Lego Serious Play and Psychological Safety


In a recent NY Times article, Google revealed the outcomes of several years of research around team effectiveness. One of the key indicators of a successful team was the concept of psychological safety. This sense of mental well-being, based on the freedom to explore ideas and solutions without fear of negative repercussions, is what creates the environment that allows teams to thrive. By fostering a place where risk is accepted and exploration is encouraged, people have the willingness to contribute brave ideas and investigate uncertain possibilities.

There is much searching and conversation on how to create this culture in all varieties of teams so they can benefit from sense of safety. Reaching the best outcomes, which result from diversity of opinion and contribution, is central to moving any business or organization forward. Research suggests that key elements for building psychological safety include:

  • Collecting opinions before the group communicates to avoid idea-blending which leads to groupthink
  • Actively seeking disparate views in order to hear all perspectives
  • Intentionally seek out voices that have less “power” or authority
  • Don’t voice your opinion until all participants have a chance to contribute
  • Create an environment where interrupting is not permitted
  • When multiple possible solutions exist, test ideas to determine validity

At Apricot, we believe answers are often found within the expertise of the existing team. It is our job to help them be unearthed and by fostering a sense ofpsychological safety and mutual trust, we create both time and opportunity for thisto happen. After training in facilitation of the LEGO Serious Play technique, it was clear that this unique methodology is an ideal tool to encourage these behaviors and nurture this sense of safety in any team.

What is LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, you ask?

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a facilitated meeting, communication and problem-solving method, where participants are led through a series of questions, which leads them deeper and deeper to find solutions.

Each participant builds his or her own three-dimensional LEGO model in response to the facilitator’s questions using specially selected LEGO bricks. These 3D models serve as the basis for group discussion, knowledge sharing, problem solving and decision-making.

The purpose of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is to maximize the full potential, insight, confidence and commitment of all the people around the table. It enables story-telling and meaning-making through individual and group contributions to team outcomes.

LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is a method of team communication and discovery that allows our clients to be more creative and innovative, which generates improved ideas and outcomes. By utilizing techniques that engage every person around the table through individual story-making, and pre-empting groupthink with specific formulas for contribution so each individual is heard and their contribution valued. It generates input from all voices present, which ensures that maximum potential solutions are heard.

This is a significant opportunity to develop psychological safety in teams in an age where the fear of speaking out is real and present. Concrete solutions to culture challenges are hard to find, and LEGO SERIOUS PLAY provides a clear answer.

Apricot Consulting’s Susan Barton is a certified LEGO SERIOUS PLAY facilitator.

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