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How COVID-19 created our new book ONLINE
08/09/20 14:06 Filed in: Lego® Serious Play®
Here's the back story to ProMeet founder, Sean Blair's new book.
March 2020 was set to be a busy month for me, my schedule included system model workshop, a trip to France and two trips to the USA.
On Wednesday March 11th, I caught the early morning Eurostar train from London to Paris. The COVID-19 crisis was escalating but the attitude to the virus in the UK in early March was still relaxed. I got back from Paris late afternoon. The next day the US Government announced a travel ban from the EU to the USA, except UK and Ireland...
Let's wind the clock back a few months. In December 2019, I had been invited to pitch to train a very senior group of men and women in a leadership academy in a branch of the US Military. Accordingly I had spent a good chunk of the previous three months in the most complex contracting I had ever been involved with (how does a document running to 55 pages and 37000 words sound?).
Having finally agreed a contract, on March 2nd, that day I booked to fly to Washington DC for a 4 day training week commencing March 16th. At the time of booking, the decision to travel to the USA felt safe.
Fast forwards, and pick up the story. So the day after I got back from Paris, the US Government had issued a travel ban from the EU, but excluding the UK and Ireland. The ban came into force at midnight on March 14th, six hours after I was supposed to land.
I began regretting my trip to France. Legally, I knew I was OK to fly, (virus free?), but was worried my client might cancel the training, because I'd been in Paris. We had a phone call, discussed the situation and decided it was OK. I'd travel the very next day.
Landing in Washington DC on the afternoon of Friday March 13th, I cleared customs, hired a car and drove several hours to the client base. The next day, just after Saturday lunchtime, the US Government extended the travel ban to include the UK, effective Sunday 15th March. Great.
After a call with my family I packed my bags, turned around to travel home, to try and fly six days later could be tricky. So I drove to the airport and caught a flight back to London 24 hours after landing (and as it turned out, my flight home was cancelled).
In the UK, the week that followed saw schools shut. Then on March 2Oth a UK wide lock-down began. My world (along with the millions of others who were ahead of 'the curve'), went crazy.
Sitting here in London, in October 2020 the world has changed. Face-to-face meetings are mostly out, right now the COVID-19 curves are going up again and the economy is not wearing a happy face.
In late March, it took me about a week to understand that things would not return to the 'normal' we had known only days before.
I could either sit at home and wait for normal to return, or I could accept the reality of the situation and embrace change. An insight given to me twenty years ago, helped me resolve what to do next.
'Masters of change, use change to create change'
As a much younger man, I had been fortunate to be taken 'under the wing' of an elder, Michael Frye a lovely and wonderful man. One day, over lunch, he asked me for my definition of 'mastery of change'. Michael was like that, he would ask questions that I'd never even thought about. He then said, 'Masters of change, use change to create change.'
I had never been sure what to do with this insight until March 2020, having been like many in the LEGO® Serious Play® community, sure that online LEGO Serious Play was not possible. I resolved to set my biases to one side and learn from my own experience what was, or was not possible.
With the encouragement of my friend and training associate Jens, and with help from our wonderful graduate community, MeetUp groups and enthusiasts from LinkedIn, we began a series of experiments to learn about the possibilities and limits for online LEGO Serious Play mediated and via online platforms, mostly Zoom and Mural.
The results of these trials surprised me. It turns out there are things that are better when bringing digital tools to LEGO Serious Play facilitation. In the six months since March we have created new techniques to make the LEGO Serious Play Method work extremely well online.
Is it possible? The answer is a resounding yes.
We remain aligned with the core principles of the method and continue to use the ideas that we have written about in our previous two books, SERIOUSWORK and MASTERING.
There are additional techniques and requirements that ONLINE demands. The preparation phase is more complex, for both participants and facilitators. and online requires new skills. Foundation LEGO Serious Play components, like the three stage skills build requires a fourth skills build to be included.
The role the facilitator takes, especially during online shared model building is both different and at its core similar to what happens in the real world.
Our innovation to split the shared model building into new stages, disaggregate, rebuild, 'Magic-hands©" and 'Build-along©' still results in a shared model that people are proud of and feel ownership over.
There have been (and may still be), voices in our community saying online LEGO Serious Play is not possible. They are wrong. It is. And the approaches to online LEGO Serious Play will help cut carbon emissions long after the dark days of COVID-19.
This Online book has taken six months to write and we've shared drafts with our customers and students whose imagination and unlimited outlook inspires us everytime we pick up bricks. This book is a true act of co-creation, I just asked the question 'what's possible?', and made time to write up our learning.
Sean Blair, London UK, October 2020