It may be “open”, but that doesn’t mean you can find it.

tl;dr:  LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® has been partly open sourced in June of 2010. The open PDF describing the basics, is rather difficult to find online. I therefore, once found, made it available on GitHub. Click here to get the open sourced LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® materials. Now, let the ranting begin.

Where's the material, man?

When giving a training, I like to break up teaching with some practical exercises. For my agile teams and Scrum workshop, I wanted an exercise that simulated creative thinking and complex product development. Having heard of using LEGO for this, I went looking for some examples. That wasn’t straightforward. It’s easy to find LEGO’s description of the methodology, which tells you it’s partly open-source and community developed. Wikipedia also knows about it. But that… that’s where the road kind of ends.
Where is this community, and where are the open source basic materials? I’ll save you a sweet two hours and sum it up for you:

  • It’s not available from the LEGO site. It points to for the community and materials, but that url redirects you back to the page you were already on.
  • There’s no other link to any material on that site.
  • It’s not on GitHub or other well known open source hosting services.
  • Some asking around the agile community didn’t get results. It almost seemed like even people involved with Serious Play didn’t know there should be some open material available. I was actually told it didn’t exist.
  • One site claimed to have it. You needed to register, which didn’t feel really ‘open’, but I was desperate enough to try. Of course that site hastily rolled out a GDPR compliance functionality, that blocked any attempt to register.
  • More Google-foo didn’t seem to help. It just wasn’t to be found.

At this point I was pretty annoyed. I’d spent more than an hour looking for something that was supposedly open and community supported. Luckily, I gave it a last ditch effort and finally obtained the PDF via a blog, that tried to hide it away behind an iframe PDF reader kind of thing. The amount of effort it took me to find something ‘open’ sourced, made me decide to put it on GitHub.

Why is it so hard to find?

To me it’s weird that something that has been made ‘open’ to gain more traction, is so hard to find. It’s under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, which is a very relaxed one. LEGO actually state themselves that they want a community to evolve around Serious Play. That’s pretty hard to do if the resources aren’t readily accesible. So… why? If I were to take a stab at it, I’d say the following:

  • LEGO open sourced two of three parts: the basic description and building blocks for purchase. The third part is the actual list of exercises, which is really the meat of Serious Play.
  • Until the open sourcing, the three parts were solely available by attending a training from LEGO, after which you became an official LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facillitator.
  • With the open sourcing, as far as I can tell, LEGO stopped certifying new facilitators. They again hoped a community would evolve and the existing facillitators would teach new people.
  • By open sourcing two parts, without the exercises, people new to Serious Play don’t know what to actually do. They need a trained facillitator.
  • Existing facilitators are the only ones in the know. They have incentive to keep the open material locked away.

Or, it’s just a niche subject with consultancy websites overcrowding the search results, pushing the community efforts to the bottom. Less likely though. Google has a knack

What to do for actual exercises?

I hope this post and the GitHub repo will help people find the open materials. For actual exercises, I’ve been looking at some books written on the subject. They seem promising. Perhaps they can spark some ideas for an open exercises repository maintained by the community. My agenda’s almost to full to write this post, let alone create exercises for the world. That’s why I wanted examples in the first place = p But, who knows, I’m putting it on my ‘one day’ list. Reach me via Twitter or GitHub if you want to help!

I just wanted to end with acknowledging it’s very cool of LEGO to open-source the methodology. It’s sad to see the direction (if any) people have given it afterward. It’s uninviting to new people. Perhaps when I learn more, I can do better.