Before writing this blog, my immediate answer to that question was NO. LEGO Serious Play (LSP) is so much more powerful than just having fun together as a team, playing crazy games and having a few drinks at the local pub.
My ‘Why’ is all about being crazily passionate about helping small and medium sized businesses create a culture business improvement - helping them become awesome at what they do. Everything I do stems from that ‘why’. This is about excellence, high performance, becoming better, continuous improvement.
LSP is a tool I use to facilitate teams to create their ‘why’. Without that clarity of vision or purpose, most of a team effort around business performance tends to be uncoordinated and lacking true direction. LSP can help teams to have really powerful, purposeful conversations that align everyone's actions on the important work that is required.
Yes it is fun, there are always a few laughs during each workshop - heck we need that more than ever. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a serious (pun intended) purpose to the process and outcomes. With this in mind, what is the relationship between LSP and team building?
To start this, let’s dig into the term ‘team building’. Previously when I heard this term, I immediately thought of team trips out of the office, crazy activities, dressing up and completing silly games. Is this perception accurate? A quick search and I am quickly reminded of the purpose of why this whole industry was created. Going back to the core purpose of what ‘team building’ is all about.
The purpose of team building is simple: creating a more cohesive team, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each other - creating clarity of the team’s purpose and direction. This is beginning to sound very familiar! The benefits are also aligned to that of LSP - better communication, developing planning skills, engaging team members and helping them collaborate more effectively. I was reminded about the importance of the interaction and discussion during a LSP session. That was the main outcome for the business owner who had invited me to work with the team. The final builds, key themes to the questions posed during the session, in his mind, were secondary to the powerful interaction. This benefit of LSP really does align nicely with the core purpose of team building.
There are aspects of great team building that LSP may not touch on and probably the reasons why I initially considered LSP different from team building. The aspects of creating competition or bragging rights for those winning competitions or challenges. In LSP there is a strong focus on inclusion, everyone’s contribution is valued, respected and listened to, so putting everyone’s build to be the best, fastest etc just doesn’t happen. It is OK to know where a process or a tool doesn’t fit, that is why we have lots of different tools and approaches available.
From a business improvement perspective, it is very difficult to work and improve everything at the same time. Depending on the aspects you want to improve with your team, you will choose a different approach. These are just different tools for different purposes. Some of the principles will and do overlap, that is also OK.
Further objectives of team building include boosting teamwork and performance. The key word here is boost. I always stress with teams I work with about creating the ‘so what’. You have just completed a great activity, the teamwork was awesome, but so what. How are you going to capitalize on the momentum started in the session? Both LSP and more traditional team building sessions do provide a boost around teamwork. During these workshops, collaboration, communication and respect of others are all crucial to a successful outcome for the business. You are trying to build a team, by that very definition it is not a one off act that will suddenly create the perfect result. Teamwork is something that needs constant attention.
The summary from this very brief reflection when comparing Team Building to LEGO Serious Play is yes LSP is a type of team building. As a business leader considering team building activities, you may choose a programme of activities that include LSP. All the activities planned should be aimed at addressing or providing that boost to an aspect of teamwork you want to improve. It is about continuous improvement of your team. You have a vision for the business and the team, your role as a business leader is to provide the environment where this can be possible. Team building has a critical part to play in that journey.