Tuesday, April 15, 2008

LEGO Serious Play

Denise Meyerson with the owner of the LEGO Group, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen.

Denise with the CEO of the LEGO Group, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, at the LEGO IDEA conference.

Denise with Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology

I was immensely privileged to attend the LEGO IDEA conference in Billund and to listen to a range of incredible speakers from all over the world.
So what's new?
There is a lot of talk around being an ambidextrous organisation.
Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of the LEGO Group, started the conference by asking the participants:
"What would you do if you had one week to do anything you want with no worries about food or money?"
He said that most people tend to respond by saying that they would like to make a difference to someone and help them to grow and to reach their potential.
He stated that one of the ways of achieving this is to create an organisation that is highly scientific in its thinking and at the same time very creative to allow for all forms of exploration.
We need to become organisations that are collaborative in creating and innovating through a spirit of entrepreunership and at the same time have a well-functioning and coordinated business model.
We need to balance the right and the left hand - the right and the left brain. It is optimum in organisations to have both functioning at the same time. But how?
We start by imagining that it is possible to combine right and left and work with the whole brain. At school, children play and at the same time achieve their objectives. They learn and are not even aware of their learning. They are so 'in flow' that they pick up skills as they go along.
In organisations, we do not learn by listening. So what else could we be doing to create an environment where learning through play is possible.
This theme was picked up by the next speaker, Tony Lai, Managing Director of the Idea Factory in Singapore.
He spoke about how play has become crucial for societal innovation. There are so many new global forces at play - the initiation of Web 2.0 in all its facets, the new world of Gen Y and Z and so on. We need new Players for this world where some argue that the web is the new platform of the future and Google reigns supreme.
It is now possible to get ideas across far quicker through Youtube or Wikipedia - it is a participatory culture that is emerging on a wide scale.
Is it possible that Nintendo Wii will become the ultimate learning tool? How will Second Life be integrated into learning scenarios?
Time Magazine has made 'YOU' the person of the year.
We have the possibility of creating new ideas that might not be the ultimate solution - there are often ideas behind ideas that are also good.
Societal innovation will have economic, social and environmental factors linked together to create a triple bottom line.
So in all of this, why is play so important?
Play is necessary to change the questions.
Play changes the processes by allowing prototypes to be piloted and tried out. We do not need to get things right the first time and the culture of the organisation needs to allow for that. These prototypes create small experiments that provide fresh ideas.
Lai talks of new pedagogies that allow play to be included in the process:
  • Futuring
  • Soak it in
  • Identity searching
  • Pattern breaking
  • Collaboration centred
  • Inspire to aspire
  • Circle of Life
  • Chaos navigation
  • Spin a tale - the power of story-telling
Lai also says that we need to increase the real diversity of teams as this creates the right environment for co-creation and involvement.

I then attended a session on LEGO mindstorms where teams use LEGO robotics in the LEGO First League. What an amazing process to involve children in team-work, creative play and problem-solving to ensure that they develop strategies for working collaboratively to solve challenges.
LEGO FIRST league is the brain-child of the final speaker at the conference, Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST - For Inspiration a d Recognition of Science and Technology. Dean has won prizes in recognition of his work in the medical field and is the inventor of the Segway.
He decided that there were not enough kids coming through school that were entering science and engineering and that these professions were not highly valued.
He decided to create the FIRST League to encourage children to realise that sport is not the only way of competing and that science is also fun.
Teams now compete from all over the world in the League and and fill Olympic Stadiums as the competition has grown so large.
Dean had a dream and he ensured that it happened. He was awarded this year's LEGO prize.

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