Playing games to jump-start managers’ creative minds

Kazumoria Ra, managing director of MKJ International Education Center, which provides corporate training for working adults in Yangon, is helping mid-level managers learn how to think outside the box and make quick decisions when faced with workplace challenges in Myanmar.

“I came to Myanmar for the first time in 2003 to participate in a project launching a seafood factory in Myeik. My experience at that time made me realise the significance of middle management in Myanmar companies. There are many Myanmar people who cannot exert their abilities despite their potential due to their lack of experience and knowledge,” he said.

One of the methods Ra has used with success in Yangon is the Lego Serious Play method, which aims to foster and develop creative thinking through team building using Lego bricks.

Under this method, participants form groups and use Lego blocks as an educational tool to build a model solution in response to a question or problem posed by a facilitator. These 3D models serve as the basis for group discussion, knowledge sharing, problem-solving and decision-making. The purpose is to maximise the potential, insight, confidence and commitment of all the people around the table.

The Lego bricks serve as a common language that anyone can use, regardless of their education, position or culture. The method is said to help managers improve on strategy and implementation, critical and creative thinking, communications, teamwork and change management.

Lego Serious Play, which was developed in Denmark about 20 years ago, is a well-known category of the facilitation methods that were created by former IMD Switzerland professors Johan Roos and Bart Victor in the mid-1990s as way to enable managers to describe, create and challenge their views on business.

Updating a venerable brand

The early findings of Serious Play were presented to Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, the grandchild of the founder of Lego Co., in 1995. At the time, new toys such as videogames were entering the market and children were playing differently. Under pressure for Lego to innovate, Kristiansen became convinced that Roos and Victor’s ideas had value and decided to encourage and sponsor a commercial application under the auspices of the Lego Co.

Backed by some of Lego’s best designers, Roos and Victor practiced and became more adept at the use of building with Lego bricks to tap into the unconscious knowledge that each individual possesses. In 1999, Robert Rasmussen, a former director of product development for the educational market at Lego, joined the team and started to systematically investigate the feasibility of using Lego bricks for strategy development.

Since then, renowned organisations, such as Google, NASA, Harvard University and the United Nations, have used Lego Serious Play. The teaching method was introduced to Myanmar companies in 2017 by MKJ International.

“I believe this method can be used for business improvement, innovation and team growth among employees and managers. These are some of the elements that many organisations here need to breach the skills gap between Myanmar and the rest of the world,” Ra said.

Customised corporate training

MKJ International opened shop in Yangon in 2013. “We can customise corporate training programmes according to the challenges that clients face. We carefully observe Myanmar business situations, and we always check the global trends in business education. Using both perspectives, we customise suitable programmes for clients,” Ra said.

While Lego Serious Play has been well received worldwide as well as in Myanmar, Dan Lyons, author of “Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us,” pointed out in an article that until 2018, there were still no comparative studies using control groups to measure the effect and usefulness of Lego Serious Play methodology in comparison with conventional workshops.

Lyons, who took part in a Lego Serious Play workshop, reckoned the method is akin to toy therapy and even stressful for older workers, claiming the workshops compound the fear they already have about being pushed out of their jobs. He also quoted younger workers as saying the process is akin to joining a cult.

But Ra was positive about the response to Lego Serious Play and the potential it has to foster more creativity and confidence among Myanmar employees and managers. “As I continue teaching and experimenting with local executives using this method, their abilities grow dramatically. In such a situation, where foreign direct investment is expected to rise, human resources with the ability to localise operations in Myanmar are definitely required. They will surely be the cornerstone of Myanmar’s development,” Ra said.

“So far, we have nearly a hundred clients, including major Myanmar, Japanese, and multinational companies. Our vision is to be the leading organisation in corporate education in Myanmar, and to develop Myanmar nationals to be business leaders in Asia,” he said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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