Kevin Gründling launched his podcast “Kevin allein im Marketing” on 21.11.2020. As the name suggests, the podcast is about marketing. After meeting several times and also being in a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop together, the time had come to finally create a joint podcast episode.
Kevin interviews me about how LEGO SERIOUS PLAY works, why it works and why it is a good idea to use a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop in teams or groups. Sit back, relax and listen in – the podcast is in German.
If you want to know more about Kevin Gründling:
Kevin allein im Marketing – The marketing podcast episode with Matthias Renner
Kevin allein im Marketing: We all know it. Meetings that could have been cancelled or an email would have done the trick – in marketing, in sales, in management and everywhere. I read the following on a website: “Do you know this? Meetings dominated by about 20% of the participants who spend 80% of their time repeating the same topics over and over again?” Well, does anyone find themselves there? The whole thing can be solved a little easier, namely with a wonderful method, LEGO SERIOUS PLAY! Today I invited a guest and welcome him to my virtual studio: Matthias Renner is with me. Matthias, say hello and introduce yourself.
Hello Kevin, thank you very much, wonderful intro, my name is Matthias Renner. I am a coach, mediator and I am a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY facilitator, to cut to the chase.
Let’s talk about LEGO SERIOUS. I talked about Design Thinking a while ago and I linked that to LEGO SERIOUS PLAY. Is that nonsense what I said then, or can you connect it? Or is that exactly what it is?
Well, of course, you can combine them, but that’s perhaps a bit of a short answer. What is LEGO SERIOUS PLAY anyway? It is clearly more than just playing with LEGO and building something. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is a method that has a scientific background: Flow theory, constructivism, constructivism are behind it.
- What we do in LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is that we build things that are not tangible, for example:
- How is a company seen from the outside.
- How does it feel to work together in a team?
- Where do we want to go as a company?
These are questions that are addressed with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, for example.
It is about finding an answer to solve a problem or to answer a question?
Exactly. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY originally comes from the field of strategy development. The method was developed at LEGO back then and LEGO SERIOUS PLAY was introduced to the public in 2001. That means the method is 21 years old, so it’s grown up.
It’s been around that long? I would never have thought that. I first heard about it four years ago. We met in person in Frankfurt in the inno-hub and in Terminal 2 of Frankfurt Airport.
At first it was dismissed. Playing with LEGO? When we play, it’s a waste of time and a pastime. But that’s not what it is at all, it’s the opposite. When we use LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, we focus completely on solving a problem. By using the core process, 100% of the participants have their say and every single person is understood. That is, each person, gets a voice and is heard. And this is what we achieve in LEGO SERIOUS PLAY through the core process.
The core process works like this: The facilitator, the person who leads through the workshop, asks a question. Then, unlike in meetings, no answer is given, but an answer is built. This has several advantages: For one thing, the people who tend to be a bit extroverted are not immediately there with their answer and thus influence everyone else. On the contrary, by building, each person has time to think about their answer in peace and quiet and gets into a flow state by building.
And in addition, the stones are what the stones are. You know, they are smooth, they are rough, they are angular, they are pointed, they have knobs, they have indentations. Through the haptic, our brain is stimulated all the time and through that we manage to access knowledge that we don’t even know we know. This then all flows into the models. After a certain period of time, when everyone has built, everyone tells the story about their model. What’s in the model? What is the answer? What is my perspective? What are my ideas? What are my views?
With this, each person tells what they think. The models on the table are a 3D representation of the thoughts, the answers are tangible. At the same time, I have an anchor in my brain through the stories told. The images manifest themselves together with the story in the brain of the listener. As a result, what is heard sinks deep into the brain. After months, sometimes years, people still know what they have built.
I use my hands, all my senses, and that stays in my head longer and I can live it better?
Yes, exactly. Depending on what kind of question it is, I might also create a picture of the future. For example, if you think about where we want to go as a company or as a person, then in principle I realise the future. When an extreme athlete trains, visualising the goal is one of the elements of the training. It’s similar with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, when we build the future and get it on the table like that, we see how the future should be and through that we want to make it happen.
In the end, one of the big advantages. So who is LEGO SERIOUS PLAY for? Is it only for the management and for finding solutions due to complex problems. Or can I break it down to “we are doing a marketing campaign”? Let’s put our heads together and see what comes out of it – what are your thoughts? And then build something with the LEGO bricks?
LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is a method without any content. The method consists of the core process and 7 application techniques that are combined and the LEGO bricks. As I said, the method originally comes from the field of strategy development, but it works in exactly the same way in team development or leadership development, for example, and of course it also works in the field of email marketing. Together with Tobias Eickelpasch from Rock your Email, we developed 2 workshops. One was about developing a persona, both for individual entrepreneurs and for companies. And secondly, the development of a customer journey in email marketing. So a completely different area.
You did this with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY?
Yes. The persona workshop was about thinking about what kind of product we offer. What value does the product have for the customer? What added value exactly do I offer the customer with it? Exactly? A product is created more or less quickly, but what added value does it provide? Is there any demand for the product at all? Or did I only create it because I wanted to create a product.
