I am a Business Games & LEGO® Serious Play Facilitator. All of my facilitation work is with corporate clients – government (central & local) as well as the private sector. The key elements of building a game-driven workshop are to ensure that it flows and that it aligns outcomes to corporate ambition.
“You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation.” (Plato)
Many organizations invest in learning & development (workshops training, coaching, mentoring, etc.) and a growing number use serious play / serious games. In fact LEGO® Serious Play® is already used by such organizations as Airbus, IKEA, Samsung, NASA, and Stanford University.
The Serious Play Facilitator
I have always had a dislike for dry chalk-and-talk style lectures.
Historically, I would fall asleep every Wednesday afternoon during 2 hours of my A’ Level Geology. It’s obviously embarrassing as I was not only on the front row but positioned directly in front of the tutor.
In one of my first workshops in Kuwait, I noticed a senior delegate starting intently at his phone. This went on for over ten minutes – a LONG time to be watching someone – and, eventually, I stopped talking. Everyone in the room had their eyes on him and yet he still stared at the screen. The deep frustration I felt at that point hit home as I realised how my geology tutor must have felt!
(I managed to attract his attention by expertly throwing a blue marker pen at his head. Not my most professional moment – but, hey, I was still learning my craft).
Lessons from 1980’s geology classes and Kuwaiti sales training mean that all of my corporate training tenders includes the phrase, “we hate boring workshops“.
This led me into exploring more with flip charts, post-it notes, coloured pens, etc. – bringing arts & crafts into the workshop. At one point my favourite workshop was around Design Thinking – blending play with an outcome.
Slowly and surely, I moved down a new pathway as a business games facilitator. I use activities and games to draw out outcomes aligned to the corporate ambition of the client.
The science behind it
An American-Canadian neurosurgeon called Dr. Wilder Graves Penfield was the first to map out the brain’s sensory and motor cortices through neural stimulation. In 1951, he published maps showing connections from the brain to the various limbs and organs of the body.
The sensory homunculus is a physical representation of the somatosensory cortex – a little man with oversized lips, hands, feet, and tongue with skinny arms and legs. The body is scaled according to the amount of cortex it is devoted to it.
In the model, large hands represent an extensive proportion of touch receptors within the somatosensory cortex.
A lot more sensitive to touch than the rest of the body, our hands basically help us to think. If you’ve ever sat in a meeting with someone tapping their fingers or clicking their pen, it’s likely to be due to them processing.
The activity-based learning & development interventions draw upon:
- structured facilitation methodology (clarify and declare the challenge; everyone builds their solution; share the ideas; collectively reflect)
- activities based on research which suggests that hands-on learning produces deeper, more meaningful understanding
- fosters creative thinking through inferring meanings and building metaphors
- turns 2D issues into a 3D entity (turning MS / Mac office report into a model for all to see)
The benefits of a Serious Play Facilitator
- access a democratic process where everyone can express a view – everyone has equal air time
- enhance understanding as communicators ‘transmit’ in different ways and others ‘receive’ better
- enable groups of people to create a shared understanding – reducing ambiguity
- help group to explore systemic consequences of decisions (systems thinking)
- 100% participation – a far more democratic way to build collective approaches
- 100% engagement – catering for visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic styles
Where the Business Games add value
To be fair, the beauty of hands-on learning is that it can be applied in so many different contexts including:
- Internal meetings
- Problem Solving
- Decision Making
- Creativity & Innovation
- Strategic Thinking
- Team Cohesion
- Leadership Development
- Conflict Resolution
All of my learning & development interventions are play-based, ranging from 0.5 day through to my 100-day tailored intervention programs.