This activity is intended to serve as a prerequisite to all learning modules that utilize the LEGO Serious Play (LSP). This activity introduces students to the LSP methodology and helps them (re)gain familiarity with LEGO bricks.
As a result of completing this activity, students will feel comfortable with explaining complex concepts through metaphors represented by simple LEGO models.
Up to 30 minutes for a group of 10-12. Slightly longer for larger groups.
Number of participants
Optimal number of participants: 5-15.
Ideally, one large table per team. It is important for all students in a team to see each other’s work, so it is preferred that all students within a team would sit around one or several larger table(s) facing each other.
Materials and supplies
LEGO sets: one LSP exploration bag per student. Note that LSP exploration bags are only sold in boxes of 100.
Alternatively, any cheap ($5) LEGO Classic, LEGO City, LEGO Friends, or similar sets can be used.
Important: each student needs to have a separate set; all students should have either identical or very similar sets.
- Wikipedia: LEGO Serious Play
- LEGO Serious Play Open Source document
- S. Kurkovsky: Teaching Software Engineering with LEGO Serious Play / ACM DL
Scenario of the activity
- Introduction: 5 minutes
- Explain the rationale for LSP (thinking with your hands, storytelling via metaphors). More details in the References.
- LEGO terminology: brick (a universal name for a LEGO piece; also, a traditional 2x2, 2x4 or similar LEGO piece), plate (any LEGO piece that is 1/3 the height of a brick), baseplate (a large plate), mini-figures, other pieces.
- (Re)acquaint everyone with the LEGO bricks: 5 minutes
- If using LSP exploration bags: on a small baseplate, ask participants to build a tower using orange and green bricks, finish with the flags. If using other LEGO sets, consider asking to build a similar simple model, such as a tower, a bridge, a house, etc. Everyone builds individually, in silence, with no discussions. Time: 2 minutes.
- Debrief: Point out the differences in everyone’s deigns. Everyone has unique ideas.
- Build from instructions
- Students build the model of an animal (see Handouts section below). Everyone builds individually, in silence, with no discussions. Time: 2 minutes.
- All models should be identical. If they are not, briefly discuss why.
- Build to tell stories: 5-7 minutes
- This step is a bridge to the next one and can be skipped for the sake of brevity, especially if this LSP skills building activity is followed up immediately by another LSP-based activity.
- Students need to add/remove/change something to the model from the previous step (or use it as is) to tell the story about "what you find the most exciting about..." being a CS student, or a software engineer, or working in the IT industry. Everyone builds individually, in silence, with no discussions. Time: 2 minutes.
- Everyone briefly shares their story with the team (20 seconds per person).
- Debrief: Point out how an abstract LEGO model helped convey a complex idea.
- Stories from metaphors: 7-10 minutes
- Students build a model of a nightmare assignment, or a nightmare project, or a professor from hell, not necessarily in CS. It is best to pick something that students feel strongly about. Everyone builds individually, in silence, with no discussions. Time: 3 minutes.
- Everyone briefly shares their story with the team (30 seconds per person).
- Debrief: Point out how a metaphor portrayed by an abstract LEGO model helped convey a complex idea told as a story.
- No discussions or talking while building.
- Adhere to the timing constraints for each building step.
- When the time of a building step is up, specifically ask students to stop building.
- When a student tells their story, ask them to hold and show their model to the rest of the team.
- Make sure that everyone adheres to the timing constraints for sharing their stories.
Notes on scaling up/down
With groups over 15, consider breaking up into two or more teams (under 10-12 participants) and running discussions within each team in parallel. This would require a separate table for each team. Ideally, one or more helpers will be needed to facilitate separate discussions within each team.