Have you ever been to meetings where you don’t feel engaged? Does your mind wonder off to think about subjects outside of a meeting or perhaps even to non-work related topics? Unfortunately, we’ve all been there.

From 20/80 meetings to 100/100 meetings

In typical meetings, only one or two participants – often the most senior member and/or the meeting’s host – control and enjoy the meeting. These 20 percent of the participants do 80 percent of the talking. To make things worse, these individuals typically contribute only 70 to 80 percent of their full potential in order to solve the meetings issues.

The remaining 80 percent of the participants contribute far less. In addition, they have a negative experience – a feeling that they may even carry into work after the meeting.

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The result of these so called 20/80 meetings is low overall engagement, untapped knowledge and unsatisfactory output.

This sounded very familiar to the 80 participants of the ADM session which I had the pleasure of facilitating last week. The goal of the session was to get people familiar with the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method and experience 100/100 meetings : conversations where 100 percent of the attendees are contributing to their full potential – 100 percent of what they have to offer.

These meetings are also called “lean forward” meetings since people are physically leaning into the conversation due to the high level of engagement.

Achieving engagement

I mentioned in my previous article that flow is essential to get people engaged. Flow is exactly what is missing from most meetings. Flow – also known as ‘being in the zone’ – is described as becoming completely absorbed in an activity, losing sense of time and place. It is an experience of intense emotion, leading to optimal learning and performance.

Three conditions must be met to reach this mental state:

  1. The activity has a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.
  2. Clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows them to adjust their performance to maintain the flow state.
  3. A good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and one’s perceived skills. One must have confidence in one’s ability to complete the task at hand.

In LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, this is supported by the first two steps of the core process:

  1. Posing the question: the problem statement (goal), which should have no obvious or correct solution (perceived challenge)
  2. Construct: the participants make sense of what they know and can imagine. They do this by constructing a Lego model and developing a story covering the meaning in the model. (progress, clear and immediate feedback)
  3. Sharing: the stories are shared among the participants using the models that were built.
  4. Reflect: participants are encouraged to reflect on what was heard and seen in the models.

While the first two steps ensure that each participant becomes engaged in the activity (the building), the last two steps in the process ensure that people gain understanding, connect with each other and engage as a group.

The facilitator is essential in the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® process. First of all, a well crafted question is critical to give participants sufficient challenge. Ask them something that is too easy and they will get bored, give them something too difficult and they will become anxious. In both situations, people disconnect and flow is lost. Secondly, the facilitator must detect when people have difficulty getting into or remain in flow and should take appropriate action such as helping participants with ‘technical’ advice when they get stuck.

A well facilitated LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop will bring enormous amounts of energy to the group and much better results than with traditional meetings or workshops.

Putting it into practice

Can this work with 80 people in one room? Let’s see what happened during the workshop.

To get the participants into their flow state, we started off with the basic skills building exercises. This makes people comfortable with the bricks and the core process.

The first assignment was the building of a tower. Some people were immediately enthusiastic, others needed a bit of time to get to grip with these new communication ‘tools’.

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After the tower exercise, participants were asked to build a model based on building instructions (a picture). They could pick 2 different models. Most people find it harder to build a mandatory model than to use their imagination.

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Then the participants were asked to modify their model so it would show ‘what makes them happy’. This is usually the point were people really start getting into their flow.

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The final question before the break was to build a model that represented the ‘ideal event’. There was a lot of variation in the models showing the individual interpretation of this challenge.

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Some people remained at their tables instead of having a break, which showed the engagement in room. After the break, the participants were stretched even further by having to build a model of the organization ADM could aspire to become in the future.

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After the construction of their individual view on the future of ADM, the groups were asked to construct a shared model from the individual models, creating a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. After the sharing and reflection in each group, the models were shared with other groups.

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The answer to the question if 80 people in one room can get fully engaged with each other is a definite yes. If you take a glance at this storify wrap-up of the session and the blog post spontaneously written by one of the participants, you will see a lot of engagement and enthusiasm during and after the workshop.

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It was also very impressive to observe such a large group being so engulfed in building with Lego that there was almost perfect silence. By the way, do you notice participants ‘leaning forward’ at the tables?

The general manager of ADM was very pleased with the fun and level of engagement that members experienced, but was mostly impressed by the spectacular results in such a short amount of time. She got a lot of value out of the event. The output will help the organization forward in their evolution.

Keep an eye on a follow-up article that I will be publishing about how LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® enables breakthrough results.

To close off, I would like to thank my co-facilitators Michel, Mark, Marc and Jan in helping make this event a success.