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Image: Lauren Weatherman, ANU

Image: Lauren Weatherman, ANU

How can LEGO® fix Australian Politics?

10 May 2019

Question: How many LEGO® pieces would it take to bring the Australian House of Representatives to reach a shared understanding? 

Consensus: None.  

Dr Stephen Dann, ANU: Probably about 10,000 pieces, give or take a brick. 

As disagreements continue to widen the growing partisan divide in Australia, an Academic from the Australian National University believes that LEGO® could repair most of the misunderstanding in contemporary Australian Politics.  

“What is missing in our politics is that stakeholders (politicians) tend not to respond and respect an opposing point of view. Politics is rooted in discussion and debate, however, that is significantly lacking.  

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® could give some serious understanding to those discussions and debates if not just surface the misunderstanding,” said Dr Stephen Dann, a senior lecturer at the ANU College of Business and Economics.  

Stephen Dann 2

Photo: Lauren Weatherman

Not just a playful enquiry 

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (LSP) is an innovative, experiential process, most commonly used in organisational and strategic management, in bridging gaps between multiple stakeholders. According to scholars, it has evolved from research demonstrating strong links between cognitive and manual activity. 

Both academic and popular literature support the view that a playful, open mindset can foster creativity and innovation. Perhaps in Australia’s case, more efficiency. 


The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® technique is modelled to enhance communication and problem solving processes, where participants are instructed to build landscape models with LEGO® material and then explain that interpretation to the other participants. Where the physical and tangible construction also creates conversations that proves to break interpersonal barriers in communication and understanding. 

Dr Dann is a Trained LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Facilitator at ANU. He has offered over 180 team building, strategy setting and self-evaluation workshops using the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® materials and methodology in Australia and overseas.

‘Adults in the room’ approach to build a vision together 

“Politics is not an easy terrain. While there is no rush to find common interests, however, there is a rush to find a common understanding,” Dr Dann said, further adding that LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® as a tool in conflict resolution would serve two key purposes to Australian politics.  

One, it would enforce the stakeholders to be more disciplined in their communication. Two, it could potentially prove to be a policy building exercise for the stakeholders.  

The ANU academic suggests that LSP can initially be attempted at leader forums and potentially with candidates from Canberra in the upcoming elections. 
“In my experience LSP invariably creates ‘Aha moments’, where participants after listening to the other participants, come to realise the worth of the idea communicated. This activity builds confidence and additionally helps to shed ego defence mechanism, which is a natural barrier for most speakers when explaining their idea.  

For policymakers, LSP can be an activity where altogether they would build towards an outcome that they desire. One should simply give the politicians the LEGO® pieces and ask them to build together a vision for the future,” Dr Dann said.  


Updated:   25 September 2019 / Responsible Officer:  CBE Communications and Outreach / Page Contact:  College Web Team