Executive Coaching, Leadership Coaching, Team Coaching, Karen Fugle, Coaching London, Executive Coaching London, Team Coaching London, Leadership Coaching London, LEGO Serious Play, LEGO Serious play London, Architect Coach, Coaching Architects, AEC Coach, Architecture coach, Business coach


I often work with senior architects on the subject of delegation. Team leaders are short on time yet feel under pressure to make all the decisions. All too often they enjoy getting into the detail of solving team members design problems even when their time might be better spent elsewhere. We talk about when to wear the 'architect hat' versus the 'manager hat'; their approach to team members when asked for help; how to hold a sense of enquiry; how to manage expectations. Together we work on strategies to change the team leader's habits, but not those of the team.

So what can you do to help the team to think more for themselves? LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshops, aside to working on the current team challenge, also have the added benefit of helping your team to think in ways that might not be their natural inclination.

With around 70-80% of the neurons in our brain connected to our hands, it makes sense to tap into the power of  LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®'s 'hand knowledge'. That is, by building 3D LEGO models you can leverage the power of metaphor and story making to explore, generate and articulate ideas. But, other than 'thinking with our hands', there are other types of thinking we do when participating in a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop that is beneficial to the team. They are: 

Divergent Thinking 

In our normal working day, we often get trapped in a convergent way of thinking - a narrowing down of ideas, an application of rules, processes and cultural norms, and a limited number of options. This thinking tends to be linear in nature and systematic. We are driven to find that ultimate solution. 

Divergent thinking is when we generate multiple related ideas for a given topic or solutions to a problem. LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshops are effective when there is a need to grasp the big picture, see connections and explore various options and potential solutions. I might ask such divergent questions as:

"Who or what influences your ability to succeed?"

"What are the traits of a good team leader?"

"What are the aspects of the company culture that promote....?"

Divergent questions really open up everyone's thinking in a spontaneous, free-flowing and non-linear manner. Unlocking new insight is one of the core benefits of using the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology and encourages team members to be open to new ideas without immediate critique or judgement.  

Critical Thinking

Once the 3D LEGO models are built, participants turn into story makers, using the power of metaphor to share the story of the model with the rest of the team. This involves presentation skills, listening skills and critical thinking skills as well.

The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as the "process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action."

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop participants are open to questions about their model, from the rest of the team, which can refine their story. This encourages the participant to self-reflect on its meaning and the way they've presented it. The participants ask each other such questions as:

"What does that group of bricks represent?"

"Why have you placed that brick in that position?"

"Is there any relevance in the colour you chose?"

Participants question to analyse the model, break it down, discriminate and interpret. Often it enhances the model maker's thinking and improves their story; improves the clarity of communication. I hear participants say:

"Oh, I hadn't thought about it but now that you ask, I think this piece means..."

Participants tend to find it easy to refine their models, reducing the build to the part or pieces that represent the "core" of their thinking. 

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking involves solving problems through an indirect and creative approach. The reasoning may not be immediately obvious and it can involve ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic or be accessible in a normal team meeting environment. 

Lateral thinking comes into play when the team create a 'shared model' and also when they 'landscape' individual models. Shared models are the unification of the individual models - the collective thinking. Landscaping is when the team place their models on a table in a way that makes them think about their individual model's position in relation to each other model. The collective team process of rearrangement and reevaluation allows people to:

  • approach the problem from a number of different perspectives 
  • to look at the bigger picture, yet keep each individual model in mind 
  • to look for patterns
  • to see what is missing  
  • to delay judgement and keep an open mind

Using this lateral approach the team often discover problems that they didn't know they had, or solve problems that are now 'obvious' in hindsight. Lateral thinking helps the team to think with different perspectives, with everyone else's input in consideration. 

Thinking for Yourself

Though not a recognised thinking 'type' I maintain that "thinking for yourself" is the most important thinking 'type'. We live in an age where it is so easy to Google, ask our colleagues, presume the team leader has all the answers and invite in consultants to tell us both the problem and the solution. All these are important and useful, but rarely do we allow ourselves the time to really think for ourselves and ask ourselves the questions that need to be asked. 

When you are building the 3D model you have time to think. It's not long, you may feel pressured, but it is long enough to develop your story so that you can tell it with confidence. It helps that you are talking about and pointing to a concrete LEGO model in your hands - people judge the model and not you. Conflicts are less personal and more manageable. You will also feel that your ideas are valued. They are not dismissed due to seniority, education, your ethnicity or that fact that "I'm an introvert so I'm really quiet in meetings". When in a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop everybody shares, everybody listens and everybody respects your contribution. You might not always agree with what is being said, but you must respect it. 

By using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, a methodology that encourages you to 'think with your hands' you will also engage in other useful types of thinking that can really benefit your team and the team leader. It's the type of thinking that you need a bit of concerted effort and time for. The type of thinking that promotes innovation, clearer communication and a better sense of our own value. Giving your team the skills to think better for themselves, to question their ideas and to value their own contribution is all good news. 

Find out more about LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® can benefit your team HERE or contact me to discuss your team challenge and if LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is right for you. 

Further LEGO posts: Pilfering for Metaphors | Let Your Hands Do The Talking