Retrospective:  12 Months of Insights/2020



Creativity can’t solve everything, but our community has sure given it a good shot. As we get excited about 2021, we’d like to share 12 insights from the last 12 months of 2020.


Every adversity, every failure, every heartache
carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.   

- Napoleon Hill


01/2020 January:  PEST-L right out of the MBA playbook.  A big shout out to Brian Tang and Sandra Lunn, our partners in Hong Kong and Macau, who watched and reported from Asia.  They reminded us to pay attention to the world around us.  As we watched the pandemic begin and spread globally, we were reminded of how often we think things happening somewhere else on the planet won’t affect us.  Like a pandemic, political, environmental, societal, technological, and legal trends spread quickly.


Insight 1: Keep your eye on the global environment.


02/2020 February:  Kari Campos, our partner based in Brazil and soon to be back in the USA, worked shoulder to shoulder with us during this month to find the best new trainers to keep us moving forward in this amazingly creative environment. A big warm welcome to Ivonne Carreno and Paulo Costa, who quickly took the baton and are now successfully up and running online in Portuguese. And a huge thank you to Kari for working tirelessly to make this happen. 


Insight 2: Nurture global partnerships and work with the talented locals.


03/2020 March: The world changed for us on March 13, when Whistler Blackcomb (our local ski resort) announced they were closing; this was the same day airlines were grounded. Douglas Smith, our 35-year veteran risk manager, reminded us about RAFT.  When it comes to risk management, this handy little acumen works:  Reduce, Assume, Finance, and Transfer.  With Doug’s clarity of vision and undying support, we quickly decided to reduce our risk and move all our programs online immediately.  While it may not have been popular, this was the right decision. Waiting for the pandemic to end would have been business suicide. Likewise, we could not say YES to every wild idea presented. We quickly realized we needed to be laser focused while moving with intention and removing all distractions.


Insight 3: Quickly reduce risks, make tough decisions, and stay focused.


04/2020 April: Over the years, we had considered moving courses online and we already had one great program ready to go: Creative Coaching with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methods. Maxine King, our curriculum designer, had worked to ensure learning transfer for outcome measurements for this flip classroom designed for online.  Like the true-life heroes they really are, the U.S. Air Force signed up 25 officers for the first online and somewhat experimental course.  Playful innovators, they were ready to help and support us as we implemented our ‘learning by doing’ and ‘done not perfect’ philosophy.  We launched the first online class in April 2020. Without the support of this amazing group, we would not have moved as quickly or felt as supported to fail, learn, and improve.


Insight 4: Pivot quickly and trust supportive allies.


05/2020 May:  By the month of May, everyone seemed to be settling into the new situation. We began to feel like we were all living in a case study.  Our online courses were running, and everyone seemed to be making the shift to social distancing, moving much of their lives online, and staying at home.  After so many years of working globally, we decided to look around the local landscape to see where we could be helpful in our own hometown.  All Strategic Play facilitators have amazing skill sets, so we put ours to use. We volunteered for the local Mayor’s COVID-19 Task Force. This volunteer work was a great way to give back to the community that supports us each and every day.  During a time of crisis, it’s amazing who steps up and shows up. The outcome of this task force was the development of our local online and physical resource hub.


Insight 5: Volunteer locally with an open heart and mind.


06/2020 June: In June, the weather warmed up and it seemed things were going to get back to normal.  Who knew about a second and third wave?  Being able to move outside gave us a false sense of normalcy, and of course a desire to go back to how things were before. We had many discussions with Hugo Alvarado, our trainer in Mexico, debating ideas around returning to normal while remaining keenly aware of the threat of COVID. At times it felt like balancing development of our program and staying safely online generated significant cognitive dissonance.  In the book Good to Great, the author gives us one excellent strategy to use during a crisis: the ability to hold two competing ideas together at once.  First, you need to remain optimistic things will improve. At the same time, you must consider the brutal truth of the situation. For us, that meant staying home and online, while continuing to develop new programs for online consumption while waiting for the vaccine to arrive.


Insight 6: Stay the course and trust your strategy.

07/2020 July:  The work on the Mayor’s Task Force led us to a greater understanding of the municipal office and their biggest fears and challenges.  In July, we worked with the Village of Pemberton to help develop their emergency response program to manage the next crisis during a crisis. We pulled out the LEGO and collaborated to run a workshop, Playing with Strategy, while social distancing and using all hygiene measures.  This workshop let us experiment with new protocols that can be implemented during the next phase of opening safely, where we will be working face to face.  This group was so appreciative of our time and talent, and their gratitude was our payment. If you want to read the full blog on this workshop, follow this link:


Insight 7: Look for learning opportunities everywhere.


08/2020 August: It might have been the heat and humidity, or maybe the stress and fatigue of the pandemic, but gifts in August came dressed up as conflicts. Like all conflicts, these opportunities presented as transformational moments. During this month, we watched as people seemed to be quick to anger and slow to apologize. The idea that it’s possible to resolve all conflicts isn’t quite accurate. That’s why we prefer to use the term ‘conflict management’  over ‘conflict resolution’. Management of conflicts includes deciding not to take the bait and withdrawing.  Dr. Steve Ralph, who is one of our talented trainers and also an amazing friend, sums this concept up very eloquently, reminding us that peace is the ultimate goal during any conflict.  In the book The Functions of Social Conflicts, Lewis Coser proposes that conflicts with outgroups leads to the cohesion of ingroups.  Conflicts have allowed our team to define acceptable and unacceptable behavior from ourselves, our clients, and our community. 


Insight 8: Embrace the transformational quality of conflict.


09/2020 September: In September, we decided to answer the call for adventure and joined forces with the U.S. Air Force. Now that sounds heroic!  We did it all from the comfort of our Strategic Play office.  The U.S. Space Force was looking for design thinkers to join them on a month-long learning opportunity, where teams would work together using the principles of design thinking for threat casting and solution finding that was truly out of this world. The learning opportunity was second to the amazing experience and new-formed connections with old friends and new: Stephen Walling, Daniel, Stephen, TOGA, Toni, and John! And how fun it was to get What the Duck into this space!


Insight 9: Answer the call and go on a Hero’s Journey!


10/2020 October: In October, we focused our time and attention on health care.  The pandemic has been tough on many businesses, but nothing has taken the hit like health care. We were asked to support a local clinic in their fight to work under these crazy circumstances while simultaneously working to thrive and grow.  Challenge accepted!  We started with a review, then an analysis, and then moved to best practices. We optimized resources like the physical plant, challenged the status quote, and adjusted the schedule. Then we clarified processes with documented procedures. Whew! That was a lot of work, but well worth the effort.  By the end of 2020, the clinic reported they had not only regained ground but surpassed their best numbers ever! Being brave is not easy, but Dr. James McKenzie knew how to step into opportunity. Yay to setting and reaching lofty goals. Mission accomplished!


Insight 10: Set lofty goals.


11/2020 November: Early in the pandemic, our team contemplated how all the changes we were making to our programs could transform how we do business moving forward. Why invent or create anything new just for now? Why step sideways when it is necessary to think diagonally? We now use the term diagonal thinking, which emerged from a great conversation with our trainer Arturo Gimenez.  We now review how each step we take toward working under pandemic circumstances can help us move the organization forward into the future. Faced with trying to improve learning transfer, Rosa Mon found an amazing new online tool for games that can double as a quiz. Sébastien Giroux spent hours developing activities to use online with Stormz, which works amazingly well with our diagnostic cards.  Sven Poguntke collaborated with our training team to bring new tools and applications into the program to help us develop and improve our services. Hats off to those who were able to see opportunities and think diagonally. We will emerge with an even better program in 2021.


Insight 11: Think and move diagonally.


12/2020 December:  During the month of December, we put our creative tools to the ultimate test.  We worked with the senior management team at a children’s hospital in California—the state of California was declared the U.S. epicenter for the pandemic. Faced with the surge of COVID-19, this small dedicated team of brilliant minds found themselves exhausted while putting out fires. Working with Scott Perryman, the Senior Hospital Administrator, who is also a trained LEGO SERIOUS PLAY facilitator, the Strategic Play team designed a month-long program to utilize the methods of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY along with Creative Problem Solving.   Working together online, we have reviewed, analyzed, uncovered, brainstormed, ideated, built, created, prototyped, developed, and landed on solutions that will be implemented quickly to make big shifts forward. One of our biggest insights from December and the entire year has to be that our methods really work. They work when times are good, and they work great when we are tasked with almost impossible situations like managing a crisis while living in a crisis.


Insight 12: Trust the power of the tools.





  • 1/7/2021 9:37:31 PM
  • Jacqueline Lloyd Smith
  • 0
  • Leadership

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