In normal times I would have continued my consulting and teaching work on digital media. But these have not been normal times for some time, and now we need unconventional approaches.

I became a LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP) Certified Facilitator last year and a couple months ago, became a certified Foresight Practitioner, after completing the IFTF Foresight Essentials online course. During the IFTF course I asked myself: what could emerge from the intersection of the two methodologies?

LSP is a method born in LEGO® in the mid-90s. Today it is used worldwide by certified facilitators to make real-time strategy for teams and organizations, solve organizational problems, help teams collaborate better, work on their personal identity, and more.

Lego Serious Play

The two models in the center represent the identity of a client company, the little models around them represent agents that can have an impact, positively or negatively, on the identity, and the connectors represent the connections among agents. We can use LEGO® Serious Play®, for instance, to represent a futures scenario and its consequences or represent a futures scenario and the network we need to rally.

Source: Roberto Cobianchi

One of the pillars of LSP is the hand-mind connection: our hands are connected to 70-80% of the neural structures of our brain, more than any other organ in our body. They have the ability to access the limbic brain (where emotions reside) and the reptilian brain (where instinct resides). Our hands are the Google of our mind, as my LSP mentor and member of the LSP Association of Master Trainers, Lucio Margulis, always repeats. So, when we build a 3D model with LEGO® bricks, our hands bring into the model information that we do not know we have, information present in our mind but which we cannot access in a rational way, with logical thinking.

It is not necessary to say here what futures thinking is but rather, what I discovered the value of futures thinking to be thanks to the IFTF course: one must think at least 5-10 years out or more into the future, in a creative but realistic way, anchored to what is happening in the present, and develop a structured method of moving towards your desired future.

But there is one problem with this: it is emotions that move us to act. Neuroscience studies have determined that when we think about our future self, our brain behaves as if we were thinking of a stranger because we are not emotionally involved. Can this barrier be broken with play? Can we work on emotions with our hands? I am convinced that stressing the emotional and instinctive brain by playing seriously, thanks to LSP, can bring great value to the Foresight / Insight / Action cycle in two areas.

Source: Roberto Cobianchi

Here, workshop participants share the meaning of their individual models. LSP is one method to help teams collaborate better, especially by allowing individuals who don’t speak up often to use their hands to communicate.

The first is when empathy, first-person thought, personal emotions, the present Self and the future Self are called into question. For example, LSP can help when using the IFTF tools Orient to the Future, Find Future Me, or Explore Four Future Feelings to help you speak about, think about, or imagine yourself in the future. You can use the power of building with your hands to help bring forth your emotions and your ideas of your identity.

The second is in the narrative of a Forecast. The 3D model allows a vivid narration to bring out new emotions, and, therefore, new thoughts: one can visually tell a beautiful story, where there are heroes, enemies, magical tools, conflicts, and resolutions. Imagine how much more vivid the story can be if it is concrete, in 3D, with colors and metaphors; if we can hold it in our hands and observe it from multiple points of view; and if we can play with it and add or remove pieces to create alternative scenarios.

The real power of what I'm working on comes when a group of people is working on the scenario or forecast, not a single person as I did in my office during the lockdown. Imagine ten or more people working on a scenario with LEGO bricks instead of post-its. So, I have decided to continue experimenting with the fusion of futures thinking and LEGO® Serious Play® to test these ideas through real workshops with others to verify if LSP can amplify the foresight practice and IFTF’s tools. I, together with my mentor Lucio, will launch an initial series of five online workshops in Italian and Spanish (even if being online puts some limitations on the use of LEGO® bricks) to develop this fusion and put to the test when the integration of the two methodologies of LSP and IFTF’s futures thinking tools is more powerful.

To see what I mean in action, watch this video of a futures scenario in which Fortune 500 resource departments have subscribed to a "smart employer" service, which Scenario 5 in the Ethical OS Toolkit created by IFTF and Omidyar Network. (Note: The video is produced at home during the lockdown, and the quality is what it is.) To find out more, you can connect with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or my website.