Hi! My name is Meg Yanda and I am an intern here at Make Happy, and the author of today’s blog post. I’m from the USA, more specifically, Atlanta, Georgia. I have been at Make Happy for four weeks now, and am really enjoying my time here. It’s a big adjustment learning to live and work in another country, but the Make Happy team has been very accommodating, and helped to make my transition smooth.

A few weeks ago, Jonathan traveled to Vancouver to learn the ins and outs of the Lego® Strategic Play™ (LSP) method for team building and problem solving, a concept particularly effective in involving the entire group. Today, Jonathan put into action what he had learned, and led the Make Happy office in a LSP workshop of our own.

Going into the workshop, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was excited about the prospect of playing with Lego for the afternoon.

After a warm up exercise, the next build was given to us with little direction, other than to “find 20-25 interesting pieces and build anything”. Jonathan encouraged us to not have a meeting with ourselves on what to build, just start building. He told us that when you sit and think, you only engage the left side of your brain, but when you build, you engage both sides of your brain, which I found very interesting.

Once we finished building our creations, we were thrown for a loop. Jonathan told us that our models were not what we thought they were, rather, we had to explain them to the group using one of 12 topics he showed us on the screen. The topics ranged from deep-sea fishing to paranoia, and no one could share the same topic. I thought the best story was Rich’s: he had constructed a structure resembling a helicopter, and his topic was “organic farming”. He explained that his helicopter was actually a nano-helicopter that ran on natural fuel, and ate up the pesky bugs to help organic farmers. This exercise was a little stressful, because it forced you to think quickly and make connections between a Lego structure and an outlandish, completely unrelated topic, but everyone did a good job of thinking up creative stories.

We then got into creating Lego structures that dealt with our positions within the agency. Jonathan instructed us to build a strength that we bring to the team. Once everyone was done building, each person had to explain what he or she had built.

I thought that building our strength, as opposed to just saying it, encouraged everyone to fully explain his or her perceived strength instead of briefly touching upon it. It also fostered a greater sense of engagement, because we could both listen and look at other member of the team’s creations.

After we built and explained two of our strengths, Jonathan then instructed us to build a model representing what we would like bring to the team. I found this exercise to be particularly interesting, because it allowed us to share with one another what we aspire to be, which isn’t usually discussed on a day-to-day basis. If the whole office is aware of your aspirations, however, you are more likely to achieve them with the support and encouragement of your team members.

Our last exercise was to discover not how we thought of ourselves, but how others perceived us. We all drew a card with another member of the team’s name on it. We then had to build a “gift” that person brings to the team, or a “blind spot”- something the person could do more or less of. We then explained our models, revealed who it was made for, and gave it to that person.

At this point, everyone was left with four models; three we built ourselves, and the gift from another team member. We had to compile our models into a team landscape. We started by placing Sophie’s model symbolizing connectivity in the middle, because we thought that would be a good starting point to branch out to other parts of the agency. As we put the model together, we discussed why and where we should each place our parts, and how we fit into the agency as a whole. For example, one of Abi’s models was a tall diving board, representing how she wanted to dive into new things headfirst. We thought this went well at the front of our team landscape by symbolizing that the agency, as a whole, should be ready to take on new things.

Overall, I really enjoyed the LSP workshop, and thought it was extremely beneficial for the agency as a whole. Throughout my experience playing volleyball at my University in America, I have sat through my fair share of team building exercises. What was unique about the Lego workshop was the engagement that it fostered. Instead of sitting around in a circle, simply stating our strengths, aspirations, and so on, it fostered a unique sense of interactivity and interaction that is simply impossible to replicate in a sit-down, hands off, discussion setting.