Are we not all trying to move along in our lives, careers and companies? Achieving that next step, so to speak.

Thinking or making something with your hands activates a part of your brain that you just cannot access by thinking and speaking. So, you are really generating new ideas, processes and neural connections that allow you to come up with new ideas and perspectives. All of this creativity can be accessed through an activity like the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method. Other handwork like knitting, gardening, colouring, doodling; or various other handwork will produce similar new thoughts. Which is Why Working With Your Hands is Key to Creativity in the Workplace.

But, Can Playing With Lego Make You More Creative? If there is a creativity crisis in our society and if technology is to blame, can something as simple and elegant as ‘playing’ be a viable solution? There are many who believe that the education system we have created has lost touch with the world that children are being expected to inhabit as adults. Being able to think critically and create solutions to meaningful problems demands the ability to play with a variety of different; even opposing ideas.

For those who have taken the training in the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology, one of the rules is to trust the process. For people who like to be in control, this is a very difficult rule. But, if the goal is To Use LEGO To Build Creativity in Business, then a certain amount of letting go of certainty will be required. The very point of innovation is to create something new. Why we think that old methods or ideas will accomplish that, particularly in such a rapidly changing economic landscape, is always interesting to me.

Structuring thought and imagination brick by brick, Lego is more than child’s play. I’ve spent countless hours over the past year building with LEGO. I’ve followed the set of instructions and I’ve created from scratch. I even love the daunting task of classifying and sorting my ever growing collection of bricks. Then, I tear it all apart and start again, with no remorse. All the while, I am thinking and creating as I go, always a little bit surprised by what I have come up with. Does this free imagination spill over into my regular life? I like to think so.

I do wonder if it is true. Creativity is being “brushed aside” by digital media says Lego’s head of design. Or is that another ploy to sell more bricks and increase the size of a companies reach and dominance in the toy market? Comparing children of today to the experience of the middle-aged is probably not helpful. Yes, we were forced into being more creative and inventive with our free time because we had no other choices. Yet, kids growing up in a digital world are practicing creativity differently. These new avenues of play and creation, open up a frontier for the job market that did not exist 30 years ago.

As it stands right now, I have more interest in using and expanding the LEGO collection that was once exclusively being played with by my children. I’ve set aside some of the more tired pieces, rattled with bite marks and worn with age. I can’t bear to throw them away. The collection of bricks continue to provide joy and entertainment, along with a dose of creativity. What a great resource to be lucky enough to own!

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