Introduction to LEGO Serious Play (LSP)

LSP Skills Building

Overview

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.

Learning outcomes

As a result of completing this activity, students will feel comfortable with explaining complex concepts through metaphors represented by simple LEGO models.

Prerequisites

None

Timing considerations

Up to 30 minutes for a group of 10-12. Slightly longer for larger groups.

Number of participants

Optimal number of participants: 5-15.

Logistics

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.

References

Scenario of the activity

  1. Introduction: 5 minutes
    1. Explain the rationale for LSP (thinking with your hands, storytelling via metaphors). More details in the References.
    2. 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.
  2. (Re)acquaint everyone with the LEGO bricks: 5 minutes
    1. 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.
    2. Debrief: Point out the differences in everyone’s deigns. Everyone has unique ideas.
  3. Build from instructions
    1. Students build the model of an animal (see Handouts section below). Everyone builds individually, in silence, with no discussions. Time: 2 minutes.
    2. All models should be identical. If they are not, briefly discuss why.
  4. Build to tell stories: 5-7 minutes
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Everyone briefly shares their story with the team (20 seconds per person).
    4. Debrief: Point out how an abstract LEGO model helped convey a complex idea.
  5. Stories from metaphors: 7-10 minutes
    1. 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.
    2. Everyone briefly shares their story with the team (30 seconds per person).
    3. Debrief: Point out how a metaphor portrayed by an abstract LEGO model helped convey a complex idea told as a story.

Practical observations

  • 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.

Handouts

Abstract animal model

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.