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Smart play is a serious team-building strategy

By Lisa Calautti


Richard Shrapnel is amongst only a small handful of Lego® Serious Play® Facilitators in Australia. Lego® Serious Play® involves using Lego bricks to bring together leaders and their staff to unite them in problem-solving to help create a cohesive business approach.


Building blocks of better business

Shrapnel strongly believes this is an effective tool to help develop better business strategy. He came across Lego® Serious Play® in 2002 via an article in AFR Boss reviewing CUB’s use of the method. He completed the facilitator’s course in Enfield, Connecticut, USA in 2003 and again in 2011, this time in Singapore, learning about the program’s methodology and science.

Shrapnel says the method is particularly popular in Asia, the USA and Europe. “In Australia the typical response I get is, ‘But this is a toy and it’s play and therefore it’s not serious!’”

It is a statement which Shrapnel can easily counter. He is passionate about this Lego method as a valuable learning technique and its power in getting people to use their left and right brains to bring creative logic together and their imagination to create stories around an image they build. “It actually allows you to tap into thoughts which you would otherwise not consider and to be far more creative,” he explains.


Serious play in action

Lego® Serious Play® workshops last from a half day up to three days and have been popular amongst medium-to-large corporations, not-for-profit organisations as well as religious groups. A typical workshop begins by proposing an individual activity, for example, ‘build your dream job’.

“It’s getting people used to expressing themselves through building a model and once they are comfortable with that you then come back to the business side,” Shrapnel says. “The tool and methodology allow people to communicate at a level that they otherwise would not be able to reach, and to build an outcome that they can then take away as a combined group. That is the power of it.”

As the workshop progresses and attendees are comfortable with using the specially selected Lego bricks, they come together to form a single model as a team to begin a narrative of their business. It is at this stage participants can see environmental factors around the model and their impact.

“Here’s your part of the business, here’s my part of the business and that is the market. These are the competitors, the technology … all impacting what we do. And because it is now a 3D model, it’s very rich and you walk around it and look at it from a different angle.”

As it is built, each person not only tells their story, but everyone tells a new combined story. “Every person speaks to the model explaining this is our story, our business, and how we will be effective and achieve the outcomes we seek.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 print edition of Leadership Matters, IML ANZ’s quarterly magazine. For editorial suggestions and enquiries, please contact


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