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Building Wellbeing Blog

How I got started building wellbeing with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®

I have been running LEGO Serious Play (LSP) workshops on the topic of wellbeing for nearly two years, and knew that this was a workshop that worked and got great feedback from participants. I initially ran them as free sessions in the University of Cambridge’s annual Festival of Wellbeing (and still do), and through participants of those sessions got additional bookings from the university’s Counselling Service and Psychology Department staff away days.

I had been running LSP sessions for the university on employability, but when one was cancelled, instead of just taking my fee for a cancelled event, I offered to run another session to meet any particular need they had. As it turned out, they wanted to run a session for the Festival of Wellbeing.

Small Kits for Short Sessions

Part of the criteria for the festival was that the sessions had to be short because they had a programme of bite-size sessions that staff could sign up to throughout a two-week period. However, LSP sessions are usually at least half-a-day; use the Starter Kit; and need at least 60 minutes for ‘skills building’ to allow participants to be proficient with building and the ability to use the models as metaphors. Clearly that wasn’t going to fit into the 90 minute slot I had got. Also, as free sessions, I couldn’t afford give away Starter Kits that are roughly £25 each, and neither did I want to spend the time re-setting the 219-piece kits, which takes about 15 minutes per kit (I’ve timed it). So, the answer I came up with was to use the Window Exploration kits.

Keeping the Kit for Free

Window Exploration Kits are 49-piece kits that are often used as quick start re-freshers for participants who are already familiar with LSP. You can only buy those as a box of 100 kits so you have got to be willing to put a small investment in. But that means each person’s LEGO bricks cost under £3.50, and then you can decide if you want to give them away, charge a small fee, or whatever. What I decided in my sessions was that I would deliver the sessions for free but if anyone wanted to keep their bricks at the end, they could, and the university would reimburse me for those kits. But I also said that if the participant wanted to keep the kit, they were asked to make a voluntary £5 online donation to Mind, the mental health charity.

Skills Building

As all LSP practitioners know, the success of the session is in the planning. I knew I wanted to include skills building. One thing that was really drummed into me by Master Builder Robert Rasmussen in my LSP training and the Global Community Meeting 2018 was that you can’t skip skills building. This is the basis of keeping participants in flow. The challenge increases in each stage of a session and so do their skills, and this comes from the skills building right from the beginning. This can take at least an hour with the Starter Kits but I figured out that if the kit is smaller, skills building can be done quicker.

The first stage of skills building is tower building (Challenge 1.0 in the Facilitator’s Manual). No problem at all because you can use the black 6 x 4 base plate and limit the building to two of the colours to demonstrate the first principles of LSP that we all demonstrate: they towers are all different; the towers are all correct; and all the participants build. So far so good. The next stage is building from instructions (Challenge 2.0), and this becomes a problem because the little kits are not supplied with the black book ‘Imaginopedia for Core Process’ that give instructions for three models that encourage the learning of basic build principles and create a starting point for using a model as a metaphor to make your story. So, I contacted a friend I made on my LSP accreditation training course, who I knew had graphic design skills. And after a quick chat, Peter Moore-Fuller was able to use Bricksmith to create an instruction book of three models for the Window Exploration kit, that used pretty much all the bricks, challenged and supported building skills, and created three diverse models that served as a platform for the adaptation question (Challenge 2.0).

LSP practitioners will know that that Challenge 2.0 is adapting/modifying the instruction built models to ‘capture something about x’, where x is usually something simple and accessible to get the participants using metaphor. This is the point at which I decided to fast-forward just a little to keep to my time limit, and was the first question related to wellbeing, focussing on the present. And to keep things quick at this stage I just allowed participants to explain their models with just the occasional question from me to demonstrate the way to interrogate the models.

Remaining Questions

Skills building still has one more stage to go but in a short session, this is good point to take a quick break. After the break, Skills Building concludes with the first free-build from all the individual bricks (Challenge 3.0) and is usually limited to a question on the ‘ideal or the nightmare’ with a topic that is still straightforward and the participants can bond over this. In my session, I looked at the ideal for their wellbeing. Explanations from the participants included a few more questions from me and me beginning to ask the participants to question each other once I had provided some guidance on asking suitable questions to find out more about the model’s meaning without them adding their own meaning to someone else’s model.

The rest of the session followed this progression of increased involvement of the participants in the questioning of models. Two more rounds of questions were used and limited to building individual models and stories (Application Technique 1) because of the constraints of the online platform and only using Window Exploration kits.

Then remaining questions looked at:

  • What was at the core of the participant’s wellbeing
  • What were the steps to better future wellbeing

This presented a narrative arc for the participants to progress toward how they could improve their wellbeing.

Challenge 2.0 Instructions for Window Exploration Kits

Peter and I are happy to share that instruction book. You can download it here.

We are not asking for any money for it but if you do use it we ask that you leave our names on it, make a voluntary donation to Mind mental health charity and also share any feedback and photographs on the LinkedIn group.

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