Play-based facilitation provides an alternative to conventional training classroom delivery. Promoting active learning that focuses on participants playfully working together, this approach supports development of communication skills and collaboration. The most commonly known play-facilitation product is LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, but the process is not limited to LEGO® building activity!
Build models and metaphors
Play based facilitation builds on theories of action-based and double loop learning. The method employs structured playing to support open communication, inhibit unproductive hierarchies and generate creativity. It’s a dynamic method which articulates participant’s reasoning processes and supports collaborative feedback to build consensus and encourage participative decisionmaking. It is easily adapted to a wide range of objectives, and a particularly engaging way to generate educational outcomes or build solutions from existing multi-disciplinary internal expertise. The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® approach has been heavily studied and used by hundreds of large and small organisations, though action learning practice has an even longer history.
The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method and materials
LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is an open-source process developed by the LEGO group and used in organisations from the NHS to NASA. The process applies action learning theories to motivate and engage participants. But mostly it involves playing with LEGO bricks! All the hard work of thinking and planning is in the hands of the facilitator.
The facilitator’s role is to design the workshop activities to organisational requirements in order to mobilise existing knowledge and capabilities. The activities utilise model building, and participants undertake ‘build challenges’ aimed at outcomes such as building trust, learning, strategic planning or innovation. There’s a wide range of possibilities. More detail on the method is provided by LEGO here, and you can also find information on the growing evidence base for serious play at https://drlauramitchell.com/evidence/
Facilitation using the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method and materials is particularly suited to;
- Building and affirming team identities at away days or onboarding
- Supporting professional development activities
- Renewing or developing strategic direction
- Communicating and negotiating change
- Ideation and new product development
- Kickstarting innovation
Playful Education & Training
The appeal of play-based facilitation rests in the centrality of playful participant activities. This has greater appeal and lower risks than passive modes of delivery, conventional achievement measures (such as tests or examinations), or practice-based learning. It is often used to complement more conventional learning delivery or in combination with practice-based learning.
Multiple business education professionals promote playful training exercises, often with good testimonials, but little validation as to specific exercises’ effectiveness in educational or management research. However, not all training is about improving efficiency or specific skills. Playful education also offers practitioners a route to support better job satisfaction or engagement, enhancing motivation through simple sociability and enjoyment. Team activities can support development of affective connections, help build trust and enhance communication, and some play activities are more cost effective than putting on purely social events.
How is play-based facilitation regulated?
There is no professional or educational requirement for trainers or educators delivering sessions using play-based facilitation. The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method and materials, while originally regulated, is now available on an open source basis for anyone to utilise. A range of providers offer training certification in facilitation of specific properties or serious games for which they maintain intellectual property rights.
Many practitioners hold postgraduate educational qualifications in adult education (PGCert, PGDip, MA), are members of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), of the Certified Institute for Professional Development (CIPD), or are members of the Institute of Advanced Facilitators (IAF).
Dr Laura Mitchell is a SERIOUS WORK certified facilitator in the Lego Serious Play method and materials, in offline and online facilitation, and has a decade of experience in the design and delivery of education and training to groups large and small. She is also a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
LEGO, SERIOUS PLAY, the Minifigure and the Brick and Knob configurations are trademarks of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this website. The LEGO SERIOUS PLAY method is ©2020 The LEGO Group