Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for the Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation

Lego® Serious Play®: a tool to better involve social stakeholders

Lego® Serious Play®: a tool to better involve social stakeholders
18.06.2015 | Giorgio Beltrami

Some months ago, I made a civic hackathon with Lego® Serious Play® method (LSP) for a municipality near of Milan. The focus was: new projects for a new social innovation. Results: people communicated better, the goals were reached more quickly and the ideas have been more concrete and understandable.

According with that experience, I'd like share some pillars of LSP as a tool to better the level of engagement and participation in a civic panel. The method was born in LEGO® (at the end of last century) and now is an amazing method used by organizations all over the world. The method deepens its roots in Papert's thinking, the constructionism.

Known also like "thinking by hands" the LSP method accelerates the knowledge processes and improves the performance of a team. By LSP you can obtain the 100% of attention and commitment for the overall event duration.

LSP develops and valorizes the imagination and the creativity as a way to communicate and understand the world: “creative confidence is the belief that everyone is creative, and that creativity isn't the capacity to draw or compose or sculpt, but a way of understanding the world” (D. Kelley).

LSP method is related at the “centered human design”. Embracing human-centered design means believing that all problems, even the seemingly intractable ones like poverty, gender equality, sustainable innovation or clean water, are solvable. Moreover, it means believing that the people who face those problems every day are the ones who hold the key to their answer. Human-centered design offers problem solvers of any stripe a chance to design with communities, to deeply understand the people they’re looking to serve, to dream up scores of ideas, and to create innovative new solutions rooted in people’s actual needs (Field Guide to Human Centered Design).

Working with bricks and other Lego stuff means transform the thinking in a physical artifact reducing, in this way, the abstraction's level of discussions. When the goal is to get impactful solutions out into the world, we can’t live in abstractions. You have to make them real.

For example, the sustainable innovation could appear a very abstract concept: through the LSP you can help everybody to transform abstract concepts in physical and malleable models. Using the "what if" method you can activate a strong problem solving process to identify the best  solution.

Another plus of LSP is  that the method allows people to shift the potential tensions from themselves to the physical artifacts. This is very important because it allows to preserve the integrity of the group from some typical drifts related to internal group dynamics. On one hand, this can encourage the team members to discuss in a transparent way with their colleagues. On the other hand, the group can proceed fast to reach specific goals and aims, thereby avoiding the marshes of problems within the relationship. I conclude with Plato’s aphorism of: “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation ”.

LSP is an “bottom up”  approach that transform a civic panel  in a “physical” experience of co-production, co-design and social mutual learning. In this way LSP is a method to improve and to innovate both panels and workshops finalized  to obtain  a real public contribution.

Relevant themes: Public participation
Relevant tags: LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, engagement, participation, human design, bottom up, Social innovation, Sustainability, Sustainable lifestyles


  • Giorgio Beltrami - Universita’ degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca (Interuniversity Research Centre for Public Services, University of Milano – Bicocca), (UNIMIB)

    Giorgio Beltrami