Thinking about Lego Serious Play and Simplex

For the last year or so I’ve been looking on and off at Lego Serious Play (LSP). I’ve been thinking about two aspects of LSP. First, I’ve been wondering how I could bring it into my university classroom with students. Second, I think it could be a useful addition to the range of skills available to the student driven software development I help organise with non-departmental clients. LSP could help form connections between different parts of the university, as well as the wider community of Aberdeen and the surrounding area. Combined with the Simplex problem solving approach, this could be a powerful combination to help us help others, and help form part of the learning processes used in the department.

I’d read about how StrategicPlay (DE) and StrategicPlay (CA) had been using this combination and was thinking it would work well as an extra layer of learning to bring to the classroom. Lectures just aren’t enough really, and these ‘thinking with hands’ aspects all seemed worth the time and effort to better understand. Also, what’s not to like about Lego? Discussions with Katrin Elster and Jens Hoffmann at StrategicPlay in Hamburg, about Simplex and LSP helped greatly in sorting out my ideas too. Thanks to both of you.

LSP with the students has several appeals as a concept. It provides a voice for all students, as it’s inclusive and all contribute to the group story. LSP also moves away from the two-dimensional aspects traditionally associated with computing departments, and should make the students think more about the ideas, before leaping into action with their laptops. The longer thinking time, and in particular ‘thinking with their hands’, as someone said, should provide more reflective solutions.

A key issue, however, is that as I currently understand LSP, it assumes longer sessions, which don’t lend themselves to our timetable issues. Therefore, it will be a matter of either, finding concepts within the LSP application toolbox that can be adapted to the timeframes available, or developing new ones to suit my needs.

LSP with non-departmental groups has  number of potential aspects. We could promote it as a means for idea generation, envisioning and strategizing. As I become more involved in cross-polinating events such as hackdays, and <whatever>Camps, which bring people from different disciplines together it could be a useful way to facilitate the eliciting of ideas for the participants.

What’s it good for?

For example, instead of using paper and pen to describe possible ideas I can see using LSP-like aspects to develop prototypes for applications to bring out metaphores of features. As they would be in the round, we’d also be able to see the relationships between the ideas, and be able to find gaps in the possible application. Thinking with our hands would also open more creative apsects in the participants too.

Smaller exercises, only 20-30 minutes long, should also be useful for illustrating simple concepts in the classroom instead of trying to cover them in lectures alone. We leave too much to lectures, and this could be a way to use more powerful teaching techniques.

Where’s the track record for LSP?

That’s just it. This is not new, and the more I dig around the more I find things happening in isolated pockets, both in the commercial world, as well as some parts of several universities too (Huddersfield, Liverpool John Moore’s. Several papers on the background and science of LSP are available by LSP (open source), Rasmussen, Hylton and Statler. These all point to sound reasons of why the process works from the psychological pespective. Work on neuroscience also supports the process, and how it draws on the right-side creative aspects of people, can be found in Hunt, and the work of Rock. The combination of these different reasons about ‘why’ it works, supports the case studies that are also available from the different practitioners, who are working with firms large and small.

So what next?

The next step is to read more and try more small examples with LSP and Simplex as time permits in the current work schedule. The next big step would be to work on these approaches for use with students and non-departmental clients for group projects in the new year.

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