LEGO as a Thing You Think With

One of the defining characteristics of LEGO identified by Godtfred Kirk Christiansen was: “the more LEGO, the greater the value”— which serves as a useful metaphor for our own building of thoughts and knowledge. In fact, the unique properties of LEGO can provide a model for our ideas as conceptual building blocks that we piece together: “like the LEGO constructions, the conceptual ones, too, may be occasionally disassembled and turned into alternative constructions. This betokens the tremendous potential for change in our knowledge.”5

We might consider LEGO as what Sherry Turkle calls “objects to think with.”6 It’s often difficult to think about things we can’t express. This is part of the premise of Serious Play®, a unique LEGO-based methodology that meets the needs of the corporate business world through use of LEGO bricks as a tool for thinking. The elegance of the LEGO system lies in how it can serve as a common language of hands-on thinking and physical representation of even abstract ideas:

[LEGO] suggest[s] a human dimension which is not contained in the bricks themselves, with notions such as ‘imagination’, ‘classic’ and ‘fun’. Inevitably, of course, the system is not just about objects but about what humans do with the objects.7

It’s also no coincidence that the word “LEGO” is itself a combination of the Danish words “leg” and “godt,” meaning “play well,” although more coincidental is the fact that it is also the Latin word for “I put together.” If LEGO has succeeded in making work more play-like, perhaps philosophers have in some cases sought to define play as more work-like.

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