You can source lego bricks from here http://creative.lego.com/en-us/Products/Basic/5749.aspx. The link is to three sets of bricks 5749, 5529 and 6177. It might be an idea to get one of each, then split the combined bricks to create three or four identical sets (only the shapes matter, not the colour) with 100 to 150 bricks in each. It doesn't matter if some of them seem irrelevant to you to building a tower!
You will need to get one base per group as well.
You will then be able to work with up to four groups of four to six people.
Introduce the objectives of the activity and how to get the most out of it and enjoy it too.
(I might propose listening, trying things and not taking it too seriously and ask them if they have anything they want to add.)
Brief discussion, what do people do when they work effectively together?
(I would make some suggestions about, for example, everyone having an opportunity to contribute perhaps and ask for more ideas from the group. We might list these on a chart and display them)
Introduce the practical exercise. Groups of four to six people each build a Lego tower. It is a mini-project. Each group has the same number and type of "bricks" they have up to 20 minutes to build the tower and make a profit by doing so.
The "profit" is calculated as follows. Profit in pounds/dollars/euros = height of tower in cm multiplied by 3, minus planning time in minutes multiplied by 2, minus construction time in minutes multiplied by 5, minus 50 pence (of pound), 50 cents (of a dollar), 50 cents (of a euro) per brick! When you are planning you can look at and handle the "bricks" but not put them together! The tower must stand by itself for a minute.
(My wife and I have tried this and it is possible to build a very respectable tower reasonably quickly and make a profit.)
Do the exercise and calculate the "profits".
(This is quite quick; you can just count the bricks left over. The other factors are easy to measure)
Review the learning from the exercise in each group. People could refer to the list they created at the beginning of the exercise and see how they did against the things they thought were important for people to work effectively together. One person in each group could make sure everyone has time to speak while everyone else just listens.
Repeat the tower building exercise, as before. Calculate the "profits".
(You might consider splitting groups and forming new ones to maximise the opportunity for team building across a department)
Review in groups, as before.
(There will be new learning about using experience)
I would bring the whole group together to discuss the implications for work and the work of the department and ask people to share what they learned.
(This will help your investment in this activity have a return in practice. You will also have some idea of the output of the event).
I expect all of you will a lot about working together, learning from experience and identifying and using resources and a few things about building Lego towers!
(You may also find it helpful for people to identify the assumptions they made. Common ones are that the activity is a competition and what stems from this is that the groups can't help each other. These are not necessarily true. There are lessons here for back into the organisation).
Here are some additional things to notice about each group.
- Does the group use its expertise? (Some people may have built Lego towers before.)
- How does the group handle disagreement? (Do they face it openly, use voting, or suppress it. What are the consequences of their choice)
- How do they make decisions? (By consensus, by one person or a pair, by voting, or do they avoid making them. What are the consequences?)
- Do they listen to and follow the instructions or just dive in? (People differ in their learning style, activists tend to do first and think later, theorists prefer to think first and do later)
- How does leadership emerge?How involved is everybody in the activity? Do others bring people in or is it everybody for her/himself?
Some thoughts on structuring the exercise.
- Consider how you divide the larger group into two teams. You can divide people randomly by (say) alphabetical order of first names.
You could also divide people by putting the "noisier" people in one group and the "quieter" people in another. This can be very interesting as the noisy people learn what it is like to have to shout to be heard and the quiet people learn that they can make a valuable contribution when they have the space to do so.
- Consider having one person in each group keeping time and noting when "construction" starts. This is when anyone joins two pieces of Lego together and then their time costs more.
Consider asking each person or some people to observe one of the "things people do when they are being effective together" as it happens in the group as well as taking part in the activity. This will help people learn about how to observe what happens in a group as well as take part. This is a very useful skill.
The "things people do" will be quite simple. They might be: -
- Agreeing what the objective of the task is
- Making sure everybody has a turn
- Listening and not interrupting
- If you want you could add a bonus payment for flair or aesthetic appeal.
When you review the learning from the exercise, ask each person what she or he learned about working together effectively and give everybody the opportunity to speak without interruption, before moving on to more general points.
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