Stephanie Wheeler road tests Lego®Serious Play®, a coaching tool to aid problem solving using Lego pieces

What it is

The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (LSP) method is at once a serious and playful method for facilitating thinking, communication and problem-solving using LEGO® pieces.

It can be used with individuals, teams and organisations and is a versatile way to work on a number of different levels, from relatively straightforward topics with individuals to complex team issues.

Originally conceived for the LEGO® organisation with two business school professors, it developed incrementally to the methodology which has been taught to facilitators by the Association of Master Trainers (AMT) for more than 10 years. The AMT’s training culminates with teaching Real Time Strategy (a workshop supporting continuous strategy-forming in an uncertain world), which supports team and organisational change and strategy development.

Other LSP training providers have since emerged and there are global networks of facilitators. LSP is an established facilitation and coaching tool, though still relatively new in the UK.

How it works

Participants are encouraged to ‘think with their hands’, intuitively constructing metaphorical models which represent their ideas or experiences. The models are then used as the basis for knowledge or perspective sharing, problem solving and decision-making.

Team workshops are bespoke and designed to help participants arrive at collective answers to one or more questions, for example, what is a team’s shared identity or what should the guiding principles for strategic decision-making be?

The workshop starts with light-hearted exercises to build confidence and understand the core principles of LSP. These include that all voices are given equal attention and team and ultimately organisational success is in part dependent on recognising people’s wish to contribute, be part of something bigger and take ownership. LSP exercises are designed to draw these out.

During LSP, participants are asked a series of open questions which probe increasingly deeply into the topic of the session and they answer them by building LEGO® models using specially provided pieces. The building exercises then progress throughout the session, with participants working individually, in small groups and as a team to build representations of, for example, themselves, team vision and challenges.

In the Real Time Strategy workshop, the participants can construct representations of the organisational and stakeholder systems and play out various scenarios (aided by questions of the facilitator) with, for example, the purpose of arriving at shared principles and values underpinning future decision-making. The facilitator’s interventions use a coaching style, encouraging greater self-awareness and discovery and sense-making.

The verdict

LSP is as simple or as complex as you choose to make it, depending on the brief. It can give you the freedom to explore more creative, less cognitive and word-based coaching approaches, allowing clients to understand themselves better as well as to communicate abstract or complicated ideas.

Using the LEGO® pieces to build metaphorical models means that the other members of the group need to really listen to participants explaining their model, and everybody’s perspective is given equal air time in the group. By looking at the model from different angles and distances, new perspectives can be enabled, helping creative and collaborative thinking.

There’s a growing body of research supporting LSP as an effective coaching and facilitation tool, including a recent peer reviewed research article which I co-authored (Wheeler, Passmore & Gold, 2020) on LSP Real Time Strategy and its effect on team collaboration, cohesion and psychological safety.

The results were very encouraging, with participants reflecting that they formed a better understanding of each other and the challenges facing the team. There was also a tangible change in the way they were collaborating and engaging with each other during and after the workshop and, crucially, the impact on group norms lasted beyond the workshop.

The user’s experience

I enjoy the flexibility LSP offers, both in terms of my own thinking and reflection and in its use with clients.

In one-to-one coaching, I use a person-centred approach, so knowing that I have LSP as an available method has widened my offering.

In terms of team facilitation, LSP as taught by the AMT has specific structural building blocks (excuse the pun), so while there is freedom for the coach/facilitator to tailor offerings to individual clients, I value knowing that the core of my workshops is built around tried and tested methodology. In team contexts, some participants can initially be hesitant to engage with LSP, though once the ice-breaker exercises begin, they start to see the potential. Sometimes, too, a refusal to engage can be valuable information for me as coach or the client in terms of team dynamics.

I really enjoy the mixture of fun, empathy, challenge and aha! moments which LSP enables, and knowing that it is a memorable experience which clients can reconnect to afterwards by seeing their models.

Personally, while I’ll continue to offer LSP one-to-one or short workshops for smaller groups online during the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ll bide my time with the more in-depth workshops until we can work in person again.

l Stephanie Wheeler is an accredited coach and trained LEGO® Serious Play® facilitator, working primarily in the context of leadership. Formerly a lawyer, she has an MSc in Coaching & Behavioural Change and, together with Teresa Leyman, has been commissioned to write a book about playful and creative coaching conversations.

Clients’ experiences

In the context of LSP team workshops, a number of themes emerged among the participants’ experience of LSP in our recent research referred to above, including the benefits of positive emotions both during the workshop and as a collective memory:

“I came away feeling positive with it and I also picked up on the vibe it was a very positive session for the rest of my team. So, there’s nothing to not like about, you know, going off on the vibe of positivity in the team, and it’s helped.”
(p. 146)

Also, the effect of the quality of concentration, stepping back from difficult emotions and being able to communicate better about them was seen as important:

“I mean, it’s hard to be agitated or to be distracted or to be unfocused when there’s something so specific to put your mind to. There’s an ease and a restfulness about that, that really unlocks a lot of anxiety around what you might want to say or express. So, that’s welcome and I think unusual in one’s working life where you’re always second guessing, you’re always trying to anticipate the implications of everything you say or do.”
(p. 149)

A key feature of LSP is that everyone is involved and is treated equally with empathy, connection and psychological safety being fostered:

“We grew, this is my own opinion, that we grew throughout the day and we grew through the experience and it was a shared experience that we all had together, and everyone was engaged with the process.”
(p. 150)



  • Flexible, creative
  • Goes beyond analytical thinking
  • Supports work on many levels
  • Embodies psychological safety and empathy
  • Promising research results on effectiveness
  • Injects fun and novelty


  • Training can be time-intensive
  • Still relatively new in the UK, so can be difficult to make a business case
  • In-depth workshops can require relatively small facilitator participant ratio (1:6-12)
  • Time required for in-depth workshops