I was observing a workshop last week that had been put together to create greater cohesiveness in a large organizational team who needed to create a unified vision about their department.
Initially they were broken up into smaller groups to discuss some of the ideas, issues, and challenges they had encountered. It was obvious how stressed everyone was. People were speaking animatedly with louder than usual volume, there was a great deal of tension, and everyone seemed agitated and uneasy.
Then came the LEGO. Mountains of it. Not just some mismatched pieces either. The kind of LEGO that would have made any child squeal with joy.
Each person was asked to create a model of what they thought their department was like at that moment, using the LEGO. Then another model of what they each envisioned their department could be. They were then asked to combine the ones they thought were best into a grand model for the department.
I immediately recognized this approach of play therapy used in child psychology, and I was curious to see how it would translate to adults in the workplace.
The effects were wonderful. The room that was once filled with heated arguments and loads of stress, had transformed into complete calm. Everyone was so engaged with building their models, they were quiet and relaxed, and whenever there were bursts of noise it was joyful laughter.
Then came the moment of truth, they had to present the large departmental model that they had all collaborated and contributed to making.
They spoke of their vision clearly without argument or dissent. They shared the space freely encouraging others to speak on parts of the model they didn’t know in detail. And when they finished their presentation, there was a long pause of silence where everyone was looking at the model, and in each person’s eyes, I saw pride for what they had accomplished together, and a deep sense of hope for the future where it was absent before.
I guess those colourful blocks really do have some magic in them.