Playing with Strategy During a Pandemic


Pemberton, British Columbia, Canada, is a small village located in the Coast Mountains, 100 miles (159 km) north of Vancouver. It is just 30 minutes by car from Whistler, BC, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics. This valley community is not only home to acres of very important farmland, but it offers amazing outdoor adventures surrounded by natural beauty, attracting backcountry tourists from around the world. However, the rugged and steep mountain terrain combined with the pristine, dense forests means there is an ever-present risk of potentially life-threatening events, including flash floods, wildfires, and mountain slides. There are few roads leading in and out of the area, which requires the municipality servicing the region to remain keenly aware of natural disaster threats that may arise.


Disaster planning and risk management for the area had to be addressed. The fact we needed to do this during a Pandemic was a challenge we were willing to accept. Why?  Because there is a sense of urgency to prepare for both unexpected and expected emergencies.  Given the global increase and frequency of natural disasters, including pandemics, risk management is necessary now more than ever. The exposure is great, and not being prepared leads to significant vulnerabilities in both communities and organizations. Holding a workshop during the pandemic was, in fact, the perfect time to tackle risk management issues because of the greater sense of awareness.


Not only did this process give the participants a safe place to address all the things keeping them awake at night, but it also provided an objective way to review, discuss, and play out each and every scenario. In fact, the process helped them to regain a sense of control during a time when the pandemic has created overwhelming uncertainty.


By playing with strategy using LEGO, we were able to analyze the current situation in 3D. We were able to build a common understanding of the situation at hand. We were able to identify all stakeholders. We built and labeled all external forces and created a 3D map outlining the system. We then imagined life in the future and developed plausible and unplausible scenarios and risks and risk factors. We then tested future stories in the system, and we measured them against the current capacity and strategy. We identified and documented gaps.  We then ideated on solutions, evaluated our ideas, and selected the best path forward. After we gathered all action items, we plotted them into time frames with clear measurements in place. 


Here is what Nikki Gilmore, the Chief Administrative Officer, had to say about the workshop:

Dealing with the unprecedented issues caused by the pandemic, combined with the ever-present risk of natural disaster in our community, has been incredibly daunting. We are always working to plan ahead. But with a small team and a large workload, knowing how to move forward in the most efficient manner has been a challenge.

In short, we needed help. Enter Strategic Play®, a unique approach to planning and team building. Unlike some other training sessions, we began by making a commitment to leaving the room with clear next steps. Bringing play into planning was a unique and refreshing way to reset, establish exactly what we were dealing with, and brainstorm strategies. Not only were the sessions both fun and challenging, but as promised, at the end of the second day we left with a clear to-do list including due dates, and a better understanding of our strengths and how to move forward to address gaps.

The session covered a lot of information but delivered through play it was easier to absorb. It was clear that we were in good hands with Jacquie and Stephen. They have the knowledge and expertise, and had obviously put a lot of effort into preparation for the session. And they were very generous with their Lego blocks!

Last but not least, they also put a lot of thought into adapting the session to adhere to the safety restrictions imposed by the pandemic. We appreciate all their efforts to plan through play, while ensuring we could “play it safe.” 

Nikki Gilmore

Chief Administrative Officer

Village of Pemberton

Pemberton, BC  V0N 2L0


To read more on how we are keeping the room safe while building with LEGO - visit the next blog





  • 10/14/2020 3:34:37 PM
  • Jacqueline Lloyd Smith
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  • Brainstorms

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