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How a Duck Inspired Me at Work

How do you create a spark at your office and remind people to have fun while encouraging imagination, innovation and collaboration? Well for us, it was a duck. 

Team events are very important to us at Kudos. We believe having a little fun together leads to better connections, more collaboration and a deeper understanding of the various roles we all play. Our monthly events are intended to help us share ideas, innovate and refine processes through social interactions and learning activities. Our most recent team event had a massive impact on me as it took me back to my childhood. It all started with a cryptic invitation to play with LEGO® which intrigued me and piqued my curiosity.

Thinking back to my childhood, my Lego collection was pretty basic – it consisted of one giant green building mat, a yellow tub filled with random LEGO bricks, a couple of orphan wheels and some misplaced Meccano® gears. I have a soft spot for LEGO. Walking into a LEGO store today, it’s hard not to reminisce about the magic in a tub of LEGO. There were never any instructions or rules associated with the tub – it was all up to your imagination.

The name LEGO comes from the Danish phrase ‘leg godt,’ which means ‘play well,’ LEGO taught us from a young age to be creative while also being open to new experiences and perspectives. It’s an idea that’s meant to accompany us from our childhood to our adult life. But playing well at work is often lost amidst looming deadlines, endless meetings and ongoing budgeting. Work has a way of obscuring what we need to be happy and successful, which is to “Play Well.”

LEGO ducks

When our duck day arrived, we gathered as a team and with little fanfare or instructions we were handed a clear, plastic bag filled with six yellow bricks and two thin red plates along with a simple task - build a duck in 60 seconds. On “GO!” we all started our LEGO challenge. We sat there in silence, focusing intently on the blocks. Slowly, some more confidently than others, ducks began to form in our hands. As the exercise came to an end, we glanced around at each other's creations and marveled, chuckled and coveted each other’s ducks. Lining them up on the table, each duck was different in its unique way – some were tall, some were flat, and some had no feet – but the beauty was that there was no right or wrong way to build a duck. 

This team exercise was part of an innovative program called LEGO Serious Play®.  In the process of building a bunch of ducks, I learned more about my teammates than any other team building event I’ve ever attended. In that simple exercise, it was clear that we all viewed the same issue differently. Given the same tools, we would have crafted multiple solutions – none better than the other, but all valid answers. Statements like, “I didn’t even think of using the red plates separately as both the feet and the beak!” and “I like how you used that block to create a tail!” came echoing through the group. In a culture of comparison, it’s hard to find a moment to step back and fully appreciate anything. We’re so busy judging and searching for what makes one thing better than the other that we often forget that it’s okay to create, take risks, learn from one another, and have a little fun.

LEGO ducks

At the heart of LEGO Serious Play is the belief that we’re all innovators. And although it’s common to underestimate and doubt the importance of our ideas, they are all valid. Even more important is the notion that failure is a natural, necessary part of innovation and we should embrace it as an inevitable step towards our eventual success. Sometimes you need to create a few ugly ducks to get to your swan. A crucial part of the experience was the inspiration of watching others think, create, collaborate and then share their thinking and point of view. Working with a team of positive people that you trust, who share the same mission and vision, gives you a sense of freedom to sometimes fail individually but to eventually succeed together. 

Min Basadur pioneered the “How Might We” form of questioning, to create and foster a culture of innovation. By using three simple words “How might we…” when tackling a challenge, it encourages a team effort while also suggesting possible solutions. Similar to “Build a Duck,” there are no right or wrong answers – only ideas.

I’ve added LEGO Serious Play to the fond memories I have of LEGO – from building unique vehicles outfitted with laser beams to helping my niece build her first LEGO project. But, more important than the memories, I came away from the exercise with a deeper appreciation of my coworkers. Perhaps we should take a cue from our LEGO pieces when we’re dealing with our coworkers - our many different shapes, sizes, angles, colours; can fit together to create amazing things.

We encourage you to learn more about LEGO Serious Play and have little fun team building. 

LEGO and Serious Play are trademarks of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site.
Meccano is a trademark of Spin Master Limited which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site.

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