But nobody actually needs it?
Exactly and you think about it when you build it and you have to express it and bring it to the point. You have to tell your story and so you are forced to focus on that. Once you have the product, the next thing is to say, what is the customer? What does the customer look like? We’re not looking for “This is Lieschen Müller, she’s so and so many years old and does this and that.” It’s not that detailed.
It’s more about answers to the questions:
- What is it for a target group?
- What does it mean for us?
- The areas in which the person works, what are they?
- What does the person believe?
- What values does this person have?
That means thinking again about the person and using the LEGO bricks to put yourself in the person’s shoes and then see how that fits in with the product? Are there certain areas of the product that appeal to the person? Here you can work with the models and see how that fits with the product. On the left side, on the right side or more to the values and you get completely different insights here.
You can really do everything with LEGO, depending on what bricks you have. You can then say okay, it’s a small flat or you build a house or you build a slightly bigger one. Or you build more trees or you make a prefabricated building? Depending. Where does she live? How does he live? How does that fit? And so the whole thing becomes more vivid?
Maybe with one small difference. When we play with LEGO – you said earlier, your childhood – we tend to recreate things from reality, you say an avenue, a street, a house. In LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, the models are very abstract and yet they become vivid through the explanations. You immediately have a picture and see what the other person means. All the shapes, the colours, are all just LEGO offers. Just because the brick is yellow doesn’t mean that in my story the brick isn’t red.
Well, sure, you just have to use a bit of imagination. I was once in a Zoom meeting with you – unfortunately I had to leave beforehand. We were supposed to build a tower. I thought that was very, very cool. I think there were 6 or 7 of us and we all built a completely different, abstract tower. I used the same stone on the left and right so that it would be symmetrical. But there were also quite a few others who had built wildly criss-crossed towers. And in the end it fit with the story.
I think the tower alone is significant. There is a task and a very limited number of stones. And yet, just as you said, all the towers are completely different. That shows us two things. It shows us why projects run, how projects sometimes run. Because we know exactly what the other person is talking about. But when it really comes to the table, we see it’s something completely different, what we mean.
And if we already have such a problem with a tower, how is it with a project? So there are the mistakes, the disagreements, the misunderstandings. But if we were to bring all our ideas, our thoughts, our views to the table, completely unfiltered and without being judged, what a wealth of ideas we would have to draw from!
Especially in a project! You also let the introverts have their say, so the circle closes a bit to what I said in my intro. If only the extroverts have their say and the introverts don’t say anything at all, their creativity doesn’t come out at all – because they are too shy, because they don’t want to say anything or because they think they can’t make a contribution. Through LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, they are motivated to say something and their opinion is heard and completely different possibilities can arise?
That is exactly the case. The most surprising input often comes from the people you don’t normally hear. That’s because the extroverts just keep getting heard. So we hear the same things over and over again. If we assume that 20% dominate the meeting, then that means, by implication, that we miss out on the remaining 80%. This is a complete disaster and we are not aware of it.
We assume that in a meeting everyone contributes and we all hear. But the reality. Is that at the latest at the coffee machine after the meeting the sentences come like “If you had asked me once…” or “That won’t work anyway…” And you’ve just come out of the meeting and talked about it.
Yes, that’s right, and you can change that a bit with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY?
You change it completely and also let the others talk and let their creativity run free.
I found that very nice as well. In the few minutes I was in your Meetup, others had a completely different approach. You get into the conversation and ask “Why is that?”, “How is that?”. This creates a momentum.
Of course. And every single workshop with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY has a positive impact on the team. Because it’s a different kind of listening, or because it’s real listening. Because people have an interest in the other person. Because the psychological security is there to be able to tell everything. Nothing is questioned. It’s my view, my opinion, I build it and then I can tell about it. Because of this psychological security that you have, things are brought to the table. Things that would otherwise not be brought up because they might not be “politically correct”.
But what has to happen for a workshop to take place? The manager doesn’t get up in the morning and say “Now a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop! What happens there? What is the process? What has to happen for the CEO to get up in the morning and say “Now I’m going to do the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop to make it work better!”
Often it’s about questions for which people don’t have an answer. Or feel “we’re not getting anywhere.” “We have a problem here.” “We know we have a problem. But with the traditional workshops with the traditional techniques with the traditional methods. Are we not managing to solve this problem.”
Or it’s an issue where they know it’s necessary for everyone’s knowledge to come to the table unfiltered. These are typical things or, of course, also when one managing director tells the other managing director, “We have now had this and that workshop. This and that happened and all of a sudden we had the solutions on the table.” So word-of-mouth. Interestingly, at the end of a workshop day I often get feedback that they never thought it would be so exhausting.
You have to do a bit more than just listen. You use your hands, you have to really think and even thinking can be really exhausting.
Yes, and you are totally involved all the time, not just a little bit involved. You’re totally involved, you’re just dealing with the subject and the question. You listen and through this listening you eventually build up knowledge in your brain and that’s what makes it so exhausting. And I deal with the question all the time and in the end I also have the solution.
