Plunge in spaces with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY – Interview by Susanne B. Busshart

by Feb 12, 2021English, video & podcast

Räume - Spaces // New Work // LEGO SERIOUS PLAY Susanne Busshart

Susanne Busshart, author of the 🇩🇪 German book FREIRAUM: Warum inspirierende Arbeitsplätze Mitarbeiter glücklich und Unternehmen erfolgreich machen (Why inspiring workplaces make employees happy and companies successful) and founder of the video and pocast “Wandel etablieren” (Establish change). Susanne is THE expert on Future Workplace and New Work. In this interview, she invited me so that we could talk about the method and the impact of spaces

Susanne and I have been working together for a long time. We talk about my job as a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY facilitator and take a closer look at the playful approach of the method, for working through issues and problems. And because Susanne deals intensively with spaces and spatial concepts, these also get their space. Here is a summary of the interview:

Interview by Susanne B. Busshart

Maybe, you would you like to introduce yourself?

Sure! My name is Matthias Renner. I am a coach, mediator and LEGO SERIOUS PLAY facilitator since 2016. About my background: I studied computer science and was in IT consulting and worldwide for about 12-13 years. For me, one of the jobs where you deal with people the most – except maybe as a restaurateur.

Our podcast is of course called LEGO SERIOUS PLAY and Rooms because I met you through LEGO SERIOUS PLAY. I found the topic very exciting and then I started looking into it myself because I had the feeling that rooms and LEGO SERIOUS PLAY somehow play together. When I wrote my book Freiraum (Free Space), I thought: now I have to take a closer look at this and I really liked the things you did around it and your commitment, and that’s how we came together. And so of course I have to ask you what good spaces mean to you?

For me, a good space has to support the people who use the space in the best possible way. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s the technology or simply the inspiration that the space offers. I have to come into a space, feel comfortable and have the feeling that this is exactly the space in which I can and want to work now. That is a good space for me.

Cool, thank you very much. We came together here because of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY. Can you briefly tell us again how you got into it?

In 2015, a friend showed me photos from a workshop that looked very different from what I normally see: They were pictures of tables filled with LEGO models. Not with spaceships or anything like that, but they were quite abstract models. The friend explained to me that this was a strategy workshop for her company and that the sales managers from the DACH region had worked out their strategy together for the following year. And what was even more impressive was that even weeks later, she could explain each individual model to me in detail and also what the respective person had expressed with it.

There was such a strong connection to the statements made at the time, which I had never experienced before. It even went so far that she could explain to me every question asked by the facilitator, the person who led through the workshop. I was completely flashed. The second time I came into contact with it was in a team workshop. In that workshop I experienced how quickly we reached another level, even though we knew each other. It was clear that I had to do it!

I can confirm that. There are so many surprises in the method, it’s great! Is there anything that you say is particularly important for me? Is it the commitment to the strategy themes or is it something else?

It is something more fundamental that is particularly important for me. Unlike in a normal workshop, where usually about 20% of the participants talk about their opinions 80% of the time, in a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop 100% of the participants are really involved. Through the process of building and sharing the models, we have the opportunity to get our own ideas and views on the table and make them tangible.

Everyone gets the opportunity to listen not only with their ears but also with their eyes and through this we have an understanding that is very different from other workshops. In this way, we create solutions that go further than just to the coffee machine. Usually people say, “If only I had been asked…” or “That won’t work anyway…”. That is completely different in a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop and that is what makes it so valuable.

I find the very concept of “making things comprehensible” exciting. I think with my hands and my head, with my heart and my mind, with my hands and my feet. I came to LEGO SERIOUS PLAY because of the rooms. Where do you see the connection between LEGO SERIOUS PLAY and rooms?

When I, or one of the participants, come into a room, I notice if the room feels good. For example, I can’t think big in a small room, it doesn’t work at all. 

If I have a room that is set up for a video conference, it’s a tube with a video screen in front of my head. That does me no good for my workshop. I need freedom. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY gives the participants freedom in the head and in addition we need freedom for the body. I need to be able to walk through the room. The movement sets processes in motion in the mind, which in turn feed into the workshop, the result and the team or group of participants. In other words, a space is fundamental for a successful LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop.

