A few weeks ago I spent a fantastic couple of days in Sheffield thinking about creative knowledge mobilisation practices. A small and beautifully formed group of 6 of us met together to share stories and examples of creative KM practice – much of it based on our own experiences. You can read more about what we got up to and the examples we shared here. Given our topic, it was clear that a major part of our 2 days together should involve being creative! One of the methods currently being used by our hosts (the Lab4Living team in the Art and Design Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University) is LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. Originally designed to enhance innovation and business performance it is based on research which shows that hands-on learning produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its possibilities. LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® uses a combination of model building and metaphor to describe and communicate complex issues, ideas or concepts. Models can be built individually to enable understanding of different perspective and/or built collectively through negotiation to enable shared understanding. Now, I don’t know about about you, but it’s been years since I’ve played with LEGO®, and, to be honest, I’m not sure I ever really have! So it was with both trepidation and excitement that I tipped out the set of bricks, shapes and figures I’d been given wondering ‘will I be creative enough?’ ‘Will I know how to build the things in my head?’ ‘How will I even know what is in my head?’ Thankfully (and surprisingly) the session began with some warmup exercises including building a tower, and building a model using a set of instructions. This was a fairly new concept – I’m so used to turning up at an event or conference and getting straight into the hard work of academic theorising, that I didn’t actually realise that what we were doing was simply a warmup exercise! Interestingly, I found that in these exercises I was more of a doer than a thinker, and followed the patterns that began to emerge, realising their significance and meaning later. This meant that I ended up creating a tower that seemed to end up looking a bit like a diving board, complete with a slope to propel you off the edge a bit quicker (read into that what you will…) Once we’d warmed up, we moved onto creating models of ‘knowledge’ and ‘knowledge mobilisation’. We started off building our own models before choosing one element that we couldn’t live without and bringing these together into a shared model. Our individual and shared models were quirky, fun and colourful and for many of us included references to emotional knowledge and beauty. Sometimes it’s really difficult to come up with a shared understanding of knowledge and knowledge mobilisation (see my earlier post on ‘what kind of knowledge mobiliser are you’), especially with other academics, but it felt so much easier to do that with objects instead of words. We used words as well, to tell the story of the models we had created, but still I felt that the models came to represent far more than we were able to articulate. For me, the need to come up with an object that somehow shared my ideas about the nature of knowledge was also a real breakthrough moment and gave me a much stronger metaphor to draw on in the future (it’s a bicycle, in case you were wondering!) So, building LEGO® models about knowledge and knowledge mobilisation was a great experience and a lot of fun, but it did leave me with a few questions as a KM researcher:
- Is this type of creative practice valuable as a knowledge mobilisation tool?
- What kind of research methods do we need to use to capture if and how creative KM methods work?
- Can/should we use creative methods to research creative methods?
As ever I’d be interested in your thoughts and feelings on these, so please get involved in the discussion by posting comments below.