And otherwise it’s sometimes the case that you have a meeting, then we leave it and then we meet again two weeks later. We have another meeting and deal with it a bit again. In the meantime, little happens and sometimes we have forgotten what it was about. Then we have to start again and then we discuss what happened two weeks ago.
On average, how long does a workshop take ? So if I want to make mission or vision somehow tangible and build it up once? Maybe I get the idea with my boss and tell him “I’ll give Matthias a call. I think LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is really cool, let’s do a workshop there, then we’ll also have the vision and the mission tangible.” How long would you say such a workshop takes?
It depends. But on what? Sure, on the goal of the workshop and how many participants are there? What does that mean exactly: mission, vision? I have an idea and others may have a completely different idea. Why is it important to get the mission or vision out? Why is it necessary? How have you done it so far? Or why has it not worked so far? So, first of all, we find out what exactly the background is and what exactly the goal is. And then I sit down and put together the agenda.
The process in the workshop is that a question is asked and an answer is built. Then each person tells the story and questions are often asked about the model. This means that I think about which questions I need to get from the tower at the beginning to the goal of the workshop. These questions build on each other logically and lead closer and closer to the solution of the question at the end.
When planning, I try to build an answer for each question. Because if I can’t build an answer, it’s likely that others can’t build an answer either.
And now back to your question. The duration of a workshop on mission or vision? About a day, maybe? But the question I would ask myself: Would it be enough at this point? So back again: What is the mission or vision necessary for? What is done with it afterwards?
So it really depends. When I’m in a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop, you’re there and it starts. On average, how many bricks do I get on the table to build something?
In the beginning, a limited number of bricks. In the first hour, the so-called skills, the aim is to get all participants to the same level. That is, first it’s about building. Some may have built only the day before, others maybe 3 months ago, others again in childhood and there are always participants who have never had LEGO bricks in their hands. So how does building with LEGO actually work? Then it’s about introducing metaphors and building metaphors (e.g. hearing the angels sing).
Or the penny has dropped?
Yes, you can visualise it. And then there’s story-making. These are the elements we need and that’s what we deal with in the first lesson. Depending on how I work on it afterwards, it’s either about 50 or 200 bricks and that can go on up to a few thousand pieces.
The sounds also play a role and also when I’m sitting at the table and I risk a sideways glance while I’m building: What’s happening over there? What is happening here? These are also things that promote creativity. The same goes for when I work together in a team and agree on why this one small model is closer to that other model: Why is it so close to each other, or why is it so far away from each other now? Or what does it take for the two models to come closer together?
It is precisely such negotiation processes that take place in a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop that are incredibly important and one of the reasons why LEGO SERIOUS PLAY works so wonderfully in real space with real people; on the other hand, it does not work quite as well or as far-reaching in virtual space. In this case, of course, you can’t use all the application techniques, not by a long shot.
Yes, I can’t just look left and right at Zoom. That’s only possible when you’re on location.
And you know what it’s like: you come into a room and feel there’s an energy, there’s a good energy.
Exactly, I noticed that myself at university. When you are on site and give a lecture or take an exam on site or talk to the professor on site, it is a completely different atmosphere than when you are at home.
Yes, of course. When I first saw pictures of a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop, it was clear to me: this is what I have always been looking for!
I originally come from the top hotel and restaurant business and worked there for 7 years. There, it’s always about working with people and therefore always about communication, also about service of course. Later, I studied computer science, was an IT consultant for 13 years and travelled around the world. I worked in the most diverse teams and there were misunderstandings everywhere. Always.
When a friend showed me photos of a strategy workshop with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, where the tables were full of LEGO models, I was initially flashed. But when she started explaining every single model in detail, it was clear to me: “OK! This is exactly what you use to work on communication and apparently this is something where people really understand each other. Apparently it must go so deep, it must make a difference. Her eyes lit up so much when she was telling me and the detail in which she described the models to me was impressive. I was flabbergasted, and it is precisely this glow and this attention to detail that I now see in every workshop.
Brilliant! I also thought it was very, very cool when I was with you in the Meetup and also when we met years ago. Unfortunately, the pandemic came and it was no longer possible. When was your last LEGO SERIOUS PLAY on site?
Two days ago, on 15 June 2022. There were five participants, a very small hands-on demo workshop. I offer companies the opportunity for me to come to them, bring the bricks and show them what LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is. What does it feel like? What happens there? I can tell a lot, but to literally grasp the method is something completely different.
Final question: What would you recommend to an entrepreneur who is at a loss and is now asking or wondering “What is LEGO SERIOUS PLAY?” Is it like you just said, you just go by with the bricks?
Yes, I would offer to come and do a workshop with 4-6 participants. That takes about 1.5-2 hours. Depending on how many questions come up in the discussions at the end. And we look at what LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is and how it can help the company. Of course we build that as well, so we get everything on the table that we need in the discussion at the end.
That was actually the perfect conclusion Matthias. I can’t really say it any better than that. I have nothing else to say but “Thank you so much for bringing my childhood back to life and for allowing me to bring the whole thing into adulthood, and I hope that we will meet again very soon at a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop. Thank you so much for being a guest on my marketing podcast today!”
Thank you Kevin and have a great day.”
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