Insights on the Method: building models to explore ideas

Hands on Bricks - LegoViews at work

Lego Interviews produce new ideas

LEGO-interviews are an innovative investigative method to delve into reality developed by Patrizia Bertini starting from the basic theoretical principles of constructionism and from a deep knowledge and experience with underlying LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (LSP).

This interviewing method has been developed to challenge traditional journalism, as an attempt to explore the world through other people’s perception of reality and their views.

Journalistic interviews are generally based on well defined dynamics, on journalists’ capacity and on a constant tension between the interviewer and the interviewees. There is a large literature about this and there are experts who specifically train politicians and influent public people on how to handle and conduct interviews in order to dominate the conversation and to provide a good and safe image of themselves. And there are also a number of books and essays that teach journalists how to make effective interviwes. Everything is codified, recognisable and known.

LEGO-interviews’ challenge is that of radically changing the psychological and relational dynamics between the journalist and the interviewee so that the cognitive processes underlying the interaction are completely different: the interviewer and the interviewee are not anymore opponents but they collaborate, they literally construct the interview together with an original process that produces unexpected contents which most the time surprise the interviewees too.

The whole process is based on Seymur Papert’s assumption who said that when creating a material object with our hands, we

Hands on Bricks - LegoViews at work

Hands on Bricks – LegoViews at work

activate different areas in our brain which produces new – or latent – concepts and ideas.

The interview is based on a single starting question: the interviewee is requested not to answer by words, but to build a tridimensional model of his answer using special LEGO kits.

This very simple action completely changes the dynamics of the interview and it changes the answers: when we are asked a question, generally we have just very few seconds to make up an answer which reflects a number of social variables, including what the interviewee thinks the journalists expects, the context and what are the messages s/he wants to give. This very short time generally produces standard answers and interviewees rely on stories they have already in their minds, which perhaps have already been told and are well codified and organised in their minds.

But when the question does not accept an immediate verbal answer and it requires the interviewee to conceptualise and reflect on the subject and to build a model of their answer, the interviewee faces, often for the very first time, the task to consider well known topics with a completely different tool and within different cognitive process.

As a consequence, the answers are much different from the usual already known and told stories the interviewees had in their mind before starting the LEGO-interview: both the way the concepts emerge and how they are expressed are necessarily different.

Hands on Bricks - LegoViews at work

Building Models equals to building knowledge

Interviewees take about 7/15 minutes to build their LEGO models and during the construction process they are not allowed to talk: they are literally left alone with their ideas and LEGO bricks so that they can delve into their thoughts and produce contents and ideas. During the building process, interviewees start connecting ideas and concepts using LEGO bricks and they create and discover different conceptual connections through the material connection they are making with the bricks.

The models which are produced this way represent a unique and original view of the interviewee and all the following interactions between the journalist and and the interviewee are mediated through the model itself. The model becomes an extension of the interviewees and by inviting them to talk about their models the interviewees disclose much more information they would ever do in an ordinary interview, since they feel protected and at ease: they feel they are talking about the model and are less aware that they are actually talking about themselves.

Many of the interviewees have defined the LEGO-interviews a liberating and cathartic experience and admitted that most of the concepts and ideas emerged during the interview were somehow hidden in their sub-conscious and that they were not aware of some connections and aspects revealed during the interaction.

The journalist literally acts like Socrate’s midwife in a playful and non threatening way, accessing information in an apparently innocent and vanilla way, with no tension or pressures. This helps interviewees to relax and feel at ease and it allows them to engage with the whole process, plying with their models, adding blocks or revealing meanings and connections during the whole length of the interaction.

The bricks become metaphors, symbols to play with and the playful process is a truly maieieutic activity that generates informations and contents, letting the journalist and the viewers to access the interviewees’ world through their eyes.

The LEGO-interview method is based on questions which do not allow the interviewees to infer any eventual position of the journalist, who is always neutral: a very careful attention to the initial questions’ wording is essential to allow the interviewees to feel confident and reassured and to create a collaborative environment. Interviewees therefore feel free to use their own words and they are the ones who set the keywords and the concepts the journalist will be playing with during the interview.

The method has been successfully tested in several contexts: among political activists during the Occupation at St Paul’s Cathedral [London 2011], in Palestinian refugee camps, with israeli zionists, journalists, professionals, artists…

 Here’s a presentation I gave on April 7th 2013 during the LSP certified Facilitators’ Meeting to explain similarities and differences between LSP and Legoviews.


7 Responses to “Insights on the Method: building models to explore ideas”

  1. It’s great to know about your work! I know an ASD kid and he loves Lego, I think as you say, building lego is like building knowledge, hope to read more about it!
    PS nice that you like my blog 🙂

    • Thanks Marcia! Yes, the next post will be exactly about how we build knowledge and the maieutic approach I applied to LSP 🙂 Yes, our blogs have lots of commonalities, keep in touch! 🙂

  2. how it was tested? what was the question used to start to build the models -in the Occupation at St Paul’s Cathedral [London 2011], in Palestinian refugee camps, with israeli zionists, journalists, professionals, artists…-?

    nice blog, greetings from México!

    • Hola!
      Thank you for passing by and the comment.
      If you mean f there is a scientific validation of the method, all I can say is that what emerges simply is different from what people said in ‘formal interviews and they have found out new connections and new links which were invisible because… well, because we don’t really think when we answer questions.

      Of cours I do a warm up, but being a warm up it’s not published – questions depends on what I look for [wording is always the key point in this kind of interviews, exactly as it is in LSP – may times the outcome is strongly affected by the wrong wording, as far as I have seen] and the warm up is a slightly modified use of the Tower exercise.

      Are you al LSP faciitator too Luis? Do you enjoy it? 🙂


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