The business landscape is continuing to evolve at an increasingly rapid pace, creating new challenges that are way beyond the traditional competitive pressures of product and service innovation. In the current environment, entire business models are emerging and morphing in an attempt to provide personal and relevant customer experiences.
Companies like Google and Tesla routinely innovate their business models in an effort to stay relevant. Amazon continues their disruptive practices by launching Amazon Go, an innovative retail location where there are no cashiers.
Digital marketing and omnichannel are outdated terms that are being replaced by marketing in a digital world. This subtle distinction acknowledges the pervasive power of technology and connection to create a differentiating customer experience, at least for the moment.
Customers don’t think in terms of channels or platforms, instead, they are interested in seamless, personal experiences that are customized and accessed on their terms. And, if all these challenges weren’t enough, they increasingly expect to do business with brands that reflect their values.
Customer expectations are higher than ever, they are being shaped by mobile strategies designed to save valuable time and deliver convenient, personal experiences. Organizations are scrambling to use artificial intelligence to glean insights from an ever-increasing constellation of big data. I recently featured Panera Bread innovations, describing their use of technology to disrupt and deliver a better experience.
Often companies hire consultants to help them decide how to deal with the challenges and figure out how to deliver a better customer experience. This top-down model operates on the principle that outside experts will be able to deliver solutions, or at the very least, frameworks to guide solutions.
Engaged employees are the key to deliver a differentiating customer experience. Depending on the survey you reference the level of employee engagement in the United States is around 30%- 33%. Globally it’s about half that.
Workforce changes are challenging organizations to think differently about their talent value proposition. Companies are recognizing that delivering and sustaining a meaningful customer experience requires an engaged and agile workforce. Author Daniel Pink identifies three key motivating factors in his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”. They are mastery, autonomy, and purpose.
Innovative organizations are exploring ways to integrate these three principles to create a talent value proposition in an effort to attract and engage their workforce. Most marketers are familiar with a unique value proposition; now companies recognize they must have a strategy for attracting and engaging talent. We’ve all seen the dismal employee engagement numbers. Without an engaged workforce, it will be increasingly difficult to provide a competitive customer experience.
There are a number of good processes and techniques to help companies address issues like team building, conflict resolution, creative problem solving and innovation.
I’ve written about 5 Ways to Engage Employees To Build A Better Customer Experience.
While these practices can be useful, they often suffer from the 20/80 principle. Twenty percent of the participants do eighty percent of the talking. Even worse, once the twenty percent start talking the other eighty mentally check out. We’ve all been in these meetings; it feels like herding cats. Phones are either openly on the table or under the table irresistibly drawing people someplace else.
What if there is a better way to unlock the creative potential that exists inside an organization, one that would engage the workforce at the same time?
The Secret Sauce
What if an organization was able to engage 100% of their workforce and actually listen to the voice of their employees?
While attending a creative problem-solving conference, I selected a one-day Lego®Serious Play® (LSP) workshop. I had no idea what LSP was, it sounded like a lot of fun.
Lego®Serious Play® is a facilitated meeting, communication and problem-solving method where participants build three-dimensional models as they are led through a series of questions that go deeper. I quickly realized this was a powerful methodology designed to engage and unlock insights. I can’t recall ever spending a day where everyone was so completely absorbed and present.
LSP is based on a 100/100 principle. This means one hundred percent participation from everyone. There is an etiquette that mandates a four-step process which I will describe shortly.
The fundamental principle underlying the LSP method is a belief that the answer to challenges companies are dealing with is locked within the organization and it’s possible to unlock these valuable insights. LSP is particularly effective when the challenges are intangible and likely to have more than one correct solution.
Practicing LSP requires a four-day certification commitment to provide the necessary skills required to design and facilitate custom workshops. LSP is a method without content. Therefore, each workshop must be designed to address the specific client needs.
What exactly is LSP? How does it work?
LSP draws upon extensive research from the fields of business, psychology, organization development and education. It’s built on Seymour Papert’s theory of Constructionism.1 It’s the idea of concrete thinking, that is, thinking with and through concrete objects. In this instance, the concrete objects are a specific set of Legos® so that each member has identical materials. In addition, the bricks allow builders to use metaphors to make stories that convey descriptions and insights, often in unique and new ways.
LSP is delivered via customized workshops designed to address a variety of challenges. Each workshop follows the same four steps.
- First, a question is presented by the facilitator.
- Each participant then builds a Lego® 3D model in response. There is a time constraint to encourage immediate building.
- After all have built, each participant has the opportunity to share about their model. Each builder establishes the meaning of their individual model. Others can only ask questions about the model itself, no opinions or interpretations are allowed. Each builder must be able to share their story.
- Once everyone has shared, there is time for reflection. This reflection is closely guided to ensure the observations and comments stay focused on the activity just completed.
Facilitators have seven applications at their disposal. An effective workshop may only require one. The selection of techniques is based on the nature of the challenge and the amount of time available.
Who is LSP for?
This methodology is appropriate for challenges like:
- Customer Experience Design
- Strategic Planning
- Change Management
- Culture Challenges
- Scenario Testing
- Product Development
- Project Kick-off
- Organizational Development
- Leadership Development
- Team Building
There are many other possibilities that might also be appropriate. As long as the solution requires more than one answer and some measure of uncertainty, this methodology can be quite useful.
What is the experience like?
We call the experience “hard fun”. It’s a balance between skill and challenge. If something is too easy, we are bored. Too difficult and we tend to disengage. There is a place in between where we are in the flow. Flow is that state where we lose track of time because we are completely immersed in an activity. We don’t stay in a state of flow, we are constantly moving in and out of the flow.
Each session draws participants into the story we are making together. Building and sharing provide unparalleled insight into the perspectives of others. The process builds ownership and engagement. It tends to level the playing field so that all voices are heard.
What are the outcomes?
LSP unlocks creativity and insights; however, it’s not designed to create specific plans. The insights typically lead to follow-up projects or plans. Sometimes the outcome is greater self-awareness or a new appreciation of the value of other team members bring to the organization.
The connection between the brain and the hand is something that has to be experienced to truly appreciate. When attending the workshops, there were numerous times the facilitator would pose a question and I would have no idea what to build until I held the bricks and just started building. My hands told my brain what to build.
Recently I designed a team building workshop for a client. One of the participants was a veteran human resource professional who had a lot of experience with team building activities. He was not looking forward to this activity based on his prior experiences. During the time of reflection, he said the model served as a helpful distraction that allowed him to gain new insights.
One of the most significant outcomes of this process is the level of commitment and engagement participants have. The process of building and sharing creates a deep level of commitment and engagement. It’s not about building consensus it’s about having one’s voice heard. It’s about working to sort through values and perspectives to parse through the essentials and find the other things you can ‘live with’ because what you can live with, you’ll be loyal to.
If your team or organization is facing challenges to innovate or create strategies that address significant uncertainties, I would encourage you to consider finding an LSP facilitator and speak to them about a custom workshop experience. Facilitators around the globe have designed workshops for organizations of all sizes.
Based on my experiences in these sessions, with complete strangers, I have been amazed by the meaningful insights and connections that are formed in a matter of hours. Building, listening, and exploring is an efficient and effective way to connect and collaborate.
LSP is a methodology that can be tailored to help companies engage their employees to help unlock the insights that can help create a dynamic and differentiating experience. Best of all what these employees identify they’ll own, and this describes an engaged employee. It’s good for the customer, the employee and the bottom line.
It’s worth investigating.
1 Harel, L. and Papert, S. (1991) Constructionism. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation