Podcast Guest: Scott Perryman

 

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Scott’s professional journey has often found him at the nexus of healthcare, higher education, and sports. A peak mental performance coach and Strategic Play LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® certified facilitator, Scott also serves as Chair and Associate Professor of Management in the Business Administration and Economics Department at Pacific Union College and as an adjunct professor of healthcare administration who helps aspiring physician, nursing, and other healthcare leaders expand their business acumen and improve their leadership effectiveness.

Scott is a skilled strategist and facilitator passionate about helping leaders reimagine their organizations as places where everyone grows, thrives, and pursues peak performance. He has a long history of leading teams that achieve high-level financial, operational, and quality performance in the for-profit, not-for-profit, and graduate medical education sectors of healthcare. His teams’ accomplishments include four-time recognition as a Leapfrog Group national top children’s hospital, designation as a magnet hospital with multiple exemplars, and various other hospital and service line quality, service, and operational performance awards.

Listen to the interview with Scott Perryman:


Read the transcript: 

[ Introduction ]

Mark:

Welcome to the Strategic Play Podcast.  Unlock Your creativity, expand your mind, and have good clean fun with Strategic Play founder and LEGO® Serious Play® Master Trainer, Jacquie Lloyd Smith, and creative force and curious mind, Mark Millhone.

 

Hello, Jacquie. It's been like forever.

Jacquie:

Hey, Mark. How are you doing?

Mark:

I'm doing well. I'm doing well. I'm really excited to hear from our next guest. He's an expert in flow theory. And he has found that expertise in a place that we don't necessarily associate with flow, which is the medical industry. Really, some great insights I'm sure that he'll share. Any thoughts you'd like to offer about flow theory or Lego Serious Play or our guest?

Jacquie:

I am very excited to be talking to Scott today. And yes, he's an expert on flow; and he uses Lego Serious Play in hospitals. That in itself is interesting. But the fact that he has studied flow at a deep level to improve how teams work together, I think is really interesting.

Mark:

I think so, too. Scott Perryman is a skilled strategist and facilitator passionate about helping leaders reimagine their organizations as places where everyone grows, thrives, and pursues peak performance.

He has a long history of leading teams that achieve high level financial, operational, and quality performance in the for-profit, not-for-profit, and graduate medical education sectors of healthcare. His team's accomplishments include four-time recognition as a Leapfrog Group national top children's hospital, designation as a Magnet hospital with multiple exemplars, and various other hospital and service line quality, service, and operational performance awards.

Scott's professional journey has often found him at the nexus of healthcare, higher education, and sports. A Peak Mental Performance and Strategic Play Lego Serious Play certified facilitator, Scott also serves as chair and associate professor of management in the Business Administration & Economics department at Pacific Union College and as an adjunct professor of healthcare administration, who helps aspiring physician, nursing, and other healthcare leaders expand their business acumen and improve their leadership effectiveness.

Jacquie:

That's right. He is a very, very interesting person. And there's lots of different intersections in his career and his educational journey that now have come full circle. So I can't wait to get into the conversation with him. He's a pretty cool dude. So this'll be fun.

Mark:

Let's do it.

Jacquie:

All right.

[ Interview ]

Mark:

Scott Perryman. Thank you so much for joining the Strategic Play Podcast.

Scott:

Great to be here. Thank you.

Mark:

Jacquie, why don't you share with the audience the prompt that you gave Scott?

Jacquie:

Absolutely. So I sent Scott an email and I asked him to please build us a model that tells us a story about the work that he's done in healthcare. And I know that Scott has been working on flow theory. He did his PhD in Sport Psychology. So I am very curious how these things intersect. So I asked Scott to build a model that explained something about the work that he's been doing and using Lego Serious Play to do it.

So, Scott. You built us a nice model.

Scott:

Thanks, Jacquie. Usually I'm not that great a direction follower, but I tried to follow this time, made sure I stayed within at least the broad boundaries. So my model is actually a kind of a three-tiered model. It is very—it has three levels. And at each of the levels, I have a different collection. It's sort of like three different scenes that, for me, describe a journey of my experience, both through training and understanding education around flow and how to use that, but also how I've incorporated it and what I've done in healthcare to use some of these concepts and kind of my journey through healthcare.

I love the concept of telling the story and of kind of explaining that and wrapping that all in together. So this is sort of like three scenes. I have a scene that starts with one individual Minifigure. Each of these different scenes has a different version of me. And then surrounded by, in two of the three scenes, different people that tell different parts of the story for me, of what I've done in healthcare. And then how I've kind of evolved and moved on to a different type of career.

So that's kind of the broad general model. Lots of people. My life has involved lots of people. And so I have those at each tier. And then sitting on top of it, kind of overseeing it, is the infamous Lego duck. And I can go into some of what that means.

Jacquie:

Okay. So we have three different levels. So sort of, I guess, three—many stories here that are all going to step into one.

So why don't we start with the model where it looks like there's a person wearing a suit. It's got a coffee cup and he looks like he's got maybe a briefcase. And, very curiously, it looks like he's standing on some money and has a cash register. Tell us about that part.

Scott:

All right. Well, there is such a significant pressure in healthcare, and I started my healthcare career in finance and financial operations. And I would say much of what formed my knowledge base of healthcare and understanding and what to do, I learned in those early years. And so this model kind of depicts me. It's not an accident that it includes a single me because, in my experience working in finance in healthcare organizations, people were a part of the equation. But I kind of had this concept that I could never understand why I could build these perfect spreadsheets, these perfect budgets, these perfect plans, and people got ahold of them and completely blew them up.

And so I learned a lot at this phase. We actually—I learned how to make money in healthcare. I learned how to—we learned a lot about efficiency. And I was intrigued by teams and building teams, but much of my interaction with teams was really working with individuals to help them kind of understand how healthcare worked from a financial perspective.

And I had—part of what really formed this phase of my life and my journey in healthcare was the first 360° Review I did, where I had somebody come in and I felt like I just got completely eviscerated in this 360° Review. And I sat down with somebody who was actually an IT professional and kind of asked her what was going on and what I could do.

And the feedback I got at that point completely changed the direction that I started taking in my work. And that was that she said,  “We don't doubt that you get the details, that you understand the facts. You understand what's going on. But what we really need from you is to actually teach us.”

It was just both soul crushing and illuminating at that point to think that I had spent several years acquiring this knowledge and that I kind of prided myself in being teacher. But in reality, I'd kind of built these things that were internally functioning well in my head. And I was able to kind of move people around and move things and resources around. But ultimately, people didn't understand why we were doing it and really what was making that work. And so they felt to some degree, I think, manipulated. And although it was kind of a hard thing to face up to, it sort of formed a completely different direction in my career. And I think I'm proud of the results and the things that we were able to accomplish in those years. But I had a lot to learn about working with people.

Jacquie:

All right. Well, let's go over to the next platform where I can see that there are lots of people. There's definitely—there's a stretcher. It looks like there's somebody on skis. There's some animals and somebody with a hair brush, a tree. Tell us about this part. And then I think you mentioned that there's somebody standing on an icicle as well. So tell us about this part.

Scott:

So this is kind of the middle of the journey. I eventually transitioned my career in healthcare into operations. And that was sort of all happened simultaneous with introduction into working in the children's hospital.

And so I had a stint there for about 10 years where I worked in children's hospitals. And this model depicts both my love of children and working with children and the passion that I have for that. And then my experiences and just the wonderful experience and the transformation I feel like I made as a leader and the things I began to understand and start to seek out really about how to better perform and better—be more effective as a leader in general, but especially in healthcare.

This also represented my first, in my journey, the first time I was responsible for an entire organization. And I had teams and teams of people and clinicians. And while much of that experience was formed by conflict and struggle, the memories and the things that I pulled out of that were really just these amazing people. So my model depicts: I'm kind of over there. I've gone from being the money grubbing, money making role player to the more distinguished—hopefully—leader. I'm just sitting on the table so I can get a sense of what's going on around me.

And I'm surrounded by, I think, some archetypes that are really my muse for working in healthcare. If you notice Jacquie, too, it's kind of hard to see, but right there on the front of that model is something that says BFF—that’s best friends forever.

Jacquie:

Right.

Scott:

So this whole phase of my career, which kind of set up where I am today, was really about how to work more effectively with people, how to inspire people, how to help teams function and perform well.

So the main components here are really that I'm—I've switched my money bags in for teddy bears. Still have the coffee, because it helps me keep the energy level up. Behind me is actually kind of a manifestation of an awards process. So all of the different things that we were able to accomplish over those years,  all of them really around quality and patient care and delivering an exceptional patient experience.

And so I am so proud of really the team. And the reason I put that at the back of the model is that—and this kind of starts to tie into flow. Really, what matters more than outcome is process. And this is, I think, these years I started to really understand the value, not only of relationship but of committing to process and committing to a way of doing things and then building an environment in which people can pursue that without feeling like if we don't always accomplish what we set out to accomplish that they're unsafe in their job or that they're not going be able to continue to work.

And so it was really a transformative process. I have a mom and a baby there. I was fortunate to have a maternity service as a part of our children's hospital, have patients, and probably some of my most valuable teachers, which were our volunteers.

Jacquie:

Mm-hm. And this is on the third class platform now, right?

Scott:

Well, actually we're still in the second.

Jacquie:

Oh, we're still in the second. Oh, do I see a mom with a baby there?

Scott:

There's a mom with a baby. Yes. Pushing her baby.

Jacquie:

I see.

Scott:

And a best mom ever sign right next to her.

Jacquie:

Right. Best mom ever. Yes.

Scott:

Every mom we had come through is the best mom ever.

Jacquie:

Now this is—is this where I met up with you, when you were…

Scott:

 This is where we met up. Yes.

Jacquie:

Platform two. Okay.

Scott:

Yes. And so this is where I think, in my journey, I kind of went from, okay, this is really, really cool. And we can perform and we have to perform because that's kind of the base level requirement. But it really isn't about the result. It's about the journey. It's about the process of getting there. And so that's kind of framed by the BFF sign. This is where I went from working to actually pursuing something I loved. And that's kind of reflected in the journey and flow comes in here. I think as a big part of this process for me, flow started actually at 11 years old.

And I didn't know it. My first experience with flow was in my playing little league baseball, which is timely here. We’re in the spring most places, at least on this side of the world. And I had this one point, even as a child, when I could not miss a baseball. It looked like a beach ball. And you hear professional athletes describe this in baseball. In other sports, the basket seems huge in basketball. The field seemed shorter and I experienced that at a very young age and had no idea what it was, but it hooked me. And so what I would say started to transfer this process of, for me, of flow was as I kind of started to understand the different dynamics and the things that I needed to do as a leader. And I had some really, really valuable contributors along the way teaching me these things, sometimes hard lessons. It really became easy and it became much more simple. Work went by really fast. Days turned into months at a time. Results came pretty easy and the thing that we really worked hard on was building trust and building relationships.

And we would have meetings where people would just stop and say: Oh, we're already 10 minutes over. And we were totally immersed in solving the problems of the day and what we were doing. And we just created an environment, started to understand these things that trigger flow and trigger this sense of intrinsic motivation and commitment to the task that is enjoyable.

And a lot of the conflicts started to kind of fade away. And there are a lot of reasons for that. But I think creating that environment that people felt safe, but also could then fully immerse themselves in their task and get back to doing what they loved and tolerating those things that they don't, really started to make a difference.

And so those awards that we got were things like Magnet status, which is a really big deal,  especially for nursing professionals. It says a lot about the quality of your organization. We were four times out of five recognized as, at least at this hospital, recognized as a National Children's Hospital Top 10  in the country for quality and patient safety and patient engagement.

And when I look back on those last three years especially, we just continued to build and build, and we forgot some of those things. And we had a gap here where we didn't actually accomplish our goals. But we're able to really quickly go back and look at what we needed to do and refocus. So I look at those years as really kind of almost five years of feeling, as a leader, like I was in flow.

Jacquie:

Right. All right. Super. Okay. And what have we not talked about yet?

Scott:

We haven't talked about the last model, which is the lower tier, which is now kind of where I am now.

Jacquie:

I  see the picture over the window.

Scott:

Yes. So that's a much older and more reflective individual. And so I—as my work and study kind of evolved, I actually went into sport and performance psychology as an area of study, doctor of psychology in sport and performance psychology. My main driver for that was although flow is really important, the concept that I have focused on in my dissertation really is how you can use flow but actually achieve results and achieve and perform.

So flow in and of itself is a highly enjoyable experience. But it's not necessarily associated—it can be—but it's not directly related to actually getting a desired outcome. And so peak performance really kind of marries some of those concepts with actually achieving a desired result. And so that's the direction I took.

And so what this model is, I don't have to go into the details, but it is a more reflective mentor and coach, which is really the role I play now  (teacher, educator), really committing the last half and beyond—hopefully—of my career. Helping people become more effective, helping them be a better version of themselves. Particularly in healthcare. Most of the people I work with are on the clinical side of healthcare, helping them both achieve their goals, but also take some enjoyment in what they're doing and try to develop.

I believe in healthcare, we've spent a little bit too much time trying to make sure people are “well” and treating them like they're one of our patients like they're sick; when in reality, most healthcare professionals go into healthcare to serve, to be there for other people. And it's easy to lose yourself in that. And so I think building tools of resilience is really important and that's a huge part of what we try to do, is to also help people be more resilient.

I don't think we can avoid the things that are difficult about healthcare. The pandemic has certainly reminded us of that in just vivid detail. And so I think it's really important to get people to the point where they can get themselves back into the zone and get back to the things that make them enjoy what they do. And that's kind of where I try to focus. So I have physicians and nurses who want to go on and be in leadership. I tell them, “Are you crazy?” And they say, “Yes.” This is what they want to do. So that's a big part of the group that we work with.

And then we are really focusing on working with organizations who want to change the patient experience and really, really develop a sense of empathy and compassion and understanding for what patients are going through and build systems and processes around that experience that can be customized that are very predictable.

And so we're working with a bunch of different organizations to try to make that happen,  because I think most all of us who are in healthcare, who in any kind of a role, are at our best when we're totally focused on what our customers or patients need. And there aren't many industries where your customer is as vulnerable and at their worst, like they are most times in healthcare.

And so it's an incredible privilege and joy—and I hear this all the time from the people I work with—to be able to make a difference in people's lives. But we lose that when we let the money come first. And so I've just enjoyed trying to connect these processes and connect these concepts into also building empathy for those who are working.

And if you don't today after the pandemic, you don't have a business. You don't have an organization. If you do, it's barely functioning. And I think what's been fascinating and sort of empowering about the pandemic is I think the people who had strong cultures got stronger and people who had weaker cultures have really, really struggled and had an awakening or, really, not made it.

Jacquie:

Right. I mean, this model is really insightful, starting from the beginning and then going to where you are now. Would you say—when you look at this model, where would you say that you were in a state of flow as an adult working in the field? Where would you say the easiest place was to get into the flow zone, as you look at your career right now?

Scott:

I think I spent the first half of my career, at least thus far, trying to work around people. And when I started trying to work with people, that's really when I really started to get into this sense of flow as a leader.

We had at one point, prior to the pandemic, we had an all-hands meeting. I was never a big fan of this daily huddle concept, and I was wrong. But I learned—what I figured out, and this is what I work with and what a lot of my clients to do. I figured out how to make that work for us instead of following a script.

Jacquie:

Right.

Scott:

We had unstructured meetings that were focused on problem solving literally every day. And then we got to the point where we could do that, but we had every person that needed to make a decision in our hospital on the administrative side was on a call with every nursing leader, nursing executive, and unit director and physician leader in each of those areas.

And so we had this triad of people who every day were talking about the main issues. And what we found was those meetings that started off being a little bit of gripe sessions are half hour meetings that were supposed to be really quick and problem related, ended up being hour and a half and two hour long meetings.

And we had people—part of the challenge in healthcare is getting people to a meeting. And so we had sort of formed this cadence where we were addressing problems that seemed easier to fix because we were talking to each other every day, we were tackling one or two of the issues that were the most pressing.

And as you do that, you begin to knock them down. And we switched multiple group meetings and multiple one-off conversations to one conversation with follow up, sometimes the next day. And just the cadence that we were able to work at was so much quicker and people began to develop trust. And things started not even coming to our meeting and just being solved.

And we quit having meeting after meeting. And so we found more time, which gave us even more time to address problems and start to really focus on the strategic things we needed to do to improve. And so I think that those, that probably six months, and then COVID hit and we were ready. That was the crazy thing about it because we were ready.

We had already communicated; we had our cadence. We started meeting. We had a command center set up in half a day and we were going. And we had people in there coming down trying to figure out what to do. If you remember some of the challenges: Things like we couldn't get sanitizer, we couldn't get masks, early on there.

And we actually—the hospital I was in did a fantastic job of protecting its employees. So we were physically able to get things going. And then we transitioned that into more of a virtual environment. But it was—I've never responded to a crisis on a team like that where it seemed easy and people just…

The steps were short. There weren't that many things to do. We were already in flow as a team. And that's one of the more interesting areas of flow that I intend to kind of both research and investigate, is there there's been some pretty interesting research on team flow, not just individual flow, and how teams can get in flow , which may not always mean that every individual is in flow at the same time. But the team is kind of in this state of oneness and total focus.

And I felt that with that group in particular. And the crisis seemed like a challenge, not the end of the world. And it was an incredible team effort, fairly effortlessly. Although I would say it really wasn't effortless. It was obviously very traumatic and people worked very, very hard. But staying focused on keeping our employees safe, keep creating an environment in which they felt safe that they could come forward with issues and we could resolve those issues. So we had already built that cadence and it was just an incredible experience. So I've—as crazy as it might sound, I've never felt more in flow than I was the first week when COVID hit in Southern California.

Jacquie:

Well it's interesting, because I did get to meet some of those folks with you. And to hear you talk about the fact that at the beginning, you were avoiding people and focusing on money. To then sort of see you at that second platform, I guess we'll say, I really picked up on the fact of how much people appreciated you as a leader. So however you did it, however you used that feedback to get from platform one to platform two, it certainly seemed to work.

Now let me ask you a question about the duck. So you put the duck right up on top of the tower. Tell me a little bit about the duck. Why is the duck overlooking the entire process?

Scott: So the duck. It's kind of a horizontal and vertical purpose or meaning that I would describe. Kind of horizontally, it's just this emblematic concept of diversification and of the best ideas come from many different perspectives and the importance and the reminder to get all perspectives that you can. So there's this sense of diversification. Patients in a healthcare setting are so diverse, not only whatever they identify for sex, and not only race, but disease process, genetics. I mean, there's so—it’s such a diverse environment.

And healthcare, at a leadership level, has really been challenged to meet that—match the patient kind of mix of in leadership. And so we've been very heavily, like most industries, very heavy white, very heavy male. And so it's that reminder to me. I have seen in my career healthcare really change and there—you could pick up most journals and find some interesting articles on the proportion of women who are now emerging in leadership in healthcare. And it has made it such a better environment and the teams are so much stronger. And even at a younger, early leadership age, I really craved that because I wanted different perspectives. And so it's a reminder of that.

But then I think it's also a reminder for me of the thing that we haven't really accomplished broadly in the industry in the U.S. And that is health disparities and the diversity of challenges people have and the health inequities that exist in so many parts of our country. And so for me, it's both a reminder of the beauty of the landscape and how we really are beginning to tackle some of these issues and becoming more diverse in leadership. And that's really driving some different experiences and much more positive outcomes, but also how much work we have left to do to actually help those patients who are in such different situations. And it is such a diverse disparate environment in which people come to receive healthcare and sometimes can't even access healthcare, even though they have insurance or some sort of coverage.

And so the communities in which people live have become the new battleground for healthcare. And so for me, it also serves as a reminder in the work that I do coaching and trying to now develop leaders and trying to help organizations create different experiences for their patients that we still have a lot of work to do. And we still have significant disparities, certainly worldwide. But the U.S., you can go to any city, any town, and it's so clear that the environment in which you live and exist has so much to do with your health status.

And it can't exist. It can't continue to be that way or I don't think we can evolve as a society. So that's a lot to put on the poor duck, but those are the kinds of diverse things. The duck for me has always been, since my first training, that emblem of diversity and creativity and the need to really embrace and understand many different perspectives.

Jacquie:

That's great. All right. Mark, did you have any questions that you want throw in, before we move on, about the model?

Mark:

So much detail is included in this model. There so many different facets of technology, of culture, of operations. One quote that was coming to mind was something called the Anna Karenina principle, the famous quote from Tolstoy that, “All happy families are alike. Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Because it seems like what you have learned here about flow and about how to get groups to perform in that kind of resilient, resourced, embodied way,  is something that feels like it would, to me, have application not just within healthcare, but within any large complex organization that's trying to respond nimbly to challenges and upset, which is basically any organization that's  functioning today.

Scott:

Absolutely. Yes. So in many ways, healthcare is a metaphor for society. I mean, it's one of the few industries that literally touches everybody. And so in that sense, it has all the complexities of all of the things we struggle with in the world. And you would be shocked to see how tight people get across different areas.

I know you mentioned at some point in our conversation earlier, we talked about law enforcement. You would not believe how tight law enforcement emergency response and emergency department individuals are. They're almost a team within a team, and that permeates in the industry. It goes everywhere and everybody's needed to make it work.

So yes, I'm glad it came out. But I agree with you, Mark. I think there are certainly lessons that are applicable in mostly any industry. And healthcare just has this, much like aviation, this price of not learning those lessons is literally people's lives being either lower quality or not continuing.

Jacquie:

Well, I think that a lot of organizations think that decisions that are made are life and death, but it really is when you're working in a hospital. So healthcare is one of those situations where it's extreme.

Scott:

It is. And if people don't learn how to deal with that, they become jaded.

Jacquie:

Right.

Scott:

And some of the people who are the most traumatized by death and by loss of patients are some of the most difficult, hard people. And I think that's just a defensive mechanism. And so part of my journey into this new part of the world and understanding the psychology of these things was to try to help people cut through that mess and get through to back to who they really were when they wanted to be on healthcare and back into a different state that's again, not focused on me as much as it's focused on who I'm taking care of. But also, I have to take care of me too. And so that's a really difficult balance and it's one we're struggling with across the world.

Healthcare is certainly no exception, but it is something we’ve got to continually try to work on. And I think culture and environment drives that so much that—and we so often just throw money at it. And I feel like this is not an economist perspective, but I think we're seeing, at least in certain parts of the world and the U.S. is one of those, the cost of throwing money at our problems where now everything is significantly more expensive.

We're burning money to try to solve issues in sort of a reflection of our intrinsic approach to solving problems, which is just to give people more money, more recognition, more promotions, and not actually address the underlying reason people enjoy work, which is the environment in which they live and the people that they serve with and the people that they serve.

Jacquie:

And the meaning they get out of going to work and doing the job and doing it well.

Scott:

Absolutely.

Jacquie:

 

Yes .Okay. So let's—I want to jump into Lego Serious Play a little bit, because I know you're a huge fan.

Scott:

I am.

Jacquie:

And it's kind of fun because that's how I met you, way back when. So Scott, I know that you love using Lego Serious Play and I just would like to—if you could maybe speak a little bit about why you think that this tool is a value in the work you do. Maybe just speak a little bit about how does Lego and using Lego Serious Play fit in for you.

Scott:

Part of my journey, kind of from going from being the kind of on the ground leader to being more of an educator/coach/trainer; and I will say fan and encourager. I think we need things that knock us a little bit off the center. We need things that take the seriousness, the weight, out of the problems that we're trying to solve.

And so I was just—I was desperately looking for ways in that environment of healthcare, where you have very strong egos, very highly educated people, life or death situations. I was initially just looking for a way to lighten the mood. And I had no idea the strength and the impact that really, I would say, 3D problem solving and using your hands and your brain together would have.

But it makes sense when you think about it with healthcare professionals, because everything they do involves thinking and doing something usually with their hands. And so I just thought at a certain level, if I could just get people to understand the value of play and use play to solve problems, we could just lighten the mood a little bit, lighten the tone just a little bit. And as you know, Jacquie, it's not an easy—that is not an easy sell. It's not an easy journey. People think that serious is the only way to go. And if you're not serious, you're not actually trying or you're not really committed.

So I think Lego gave a way—now it was easier for me in a children's hospital, because there's this whole concept of a playful environment you try to create around kids that are trying to heal. And so it fit kind of well with those groups. But I never cease to be amazed at how hard it is to get started.

So I'd say my journey, interestingly enough, with Lego Serious Play has been to continually try to rebuild my confidence to introduce it. And I have literally—I've heard you tell stories and I've heard some of your guests on this podcast and some of the people I've been in class with, tell stories of just complete failure. But I have to say, I have never encountered a time when I've introduced Lego in any capacity where it has not actually completely changed the mood and completely changed the dynamic. And so my struggle has been to have the courage to do that in more and more situations.

And so I have used Lego Serious Play. And one of the things about how my mind works, and people who I've worked with can tell you this, I struggle to stay on task in one path. So as you and I have talked about in the past, what I really love is to take all of the classes that I can take and then try to mix and match different things I learn to help solve a problem. So the model in front of you, Jacquie, is really my tribute to the value of storytelling.

And that's really what I tried to build here was sort of a strategic storytelling model about my “hero’s journey,” so far.

Jacquie:

Oh, excellent.

Scott:

So a lot of what I’ve learned and what we've worked on comes back to that. I certainly use it for strategic planning, regularly. And now that I'm working more as an advisor and consultant, even doing some fairly large projects. But interestingly enough, I’ve found clinicians in particular just totally embrace this. If you can get them away from the seriousness of the administrative suite, of the mahogany row and off somewhere where they feel like they can just do what they normally do, it's amazing the impact you can have on people.

And I've tried to incorporate it both in education. I teach in MBA programs, often with mid-career healthcare professionals. And it’s just as fascinating to watch them not only turn into children, but it just takes the stress notch down, the creative problem solving, the ability. Although it's not an educational tool per se, content education, it does introduce the opportunity to teach based on modeling and concepts. And it helps people start to think a little bit more in an abstract way so that they're not quite as just technical, practical, and always finding the reason why something won't work.

So I've found it really helpful just to kind of get people out of their normal habits and into a completely different zone of really thinking creatively, of getting rid of the barriers. And then, of  course, diverging, converging, and come back to actually solving problems. But I think my—I'd say if anything has confounded me, it is how to get this introduced into organizations. Because once you get people's hands on the bricks, everything changes. If you could just get to that point.

Jacquie:

Well it's interesting that you make the point about how healthcare practitioners that you've used it with are open. And I think that one thing that healthcare practitioners are tired of is red tape and the paperwork that obviously is part of their job to do, as well.

But what I realized just like two minutes ago, is this is really how my Lego Serious Play career got started. Because the first—one of probably the first two clients I had was the Thunder Bay Regional Health Science Center, which is a hospital. And I used it with— worked with the senior management team there and they really embraced it.

And from there, I worked with the cancer research team. I worked with healthcare ethics, healthcare quality. Like they start passing your name around, right? Because it's when a tool comes along that actually works, and a consultant that they like and trust, they are very quick to mention to colleagues.

And so we also ended up working in mental health as well, which was actually my background. So the health unit and children's mental health. So I think that when I think about you saying—don't be shy, ask people. If you do a workshop, everybody knows somebody else. And just ask them if they can—do you have a colleague or someone else that struggles with perhaps these issues, because it's always the same ones. And then you could say, “Maybe they would benefit from a workshop with Lego Serious Play.” And don't be shy, because the thing is a lot of times people think you're either pushing something or selling something; but when you're problem solving, it's actually the opposite.

It's like you have a gift and you have it hidden in your briefcase. And you really do need to get that gift out and share it. So I would just encourage you to make sure that because everyone that works in this field tends to know way more people that work in the field. So I would do some networking there, Scott.

Scott:

All right.

Jacquie:

But I think people listening to this podcast also are going to think about how perhaps it could help them. Because really right now, this is a time of crisis. I mean, you talked about the fact that, and I just made a couple of notes at the beginning, when you were talking about flow and then you were also talking about stress.

And I think it's very difficult to get into flow when you're under stress, because there's no way to move from that heightened, stressful situation into a flow state where you lose track of time. And like you said, it's an enjoyable place to be. That's where we do our best work, and the outcomes of that are so powerful.

But if we're under stress, it's very difficult and people need help to get from that state and move beyond that to get back to a place where they can regain that power that they have or that strength that they have. You talked about empathy, and I think that healthcare workers have an incredible amount of empathy for others.

But you talked about empathy for self. And perhaps that's where it begins, is recognizing how stressful and how difficult these last two years have been.

Scott:

No question. And part of the practical challenge of this is I don't think these problems get solved in an administrative suite. I really don't. And so the job and the people we need to get these tools to are at the bedside at the community. The NGO’s doing the work there day-to-day with patients and with families. And that's where a tool like this can be really helpful, but it can't be successful without the sponsorship and support of the administrative leadership team.

So that,  for me, it has been such an impactful thing. That's really why I've changed the direction of my life and my career, because I've realized there's so much to be done at that level. And it is so hard to do it from two or three or four levels up in an organization.

I mean, in many ways, the best thing you can do is create a culture in which people feel safe so that they can try these things out. And I think that's the other thing that's been interesting to me about the environment we create. And you and your team do such an amazing job, both teaching and and doing this, to create a safe environment in which people can come and build and do this work.

And that is so closely aligned to what every single healthcare professional I've talked with that, that's one of their greatest fears is that they're going to be in an unsafe environment. And it's one of the things that just completely destroys their confidence. And so I think there's things we can learn just about how you create that environment and how we can do these things.

And I have yet to even, I think, touch the surface of those ways that we can just arm people with tools, even if it's just small triggers.  I know that I've gotten to the point where when I have a problem that I just can't seem to unpack or solve, if I sit down and even just start building something, it's amazing how the ideas flow.

And so I just,  part of my journey and part of my goal is to almost at an individual level get people to help out. For them that may be something completely different. It may not be Lego, but you have to do something to break the trend. And in healthcare that's why I think this is such a potentially valuable tool.

But I appreciate the guidance. And as always, I always learn something from you.

Jacquie:

Well,  I'm going to take a step back and say that psychological safety, which is what you're talking about, is so important and so needed, especially right now. It's one of the things that we tend to struggle with how to build that. I was talking to somebody who was actually my supervisor when I was first starting out with Lego Serious Play, and that's Jesper Just Jensen,

who was at the Lego company and he was in charge of the Lego Serious Play division.

I was just talking to him, not that long ago. And he made a comment that I thought was so interesting. He said, “I use the underpinnings of Lego Serious Play every day. I don't necessarily always build with Lego, but I use the underlying principles or the ground rules or the underpinning philosophy in everything I do.”

And I thought this is really interesting because one of the things we've noticed is if we do Lego Serious Play in the morning and we get people accustomed to following the process, this is how we do it. We do turn taking, the play—the table is everybody is even and everybody's equal. Everybody builds, everyone tells their story. And this is sort of how we work through the process.

In the afternoon, no matter what we do, people tend to use the same philosophy of listening generously, thinking about how they structure questions. It just seems to change the dynamics. So I think that there's a lot that we can learn from using this process that we then can apply, even when we don't have the Lego in our hands.

I think that's a great story that you said when you get stuck, you just start picking up the Lego and start building something. What you're really doing is you're a perfect example of flow, is that you're allowing your hands to help your brain to start putting pieces together in a way that allows you to go in and out of conscious and subconscious state so that your brain can do the work that you need to do as you think through the problem. And then, as you just said, then these answers come forward or I can kind of figure things out. It's not that you didn't know these things before. It was just that you needed a way to perhaps lower stress, open up those neuro pathways, give your brain a hand, and then allow that to come forward.

So it's really interesting to hear you kind of saying that this is really, really something that healthcare would benefit from. And that leadership needs to make these opportunities available for the people that are doing the work to have that time to be able to get into that flow state, whether using Lego or it might start with using bricks and then hopefully we will continue in other ways.

Scott:

Absolutely. And I will say, I look forward to the day when play is a competency. So in nursing, in particular, we're very, very focused on required competencies. And I think it's a really important aspect of training and understanding what people need to be able to do. But play and the ability to engage in it, I think, is an important competency to be a better teammate, to be able to really free yourself up and think clearly.

And so, and I want to tie this in one other way, Jacquie. And I don't know that I've ever even said this to you, but I think having worked in both traditional healthcare settings with multi-age adults mostly, and then working in children's hospitals, I would say there's two—there's one element that if you look at it from even a staffing perspective that children's hospitals have that most other facilities and environments don't have in healthcare. There are two different roles: That is the play therapist and the child life therapist. And to me, that has kind of been at the core of what they do to the team and how they help the team. And the patient is at the core of what makes children's hospitals so special. And if we could just mimic some of those roles on the adult side, I think we could take a lot of this pressure and stress out.

And although I love everybody that does this work, there is something special about play therapists and something special about child life therapists in hospitals that I had never experienced that really changed my perspective on how you could address all of these difficult things. If you watch a child life specialist with a child, either getting ready for surgery or trying to prep them for a shot or something that they’re just totally afraid of, it's amazing to see how they can use play as not only distraction, but engagement. And it just sort of dulls that fear and those other senses that are negative and are going to create real problems for the patient. And so I'm a believer, and I know you happen to have a little bit of a background in one of those as well. I think that's a huge element that makes you such a great management consultant also.

Jacquie:

Aw, thank you. Well, I think that we're singing out of the same hymn book here, Scott, on so many things. I just love having these conversations with you. It's always been,  sometimes we get on the phone and it's just supposed to be for 10 minutes and it's like two hours later and we… 

Scott:

That’s why we can't talk that often.

[ laughter ]

Jacquie:

We have these great conversations that are just so powerful and so wonderful, and I learn something from you every single time. But looking at your model, I've been looking at this model now for this entire call and thinking about the process and how you're processing information. And like Mark said, there's lots of detail in here that is fascinating.

So I really hope people that are listening to this podcast will maybe think about how they could build their story too. Like thinking about how—where did you start your career? Where did your career go? How were you your own hero on your hero's journey? Because that's really what you've built here. And I think it's just such a powerful model.

Scott:

Well, I'm glad you like it. And I'll leave one other little teaser for you that we didn't talk about on the model. And that's if you look at that lower right tier, there's this nice little thing right above the portal into the next phase of life, and that is this beautiful scene that could come right out of Colorado.

And so that's kind of the backdrop, which launching into this, the rest of a journey. And I really appreciate the opportunity to share it with you. And thank you so much for your role in teaching and training as I move on to this next phase. And hopefully, we'll build several different tiers in the future.

Jacquie:

Yes. So the story continues. It's not over yet. It’s going into the next chapter now.

Scott:

Yes.

Mark:

Well that was just fascinating, Scott. Thank you so much for joining us. And I think one thing which I hear so much about healthcare is the level of burnout the people experience. And the things that you brought forward about the importance of play really were so resonant because the idea that that play itself could be its own intervention, that this could be something that could help people reconnect with their resilience, their presence, their sense of connectedness, belonging, and safety, to really in some ways be inoculated against the burnout of a challenging, challenging field at this time.

Like always, we're at the beginning of a longer conversation and so grateful to have had it and look forward to continuing it.

Scott:

Right on. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you, Jacquie. And thank you, Mark. I appreciate the chance to…

Jacquie: Oh, don't go anywhere just yet.

Scott:

Oh, okay.

Jacquie:

We have another—we have a question for you we need to know. Mark usually asks it, but I'm going to jump in. Scott, if people want get ahold of you, how would people find you? Because if anyone's listening to this, they’re  going to be like, “I’ve got to get ahold of this guy.” Maybe you don't want them to. But if you did, how could people get ahold of you?

Scott:

Couple of easy ways. One is that I think I have a profile on your website, as one of the individuals who helps facilitate. So they can always find me there in that section. My—they can certainly reach me and my email is a great way to do that: scott@agonconsulting.co. Again, Jacquie, looking for a creative way to address play and loving Greek mythology, I tried to combine a playful event in Agon, so scott@agonconsulting.co. And then certainly anytime they want text or reach out or call at (720) 990-7555. And we'll be doing more things on social media and LinkedIn in those different areas. But those are direct ways. I’m always happy to have a conversation and help out in any way I can, so easy ways to connect. And our website is www.agonconsulting.co.

Mark:

Thank you, Scott. Appreciate it.

Scott:

Thank you.

Jacquie:

Thanks, Scott. We'll chat again real soon.

Scott:

Looking forward to it. Thanks, Jacquie.

[ Conclusion ]

 

Mark:

That was a fascinating conversation. I love the heart and soul that he brought to what I can think of as really kind of a cold and complicated field, which is healthcare and health sciences, and really bringing to that this whole sense of flow theory and empathy and creativity and creative problem solving. Bringing play to an area which, my gosh, could surely need it, with just so much burnout and just the demands upon people in that field. So I just thought it was a fascinating conversation.

Jacquie:

Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think that we know that play has a healing quality. And he talked about the healthcare workers that are so stressed and so in need of having some time to play and to heal and to get refocused so that they can get back into that state of flow.

He comes from a place of empathy. And it was interesting to hear him say that in the beginning he avoided people and then realized that, that wasn't a way to work. Because I would never have thought that of him. I've always thought of him as being such a big hearted empathetic person and so supportive. I know that his staff at his last team just loved him.

It's interesting to hear his journey and to see how the pieces have come together. I think he's going to be somebody to watch in the future. I think that he has got these tools in his toolkit and is going to keep going and doing amazing work. So I'm really happy to have him,  not just as a guest on our show, but someone who I call a friend.

Mark:

Yes. I can totally see that. And I loved how he took this notion of play as a luxury that, “Oh we don't have time to play. We're here to save lives.” And he really flipped that on its head and said what he found was that he didn't have time to not play. That it was a core competency that when we're dealing with the most challenging challenges that it's necessary to bring a playful attitude, because that was something that could be nourishing to the people who have to face the pressure of these types of conflicts and challenges on an ongoing basis. So that was a real eye opener.

Jacquie:

Yes. It was great to speak with him and to hear his story. I think that if anyone's listening to this podcast, this is a moment to reflect and to think about the healthcare workers, which I know a lot of people have been thinking about. Their journey is still probably just starting to begin, with them going through a healing process of them recognizing the two years that they've been through and honoring that time and refocusing and getting back out there.

If you're listening to this, this podcast, if you have been listening, and if you are interested in building your hero's journey, sort of like how your career started and where it is now, or even if you just want to build yourself in a state of flow, we would love to see your model. If you can build something, you can either email it to us at hello@strategicplay.com. Or if you're listening to this podcast and you're in our community group, just go ahead and post it in the link underneath. And we'd love to hear what you thought of the podcast. And we'd like to see what you could build.

Mark:

Wonderful. Well I can't wait to see those models. And I can't wait for our next conversation.

Jacquie:

Thank you so much. This has been a treat, as always, to hang out with you. And I look forward to the next one.

Mark:

Me too.

Jacquie:

All right. Thank you.

Mark:

Thank you.

[ Outtakes ]

Mark:

He does things that I can’t even say.

Jacquie:

Biochemical engineering. I don’t know, molecular energy…

Mark:

That’s why we can't talk to him that often.

Jacquie:

Quantum physics. Throw that in there, too.