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.


“It’s All About Relationships” – How Relational Focus Drives A Successful Team

"It's all about relationships"

We’ve all experienced ‘that guy’ in our teams that wants to win at all costs, needs to saveface by never being wrong, or can’t help always having the last word. The “me-first”mentality pervades western culture which typically rewards individualistic behavior and searches for the super-star.

In my experience, however, the power of team, collaboration, and community is rising to the surface as the more effective way to reach the best outcomes. It is often more cumbersome, time consuming, and even sometimes painful, but when managed well, it yields innovative ideas, more refined solutions, and stronger teams.

Under the surface of any team lies the relationships that connect the individuals together. This web of interconnectivity is intricate in its detail, and usually unseen and undefined by those involved, but its impact can mean the success or failure of any group or project.

At Apricot, we liken this to the root structure of a tree. As a consulting firm, we work with clients on their organizational health, focusing on seven key areas: Purpose, Leadership, Innovation, Communication, Accountability, Growth, & Stakeholder Engagement. These are the “branches” of the tree in which we can look for healthy fruit or diseased limbs.

Underneath the tree is the root structure that not only holds the tree up, but is responsible for connecting each of the branches and is key to delivering nutrients throughout the entire organism. Relationships are the foundation upon which we build the entire people side of the business. They are how we hear and be heard, how we know and be known, and the lens through which we interpret all our interpersonal activities. In fact, it is also through relationships among colleagues that the strategic side of business ultimately gets negotiated, decided and ultimately communicated as well.

Strong relationships, in all aspects of business, underpin the seven key branches of Organisational Health.
Strong relationships, in all aspects of business, underpin and connect the seven key branches of Organisational Health.

Nurturing our relationships is therefore one of our key responsibilities to be effective in the workplace. Internally and externally, we cannot get business done without them. And how do we best do this?

  • Take time
    By having margin in our schedules to connect with people beyond the next “yes, I’ll get that done” or “No, I can’t make it” we communicate that they have value to us as people, not simply work machines. Make the effort to call, connect, and catch-up.
  • Be Authentic
    Be the real you. People sense “fakeness” a mile away and it only serves to keep your relationship at surface level because it doesn’t build trust. It’s ok to acknowledge who you are, where you’re at, and even the things you’re concerned about. It makes you human, like the rest of us!
  • Actually Care
    When you take the time to listen to your boss, peers and subordinates, you’ll learn things about them – personal hopes, work anxieties, and inane preferences. Actually doing something with this information such as building a professional development plan to reach those personal hopes, or sourcing solutions to those work anxieties will not only show your employee that they’ve been heard, they’ll know you actually care about their personal well-being.

Relationships are the foundation of all business. If we take care of them, not only do our professional lives benefit, our personal lives will be so much the richer.

Apricot Consulting launches Cambium Leadership Development

Cambium Leadership Development

Cambium Leadership Development is designed for emerging and mid-level leaders focussing on growing leadership from the inside out. Following a three-level approach: Leading Self, Leading Others, Leading Beyond.

Cambium use a hybrid approach to embed learning through leadership theory, hands-on collaborative and practical exercises, real world application, world class leadership tools and external speakers.

Monash appoints International Alumni Manager for North America

John Crozier-Durham

From Student, to Global Professional: Monash University Appoints International Alumni Manager for North America.

For the first time, Monash University has appointed an International Alumni Manager for North America. Based in New York City, Mr John Crozier-Durham (L.L.B/B.A. 2011) will assist the University’s global strategy to engage overseas alumni.