Creative Thinking Series

LEGO® Serious Play® triggers and enhances the skills for Creative Problem Solving. It includes imagination and reasoning by metaphors, as well as integration, analysis and evaluation, which are all powerful tools to unlock creativity to surprising and realistic solutions. It includes a facilitated meeting in which participants are led through a series of questions, probing deeper and deeper into the subject. Each participant builds his or her own 3D LEGO® model in response to the facilitator’s questions using specially selected LEGO® bricks. These LEGO® 3D models serve as a basis for group discussion, knowledge sharing, problem solving and decision-making.

“You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation” – Plato

As a group you will continue with building shared models and landscape, giving them meaning through story-making, and playing out various possible scenarios – a process which deepens understanding, sharpens insight, and socially “bonds” together the group as it “plays” together. The method serves as a shared language regardless of culture or position.

LEGO® Serious Play®

LEGO® Serious Play® is a tool operating in the vortex of Enterprise Design Thinking, it is the perfect tool to populate the Enterprise Design Canvas. In comparison to the classic approach of using post-its it adds creativity to the table. A simple answer put on a ‘post-it’ is based on the critical thinking thought process. It is like a short cut to “exploring solutions” and jumps to the thinking skills like identification, analysis or evaluation. By applying LEGO® Serious Play® we facilitate the thought process to start with exploring the vision or assessing the situation.

LEGO® Serious Play®

The LEGO® Serious Play® core process consists of the following four sequenced steps: posing the question, construct (a model and a covering story), sharing and reflect. Within the core process all of the following seven application techniques are used:

  1. Building individual Models
  2. Building Shared Models
  3. Creating a Landscape
  4. Making Connections
  5. Building a System
  6. Playing Emergence and Decisions
  7. Extracting Simple Guiding Principles

Each of the application techniques is based on mastering the previous one(s). To illustrate the use of these application techniques to populate the Enterprise Design Canvas, the LEGO® 3D models in the blog post have the Enterprise Design Canvas building block mentioned and the applied application techniques.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

Using a Creative Problem Solving method like LEGO® Serious Play® leads to creative and surprising, but realistic, solutions. By applying reasoning by metaphors to start telling your story around your 3D model new insights are shared, sharpened by other participants, and tested during playing out various scenarios. As a result, participants of the workshop are both confident and committed to implement the solutions discovered.

LEGO® Serious Play®

The story which accompanies the shared models, landscapes or derived guiding principles are etched in the memory of the participants, which makes them believe and live the business transformation. For outsiders a transcript of the (end-) stories is required to gain the insights.

© 2014 ARTe Group BV – All rights reserved

This blog post is the second in the creative thinking series. The first blog post introduced the difference between creative thinking and critical thinking including relationship with Enterprise Design Thinking. In this blog post we continue with metacognition (thinking about thinking).

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. The only real valuable thing is intuition. – Albert Einstein

Creative Thinking vs Critical Thinking

This simplified diagram illustrates the skills of creative thinking vs critical thinking and the overlap between them, which shows the core of the problem solving process.

The numeric identifiers within the diagram are based on the thinking skills model developed by Puccio, Murdock, and Mance (2005). The following linear representation of a problem-solving thought process provides an excellent example of how characteristics and behaviors of Critical Thinking and Creative Thinking operate.

Thinking steps


In the following illustration the same numeric identifiers are used. It is a circular representation of the Creative Problem Solving thought process. The vortex of the process contains the role of the facilitator. The facilitator will master the Creative Problem Solving process by using the characteristics and behaviors of Critical Thinking and Creative Thinking.

Creative Problem Solving

The simplest thinking skills are learning facts and recall. Often times, thinking just happens automatically. However, there are times when we consciously think. It may be about how to solve a problem or making a decision. This requires higher order skills include analysis, synthesis, problem solving, and evaluation. Higher skills are necessary to enable us to connect and integrate new experiences into our existing understanding and perception of how things are.

In future blog posts we aim to share our insights when and where creative thinking or critical thinking is appropriate.

© 2014 ARTe Group BV – All rights reserved

This blog post covers metacognition (thinking about thinking) in order to provide a deeper insight about Enterprise Design Thinking. Enterprise Design Thinking is in essence a fusion between creative thinking and critical thinking. Both have their individual strengths when applied at the right time and at the right place. What we need to learn is to use both critical and creative thinking and develop a reflective practice as we change our way of working.

Before we have a deeper look at a reflective practice for the process of problem solving in the next blog. We start with a set of high level classifications and types of thinking:

  • Creative Thinking: Generation of new ideas breaking from established thoughts, theories, rules and procedures
  • Divergent thinking: Breaking up a topic into elements to explore its various components and then generating new ideas and solutions.
  • Critical Thinking: Analysis and evaluation of available information, beliefs, or knowledge.
  • Convergent Thinking: Bringing facts and data together from various sources and then applying logic and knowledge to solve problems or to make informed decisions.

