The eye of the beholder

On a lazy Sunday afternoon recently, my six-year-old son was bored and restless. He was looking for something interesting to do – a challenge in the midst of the TV being, without debate, switched off. The first idea that popped into mind, surprise surprise, was Lego®. My son is absolutely crazy about Lego and calls himself a ‘Lego artist’. I sometimes wonder whether my journey to Germany to obtain certification in the Lego® Serious Play® (LSP) method, and the 16 kilograms of Lego that I returned with to South Africa, was not simply the manifestation of his ultra-strong obsessive love for all things brick.

After some negotiation, we agreed on this task: you build me a model, anything you like, and I will write a story about it on my blog. His eyes lit up and the building began. After about an hour, he brought me his model or what he referred to as his Lego bird. I can honestly say that I had never seen a bird looking quite like this one. He was absolutely delighted.

In the LSP methodology, a core process in unpacking hidden ideas and opportunities comes through storytelling. Every person tells the story of their model. What my son focused on in the story of his model was how amazing it was that the bird’s mouth and tail could move. That was it. I could not get any more of the story or metaphor out of him other than that and so my challenge began. I had made a promise after all: you make me a model and I will write the story.

It got me thinking. In the LSP methodology, only the builder can tell the story, the real story. We can look at your model and think we understand what your model really means, given what we know about you, yet it is in the eye of the beholder – the storyteller – that the truth resides. You could take a base plate and put upon it one simple brick, and it can have a story with a deep meaning. To someone else it might mean nothing at all. You could build an elaborate model and others around you may make assumptions and see hidden insight that simply does not exist for you. We simply have to tell our stories from our own perspective and we cannot make assumptions about what things mean to other people.

So I faced this exact same dilemma as I held my son’s model in my hand. What looked to be a dragonfly crossed with a bee, was a bird with a moving mouth and tail to him. I simply couldn’t fully understand or explain what it really meant to him other than that. The only way I could tell the bird’s story was to make it up.

What a great lesson in life about making assumptions and telling people’s stories from our own perspective and not theirs. This LSP process really teaches deep lessons in communication and how to be present and fully immersed in another person’s story while suspending judgement on what the story really is.  You see, I could not tell my son’s story, yet I could tell my own.

Leave a Reply