Brick PIES

We encourage people to bring their LEGO bricks to work. But once they have found their way to the meeting room table, how can you use them? This is the first resource to help you create better conversations at work.

Brick PIES is a new take on a classic team check in. It’s a simple way to find out how your team is feeling before diving into the meeting content. Download the 1 pager resource and try it at your next team meeting.

Why Convivial?

Keeping team members motivated, engaged and energised is a challenge for any organisation. The term ‘convivial’ as it is used here infers working together in a way that respects and values everyone’s contribution. This interpretation of convivial is derived from Ivan Illich’s 1973 book ‘Tools for Conviviality’.

I intend [conviviality] to mean self-directed and creative interactions among people, and the interaction of people with their environment; and this in contrast with a conditioned response to the demands made upon them by others, and by a man made environment.

(Quote adapted from Chapter 2, ‘Tools for Conviviality’, Ivan Illich, 1973.)

While the book is now somewhat dated, Illich usefully outlines a number of challenges that can only be overcome by building convivial interactions. These are:

  • Biological degradation – ‘The only solution to the environmental crisis is the shared insight of people that they would be happier if they could work together and care for each other.’
  • Radical monopoly – ‘By “radical monopoly” I mean the dominance of one type of product rather than the dominance of one brand.’
  • Overprogramming – ‘The relationship between what can be learned from ordinary living and what must be learned as a result of intentional teaching…’
  • Polarization – ‘The underprivileged grow in number, while the already privileged grow in affluence.’
  • Obsolescence – ‘ In a society caught up in the race for better, limits on change are experienced as a threat.’
  • Frustration – ‘There is a form of malfunction in which growth does not tend towards the destruction of life, yet renders a tool antagonistic to its specific aims.’

In using LEGO® elements in training, it does occur to me that these are a very convivial tool. While made of plastic, the bricks are well made and last an extraordinarily long time. Bricks purchased today are built on the same system and can still interlink with those made in the 1950’s. In model making the elements work nicely along side of other craft materials and stationery. Creating models can be simply learned in a short period of time and while it is certainly true that an experienced builder can do amazing things, even a beginner can build most ideas by simply stacking bricks.

The benefit of working in a convivial way extends to everyone. All our team members are more actively engaged, motivated and happy. We progress more effectively and create a better result for the organisation. In this way of working everyone wins.

Taking PLAY Seriously

In 2013, I first used LEGO® blocks in a professional setting. There was an amount of risk involved in introducing these small colourful plastic bricks for a serious purpose. However, they presented a level playing field – most people can put together LEGO® bricks and the three dimensional models created are rich in information. I have used them in workshops extensively ever since. Over seven years since first using LEGO® professionally, I completed LEGO® Serious Play® facilitator training with Micheal Fearne. I want to share some of what I learned.

The importance of the Introduction

In a workshop setting, time is always scarce. Not only is there a limited amount of time on the clock, but there is also the limits of focus and motivation of your participants. However when using a tool like LEGO® or other material in your workshop it is important to take the time to ensure that everyone understands the tool and is comfortable in using it. It is also important that participants have experience in using the tool before they have to apply it to the workshop goals.

Giving shape to our thoughts and ideas

Getting ideas out of our heads and into a form where they can be shared and discussed can be difficult. In a team setting where everyone wants their ideas this can be even more so. It struck me that in 3-5 minutes of building during a LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP) session it was possible to express very complex ideas very quickly. It was easy to recall them in the sharing session and the ideas often matured as they were being discussed.

Having attempted similar things in brain storming and brain writing workshops, I noted that it was significantly faster to express such complex thoughts in a built model than written on Post-It® notes or a whiteboard.

Simplicity and versatility of a physical model

When exploring other people’s models during the sharing phase of LSP, it was very easy to use multiple aspects of shape, colour and position to add meaning to the model. In discussion it is easy to add information. When questions are asked, aspects of the model appeared that were not there during design or at least had not been thought of. Just turning the model around 180 degrees could reveal a different picture of what had been built.

Giving shape to emotion and new concepts

It can often feel unsafe in a team to explore how we feel about things or to put out new ideas. However, when those things are placed onto a model and the model is subsequently discussed, it often feel much safer.

You’ll find all these aspects are built into the workshops we facilitate at Convivial Ideas. And we want to take the idea much further. In the future we would like to see LEGO bricks as much a part of the corporate stationary as sticky notes and markers.