Most tools have a singular purpose. A hammer drives in nails. A saw cuts wood. A shovel scoops dirt. You can use these tools to do other tasks, but they work best for the purpose they were designed for.
It’s the same with most innovation tools. “Jobs to be Done” helps you hone in on the need your innovation will fulfill. Lateral thinking tools like “Brainwriting 6-3-5” and DeBono’s “Random Input” help you generate innovative ideas. Innovation management systems help you organize your ideas.
But there is one very versatile innovation tool that can be successfully used throughout the entire innovation life cycle. This tool can help you design your innovation strategy, anticipate possible future scenarios, generate innovative ideas, design new products, services and business models, and plan your go-to-market strategy.
The tool is LEGO SERIOUS PLAY® and it is one of the most powerful tools you can use to enable and support a culture of innovation. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY (LSP) is a unique methodology that enables participants to “think with their hands,” using LEGO® pieces to transform thoughts into physical representations that tell a story. The process opens up new lines of thinking, resulting in better ideas, more effective communication and enhanced teamwork.
There is actually a lot of science behind LSP including the theories of constructivism, which relate to how knowledge is built piece by piece from experiences, and constructionism, which demonstrates how building things with our hands stimulates imagination and engagement more than merely talking about them. LSP also makes use of storytelling and metaphor, which combined with the playful approach of using LEGOS, reduces tensions between participants by allowing them to express their thoughts in a non-threatening way.
Given the nature of LSP, it makes sense that an innovation team would use it to generate innovative ideas and solutions. Yet the approach works equally as well during each step of the process of developing your innovation culture framework.
Step 1: CULTIVATE innovation capabilities and build innovation infrastructure in your organization.
The first step to growing innovation in your organization is to start creating a culture and infrastructure for innovation, and to define a unique innovation strategy for your organization. Simply using LEGO SERIOUS PLAY in meetings and training sessions helps create a culture of innovation by demonstrating that the organization is open to creative and fun approaches. You can also use LSP to attract imaginative job candidates, as both Google and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers do.
When it comes to innovation strategy design, many companies are finding that LSP helps them answer the key questions of what, who, how, when, where and how much. By using LSP to simulate different scenarios for each question, executives are forced out of old modes of thinking and discover new ways of looking at the business. On a similar note, if you are looking to revise your business model or are coming from a startup, LSP can help you understand the components of your current business model and design an innovative new business model.
Step 2: ANTICIPATE innovation opportunities and align your innovation strategy.
Truly innovative organizations learn to recognize global and industry trends and predict future customer needs to capitalize on these innovation opportunities. Part of this process is visualizing different future scenarios. For example, if your research predicts that 20 years from now hospitals will become much smaller and will have more virtual interactivity, LEGO SERIOUS PLAY can help you visualize a hospital of the future much more accurately, and with more insights, than simply trying to talk about it.
Lego Serious Play is also commonly used to reach a shared vision of complex future scenarios, such as those faced by governments and countries. In Estonia, 160 leaders and visionaries used LSP to compare potential economic futures and build the country’s 2018 vision statement. In Indonesia, a group of diverse stakeholders used LSP to collaborate on energy efficiency policy. And in the U.K., university students used LSP to create visions of the parliament of the future.
Step 3: GENERATE innovative ideas from different sources and implement idea management systems.
When it comes to innovation idea generation, organizations must go beyond simple brainstorming and suggestion boxes to come up with truly innovative ideas that add value for customers and the organization. Although there are many different tools companies can use to generate ideas internally, LEGO SERIOUS PLAY excels in this area by enabling participants to come up with ideas that are surprising and different and have unexpected qualities.
LSP improves not only individual ideas but also collective thinking. During an LSP session, participants build their idea individually, tell the story behind the idea, and then build together as a team. This approach results in ideas that are greater than the sum of their individual parts. Plus, it gives everyone an equal chance to participate, leveling the playing field between the most assertive and most timid people in the group.
Step 4: INNOVATE new offerings using proven methodologies for innovation project management.
Once you are ready to transform your innovative idea into a new product, service or business model, you’ll need a project methodology to guide the process and keep it on track. As with any project, you’ll encounter some obstacles, and here is where LEGO SERIOUS PLAY can help you overcome them through creative problem solving. For instance, when Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk wanted to build a huge new facility in South America, the project leaders used LSP to plan for potential issues during construction of the new facility.
Successful innovation projects also require teamwork, which LSP improves by helping people understand other viewpoints and work together toward a common goal. When South African bank ABSA formed an alliance with telecom company Vodacom, the two organizations had to figure out how to benefit from the new relationship. LSP was used to help representatives from each organization develop a shared understanding of the marketplace – and design seven new offerings in only a few days.
Step 5: COMMERCIALIZE new innovations and optimize your innovation processes.
Your new product, service or business model needs a well-designed go-to-market plan to ensure a successful launch. Here, too, LEGO SERIOUS PLAY has proven to help organizations design a plan that maximizes the chances of success for the innovation at hand.
For example, Harco Technology, a financial software company in Ireland, had developed a valuable new offering that was also complicated. The company used LSP to get everyone in the organization on the same page and to develop a go-to-market strategy for the offering. In the U.S., Blue Ridge Bank and Trust used LSP to improve teamwork and communication between branch managers so they could better support a new retail business initiative.
As you can see, LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is a unique tool for facilitating many areas of innovation, including culture creation and strategy design, scenario planning, idea generation, innovative problem solving, commercialization strategy and team building. When combined with a comprehensive framework for innovation, LSP can open the doors to innovative new products, services and business models.
imagecredit:gynargie & wn.com & lego
Kamal Hassan is President and CEO of Innovation 360 Institute, an innovation management and operation advisory group based in Dubai. Mr. Hassan works with public and private organizations on business model innovation, innovation strategy, innovation project execution and organizational change. He leads international workshops on Business Model Innovation. www.i360institute.com.