These four types of thinking can be divided into two categories. Divergent thinking is like the definition hints a form of creative thinking and convergent thinking a form of critical thinking.

 divergent-convergent thinking

The diagram above captures the correlation of Enterprise Design Thinking process with divergent thinking and convergent thinking. It also highlights three moments in time with specific interaction with the stakeholders involved in making choices.

The easiest way to remember the difference between divergent thinking and convergent thinking is: “Divergent thinking is to create choices and convergent thinking is to make choices”.

The diagram depicts the following moments for making choices:

  • Defining the strategic priorities before exploring ideas. Based on formulate challenges the strategic priorities can be set.
  • All explored ideas need to be evaluated and the design directions need to be clarified before possible solution can be formulated.
  • Before starting with the blueprint consensus is required about which feasible solutions are feasible. This should lead to the decisions making required to start with the formulation of a transformation plan.

In the next blog post of the creative thinking series we will zoom in to the difference between creative / divergent thinking and critical / convergent thinking.

© 2014 ARTe Group BV – All rights reserved

A second blog post about Enterprise Design Thinking is to explain its iterative nature. As stated in our previous post businesses are both organic and organized therefore Enterprise Design Thinking should be both a mind-set and a process to deliver a specific service or product to a (business) stakeholder.

“A discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible, and with what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.” – Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

Adapting design thinking and systems thinking resulting into Enterprise Design Thinking forces us to elaborate on the design thinking method with additional steps and approaches.

The common method of design thinking includes 5 steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. A common systems thinking application like within enterprise architecture development processes come down to: Plan, Identify, Create, Blueprint and Manage (implement and improve).

Enterprise Design Thinking

Combining both design thinking and systems thinking steps in an Enterprise Design Thinking process leads to: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Integrate, Reflect, Blueprint and Manage.

Empathize: The first step all about understands the context of the business change. This differs from operational challenges up to business strategy and down to existing business and information technology architectures.

Define: The second step aims to capture the context of the business change. A business change should be value focused, strategy driven and process oriented. Which highlights the need to have insight concerning stakeholders, motivation, customer / user expectations, requirements, risks, organizational structures, reporting, etc.

Ideate: The critical step of Enterprise Design Thinking. Using brainstorming, visualization techniques (e.g. Enterprise Design Canvas) to release creativity by generating out-of-the-box ideas to innovate or improve current ways of realizing the value proposition. It is about wishful thinkers, dreamers and engineers reaching to impossible and possible ideas.

Integrate: This middle step is by nature systems thinking. Besides creating a mock-up or sketches of ideas it is about the interoperability of the different aspects of business and information technology disciplines i.e. value, business, information, process, application, data and technology architecture. It is about the holistic without losing creativity.

Reflect: The fifth step is about validating the sketches and initial models (e.g. business, service, information, process, application) with stakeholders of the business change. This could result in refinement of previous steps.

Blueprint: The sixth step is all about finalizing the Enterprise Design and getting a sufficient level of detail to deliver a blueprint (models, archetypes, patterns) to accommodate the implementation of the business change.

Manage: The final step of the Enterprise Design Thinking process consists of two areas. First it is all about managing the implementation of the blueprint into the organization, including safeguarding and coaching within projects.


Enterprise Design Thinking


Secondly it is about governing the iterative nature of Enterprise Design Thinking process to learn and improve the Enterprise Design both during the implementation and the business operations.

© ARTe Group BV 2013 – All rights reserved

A creative way of thinking is required to bring business architecture to its full potential. Just copying common practice from the enterprise architecture doesn’t work. This would have been too simple because information technology excels in Systems Thinking while business primarily bases its decisions on intuition.

David M. Kelley founder of IDEO and Professor at Institute of Design at Stanford University is known for adapting design thinking for business purposes – an organic approach combining intuitive thinking and analytical thinking instead of an engineering way of thinking to design products and services.

“At what cost do we keep pleasing the user? This question can only be answered from a holistic perspective, which has been centralized around the value proposition in respect to generated margin by happy customers.“

In practice we see design thinking being applied in IT workspace around user experiences. Potentially facing danger of losing intuitive thinking due to constrains set by IT expertise or solutions.

From a business perspective we should never neglect primary focus on value proposition, creating and addressing the needs and wants of paying customers.

Enterprise Design Thinking

As mentioned above a business is both organic and organized. Therefore  applying a structured approach will still be feasible. Dev Patnaik founder and principal of Jump Associates introduced us to Hybrid Thinking – one-part humanist, one-part technologist and one-part capitalist. He points out to be more focused and curate creativity.

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing that a tomato doesn’t belong in a fruit salad.” – Miles Kington

Roger L. Martin dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto taught us about design thinking – the ability to both exploit existing knowledge and create new knowledge – and integrative thinking – the ability to constructively face the tensions of opposing models, and generating a creative solution that contains elements of the individual models.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while”. – Steve Jobs

The way forward is the sum of design thinking and systems thinking. Simply stated adding holistic perspective and structure of systems thinking to design thinking. The term Enterprise Design Thinking describes it all: a way of thinking to create a business architecture that is value-focused, strategy-driven and process-oriented

© 2013 ARTe Group BV – All rights reserved