Lego and professor click over research

April 8, 2005

An academic's love of Lego has led to an unusual research collaboration with the toy's Danish maker.

Lego is funding David Gauntlett, professor of media and audiences at Bournemouth University, to study a programme in which a company's employees use Lego to develop corporate and personal insights.

Professor Gauntlett has for years used Lego to depict social theorists such as Anthony Giddens on his website, Theory.org.uk.

His research focuses on how people can use the creative arts to gain a deeper understanding of things. "Having to spend time thinking about making something, then going to the effort of making it, and talking about it afterwards, is a much more reflective process," he said.

Per Kristiansen, director of Lego Serious Play, chanced on Professor Gauntlett's Lego images on his website, and a research collaboration built from there.

Lego Serious Play encourages staff to build metaphors for their organisation in Lego to develop imaginative thinking and insights into complex problems in their company. Mr Kristiansen said: "I realised that what we are doing and what (Professor Gauntlett) is doing were related because he had worked with young adults on issues relating to identity through media."

Professor Gauntlett is off to Billund, the Danish home of Lego, to train in the arts of "serious play" and explore the use of those processes as part of his research. Lego is funding the project to the tune of £10,000.

"Data will be collected on why and how it works. The product has made a difference to companies, but little dedicated research has been done where data is collected and analysed," Mr Kristiansen said.

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