How Playing with LEGO® Bricks Can Help Connect Your Remote Teams
By Deborah Lewison Grant, Ed.D, Director of Employee Engagement at Global Citizen
What can a global non-profit, committed to the audacious goals of eradicating extreme poverty, promoting equity and defending the planet, learn from playing with a bunch of colorful interlocking blocks? Turns out, quite a lot.
As the Director of Employee Engagement & Experience at Global Citizen, my job is to figure out what tools our hard-driving, immensely talented and mission-focused employees need to grow, as individuals and function as members of geographically dispersed teams. Like many social impact organizations, folks are asked to do a lot with limited time and resources at their disposal. Trying to overlay impactful learning and development initiatives onto already over-scheduled calendars, and overburdened to-do lists is an on-going challenge.
Additionally, the complications inherent in our new hybrid workspaces can make it difficult for teams to cohere in a way that creates optimal functioning. Virtual team building — as anyone who has tried it will tell you — often leaves something to be desired. When I stumbled upon the company Strategic Play, at a virtual innovation conference, I knew within minutes I wanted to introduce them to the Global Citizen community.
Strategic Play — the brainchild of Jacqueline Lloyd Smith, a play therapist and master facilitator — uses LEGO bricks to help companies tap into the power of play. There is ample and compelling research in the fields of neuroscience and organizational psychology demonstrating connections between play, performance, productivity and creativity. Be that as it may, you can hardly ask a group of serious-minded professionals to jump up for an on-line game of Simon’s Says or Red Rover.
Instead, Smith’s team has created a series of endlessly adaptable, seemingly straightforward activities that allows team members to build independently while tapping into the potential and connectivity of shared story-telling and problem solving.
Overcoming some skepticism and scheduling challenges, the entire Global Citizen team went through an introduction to the Strategic Play framework. Across the board, regardless of title, industry focus or age, Global Citizen team members reacted positively, reporting high-engagement and boosts to creativity and inspiration. In a feedback form, one staff member noted, “It was a simple exercise that actually revealed quite a bit about how people approach issues differently.”
Another wrote, “A really creative way to think about our roles and what they mean in the bigger picture. Keen to do this again.”
While snapping a few bricks together can’t erase the trauma of the pandemic or offset the daily grind of work, the time our teams spent building together helped to bridge the emotional and physical distance of the hybrid workplace, deepened our mutual appreciation of each other’s work and injected some much needed laughter and lightheartedness into our shared culture.
At Global Citizen we strive to imagine a world that doesn’t yet exist. Our time with Strategic Play helped to remind us that our imaginations are as boundless as our ability to build what we can envision.