Creative problem-solving of  SDG-4

In workshops, students are challenged to find new and feasible solutions to solve Sustainable Development Goal 4: Education for all. Using the Lego Serious Play methodology, they generated ideas and discussed implementation to become more sustainable.



  • curricular 1-day (8 hours workload) workshops
  • 6 Master theses (30 ECTS, 840 hours workload)
  • 299 Master students (Twente) (up to Sep. 2021)
  • 20 Master students (Oldenburg)
  • 3 academic partners (6 staff)
  • 1 business partner (15 staff)


Main Elements

•       literature review, transcription, coding and qualitative analysis of creative processes in teams.

•       quantitative analysis of personality, team climate and team creative performance.

•       shared story telling using Lego Serious Play (LSP): video pitch

•       measuring arousal levels during creativity


What‘s new?

Applying social psychology, biology & innovation theory simultaneously to solve sustainability problems 


Theoretical relevance

In order to improve their team creativity, students and entrepreneurs examined the role exploring and implementing green ventures. We train the 21st century skill Creativity in relation to Cognitive Flexibility / Cognitive Persistence. Team creativity refers to the ability to generate unusual or clever ideas about a given topic, and build upon the ideas of team members in order to solve a problem. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways. Creativity - generating original and appropriate ideas - is a function of cognitive flexibility and cognitive persistence (Nijstad, De Dreu & Riezschel, 2010).

Involving multiple and diverse perspectives into a problem helps solving it; teams in which mem­bers explain to each other their perspectives, and build upon these can increase the creative potential of teams (Hoever, Van Knippenberg, Van Ginkel et al., 2010).

In this project, we foster team creativity using Lego Serious Play (LSP). LSP ensures learning through construction, exploration and metaphorical storytelling. These activities are especially suitable for co-creation. LSP is a facilitation technique that uses a combination of personal focus. LSP consists of the following steps: (1) creating individual models (metaphors) using Lego bricks; (2) explaining the meaning of these models to other team members (storytelling); and finally, (3) constructing a joint model in which all viewpoints and perspectives are integrated. These structured sequences encourage active listening and engagement (Dann, 2018).

Drawing on the work of Gauntlett (2007, 2011), the Lego Serious Play (LSP) methodology rests on the following three pillars: (1) the use of metaphors; (2) the motivational concept of play; and (3) the theories of flow and constructivism (Wengel, MCintosch & Cocknurg-Wootten,2016). First, metaphors play a role in human cognition and can create completely new ways of understanding realities. Metaphors can reveal under­lying thinking, understanding and meanings of experiences (Wengel et al., 2016). A metaphor replaces one idea or object with another to suggest an analogous relationship. Through metaphors, complexities can be simplified. Metaphors can exemplify behaviors and processes, emphasizing some properties over others. The use of metaphors provides an opportunity to examine phenomena from a unique and crea­tive perspective. When employed appropriately, metaphors clarify complex wicked problems (Carpen­ter, 2008).

Second, playfulness has positive effects on learning in various contexts (c.f. Kangas, 2010). Play plays an important role in how we learn and obtain knowledge; innovative and creative ideas are most likely to come through playful processes. Play is linked to our imagination. A playing process can reveal underlying thinking, bring to the surface underlying drivers and increases understanding of experiences (Carpenter, 2008, p. 274; Gauntlett, 2007).

Third, learning happens faster and better when someone actively constructs something physical or concrete that is external to him/her - e.g. a sand castle, a machine. In short: “when you build in the world, you build in your mind” (Kristiansen & Rasmussen, 2014: 82). When people construct things, they integrate and assemble knowledge in their minds. The concept of constructionism assumes that you learn by building something you can identify with and be proud of (Kristiansen & Rasmussen, 2014; Wen­gel et al., 2016).

Theoretical constructs

Personality (Big-6 – Ashton & Lee, 2009); Team Psychological Safety (Edmondson, 2009); Participative decision-making (Muehlfeld, et al. 2011); Voice (Zhou & George, 2001); Commitment (Carson et al., 2007 ); Collaboration Styles - Dual concern theory (De Dreu et al., 2001); Self-Efficacy (Chen, Gully & Eden, 2001); Emotional intelligence (Wong & Law, 2002); Team performance (Gibson et al., 2009).


New ideas with Lego Serious Play to make CEWE more sustainable

In an ideation workshop in 28 November 2019, some twenty students from the Ecoventuring program of the University Oldenburg develop creative ideas to make Cewe, the large German photobook supplier, more sustainable. Using the Lego Serious Play method, they visualize their ideas. The most important facets and aspects of the ideas are highlighted. Asking many “what-if” questions, the rigor of the ideas is tested: if external conditions change, to what extent are the ideas still desirable, economically viable and technically feasible.


Managers from Cewe assess the ideas and select the most promising ones. Three ideas are further explored and operationalized by Cewe, one of the six business partners of the European program “Scale-up for Sustainability”.

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