Question: For those who don’t have much experience with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, can you give a few key points on what this method can be used for? For example, when I give an intro for a conference or an inspiration workshop, the participants get 3 bricks and are supposed to build their workplace of the future. And already in the process, all facets of the workplace of the future always come out.

In general:

  • The moment I have a question where there is no obvious answer, it is a case for LEGO SERIOUS PLAY.
  • If it is important for me to get all ideas, opinions, questions and views on the table and to be able to really understand the others, then it is a case for LEGO SERIOUS PLAY.
  • If I don’t have time, definitely LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, because then I have to play. In play I get into the flow, then I have the opportunity to learn better from each other and I can try things that I might never try in real life. 
  • I can prepare myself for the future with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, I can develop strategies with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY or I can weld the participants together.
  • Since Corona, we have an idea of how VUCA our world really is. But often we work in such a way that we plan for a very long time and come to implementation at the very end. We have to move away from that more and more, so we have to move towards a plan-do-plan-do-plan-do-do approach, which agile methods also work with very strongly, and LEGO SERIOUS PLAY can support this wonderfully.

I can totally confirm that. Agility and LEGO just go together really well and it really makes you want to do a LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop with you. 
Where do you see the use of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY in the office environment?

There is an increasing move away from hierarchical structures to matrix organisations in companies, i.e. to teams that are reassembled on a project basis. And thus work together within a team, but also with other teams. Of course we know what the basic needs of teams are. But every team is new every time, consists of different people and therefore there are always different needs.

I can get these needs on the table with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY. Then I know exactly what the individual teams need and can react to this and perhaps redesign rooms accordingly – not only for the individual team, but also for the teams among themselves. This results in shorter paths or perhaps even longer paths or different staggerings. Although the method originally comes from strategy development, the field of application is so large that it can also be used wonderfully even in the context of spaces.

Thank you, I will certainly come back to this. Let’s definitely take a look into the future. I have just finished the new Future Workplace Trends 2021/2022 (get the current version here). How do you see the future? Where do you see trends around LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, perhaps with a side kick to office spaces? And how does your development or that of your company go hand in hand with this?

I think that just as we all need to become more agile and also develop (as I said a few months ago, the idea of no longer being able to work together in rooms was a strange idea), I think rooms also need to become more agile. Maybe they can be changed more quickly, maybe they can be moved and resized. I think it’s incredibly exciting what’s going to happen in the field of spaces. What I read at Future Trends is the topic of smells. So how can smells be used? How can smells be used to influence the daily work routine or workshops? 

I have started to look at how to use smells to make workshops even more valuable. How can I support the participants here again? For example, when you peel an orange, that citrus smell is inspiring. Even such “little things” can, I think, contribute to workshops.  

To some extent, you can work with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY online. I really enjoy working with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY in the area of strategy and I have noticed that especially in the area of teams there is a need to come together again much more in rooms and I hope that this will be taken up by managers. 

I am always a great friend of looking positively into the future and always have a half-full glass at the end of my presentations. I think with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY we have a super nice method to help us move forward positively. Time always flies and we are already at the end. Is there anything else you would like to leave our viewers and listeners with? Maybe a nice closing word?

With pleasure!
I would be happy if you would all play much much more, if you would use all your capacities, and we can do that so wonderfully in the play, much much more. Let’s just be children again a little bit and in this game get all our knowledge, all our ideas and everything that is important to us on the table and be able to deal with it and on a much deeper level. That’s what I would wish for the future. And I wish that you also have the courage to apply that and to do that.

Thank you Matthias for being able to be here. Dear listeners, thank you very much for your time. 
This was Change Establish the Pod and Videocast for Future Workplace. My name is Susanne Busshart and I’m looking forward to hearing from you again.
Thank you, Ciao!


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Plunge in spaces with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY – Interview by Susanne B. Busshart (Interview is in German)

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