From bricks to innovation

Lego bricks are a fascinating tool. Mostly considered a creative and engaging toy, they are much more than that. What is a toy that enhances children’s creativity and imagination, becomes a tool to enhance understanding and explore opportunities in business.

There is an increasing interests in anything that is LEGO: from the business case of a company that employed co-creation and changed a negative trend in the ’90s into a global success.

And there are an increasing number of applications that are exploiting the simplicity of systemic bricks that can be combined in countless ways and gain a number of different meanings based on individual narratives and stories.

Bricks are a natural story maker tool

Bricks are a natural story maker tool: children imagine adventures while playing and building objects. And so do adults, although they may need some help.

As children grow up, they are dragged into the whole misconception that serious adults don’t play, they work and they get convinced that in the adults’ life there’s no space for fun, like work had to be necessarily a painful experience with no space for fun and playfulness. But the opposite of play is not work, it’s depression, the lack of the ability to get lost in an activity, forgetting about the environment and the time — the Flow concept so well explained by Csikszentmihalyi.

But in every adult, there is still the child who know how to have fun, imagine stories, create adventures, and loose himself in the play, experimenting and learning.

Because playing is all about experimenting, trying new solutions in a safe environment where failures have no consequences and where every solution can be improved, adjusted, changed until it does not deliver the expected outcome.

Adults need to play more, and they need more often than ever to take things easily: the power of the bricks is exactly to bring back the child in the grown up and give adults a new (play)ground for their experiments, letting them remember how fun and engaging storytelling can be, and how easier can be to try ideas and solutions when there are no risks to do harm.

This becomes true especially when adults are searching for innovation: where does innovation come from?

Analogies and metaphors are said to be helpful ways to stimulate creativity and innovative thinking: by comparing objects and features from one domain to another based on some similarities, we can gain new insights into the reality by simply reflecting on similitudes and differences and by imagining how differences could enrich each of the part of the analogy.

Bricks are a great tool for that: their basic square shape and the basic propriety they have — colour — make them the perfect tool to encourage metaphors, storytelling, analogies and similitudes in the search of new ideas.

By combining bricks in a new creative experience, people finds that sparks of creativity emerge from their childhood and — under the guide of a facilitator — they can radically reinvent themselves and their business, connecting dots — bricks in this case — in completely new and unexpected ways.

And the experience can be enriched even more by a collaborative and co-creative approach, where adults are taken together and invited to play new games with realities, problems and situation they rationally analysed in and out zillion of times, but had never played with. And the more diverse these people are, the most varied the metaphors and analogies and the metaphors.

Bringing together the business, the stakeholders, the customers, external and internal people creates a pool for creative thinking and for innovation.

Because bricks are not a toy for children, but an engine for innovation and imagination.

But to unleash the innovative power of bricks with adults, people needs to be guided in the process. As powerful as Legos can be, unless the process is lead by a trained and certified expert (such as Lego Serious Play facilitators) adults may struggle in finding the playful and creative mode that allows for innovation to happen.

As sad as it may sound, most people just have forgotten how much did they learn while playing and the power of experimenting and imagining.

But through play, we can change this, bring back excitement and move forward to the next adventure. In your business.

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Originally published at on July 5, 2015.

Published by Pat

DesignOps alchemist