Interview with Karen Fugle, Executive Coach

img_1141Following on from the interview with Flick Hardingham, I caught up with Karen Fugle, after we both attended the September #play14 conference in London and asked about how she uses games, and in particular LEGO, in her Executive Coaching practice.


Please tell us a little about what you do?

220415-1-017I’m an Executive Coach and LEGO Serious Play Facilitator who works with architects, designers and professionals in the construction industry. I specialise in 1:1 coaching, team and group coaching. I also design and facilitate LEGO Serious Play workshops. I love it!

How do you use games at work?

I endeavour to be creative and innovative in my approach to helping designers solve problems at work. I have a “coaches toolbox”: games, strategies, methods and approaches that can help unlock stuck thinking, foster shifts in perspective and encourage self-awareness. I encourage people to act their future, build or draw their thoughts, or use visual metaphors. I use LEGO because it opens up endless possibilities for teams and groups to gain insight and innovate. I love how LEGO Serious Play workshops engage people; it affords all participants a voice and they have much more respect for the views of others.

Why do you use games? (as opposed to traditional techniques)

On a personal level I’m very ordered and value structure, but I like to balance this with a lot of visualisation and free-flowing creativity. Plus I work with very visual people – who are often sitting in front of a computer every day. Games can not only increase an awareness of how you or your team is working, it can provide a welcome creative release from the analytical, computational and administrative side of the business.

How have your teams/audience responded?

Architects love LEGO! Our hands are connected to between 70-80% of our brain cells, so it makes sense in this industry to let the “hands do the talking”. Participants aren’t building a model that is meant to be aesthetically pleasing – the LEGO models are metaphorical – it’s all about the story you tell. There is a lot of delight in pulling insight from a bunch of bricks!

What’s your fav game you have played with you team/audience?

Participating in #Play14 exposed me to a lot of new games, but I have to say, if it’s got LEGO in it, I’m going to be a fan! I’ve not ever started off a session with a ball fight, but I’m looking forward to it!
I also love Rob Aston’s Zoom-Out because it’s such a simple yet incredibly effective way to shift perspective. Detail-focussed people (architects, me) need reminders to zoom out! Rob’s inspiring blogs take this simple strategy to much higher level.

Has your team’s reaction to a game ever surprised you?

When using LEGO Serious Play, I think participants find it surprising that they can discuss serious topics in such a fun manner. Because you are talking about a model in your hand, it removes barriers and conflicts that might occur when talking face to face. It gives you more confidence to speak your views and ideas. This is why I love it so much, LEGO is such a great leveller.

What game would you propose at a play14 event?

I’d never thought about the tools that I use in coaching as ‘games’ and so I went game-less and open-minded to #Play14. I can’t wait to go again, this time with the benefit of hindsight and with some new ideas. I’d really like to find a game that encourages people to think of and give immediate feedback – a capability that I think needs enhancing in all leaders. If you know of one, let me know, or come to the next #Play14 event!

To find out more about how Karen can help and the services she provides checkout her site SleepingGiant Consulting and also find out more about how she uses LEGO Serious Play with organisations, groups and teams.


And to come, have fun learning and playing games with the next #play14 conference check out the #play14 website.

Interview with Flick Hardingham on using games for learning

This September we held our second #play14 London conference –


We were interested to talk to professionals who use play within their work environment.  Flick Hardingham runs a creative consultancy and uses games extensively.  We asked her a few questions about her use of games in her work.

Please tell us a little about what you do?

Hardingham: I recently launched JOiN THE DOT, a creative consultancy helping companies and individuals kick start creative thinking, solve problems and drive innovation through interactive workshops.

Creativity is becoming an increasing vital tool to compete in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace. The Global Creativity Index, demonstrated how creative thinking and economic development are intrinsically linked. Furthermore, CEOs ranked creativity as the most crucial factor for future success in a recent IBM Institute for Business Value survey. Creativity is the new economy and thankfully, many of the most forward-thinking companies recognise the need to build creative teams and foster a culture of idea sharing.

How do you use games at work?

Hardingham: All of our workshops and learning programmes are based around live, interactive, collaborative challenges using your best resource: unadulterated gray matter. We create challenges a world away from teams’ day jobs, that will arm them with the tools to survive in the creative economy. This includes practical tips and tricks to generate ideas, lead effective brainstorms, tackle any problem through lateral thinking, boost your creative confidence, creative leadership, allocating time for company creativity and building cohesive, collaborative teams adept at spotting opportunities and hacking growth.

We use games as a vehicle to teach these vital skills, with subsequent benefits on communication, collaboration and strengthening team ties. There’s a lot of Lego, brain benders and the occasional nerf gun!

Why do you use games? (as opposed to traditional techniques)

Hardingham: Last year, I qualified as a Primary School Teacher, spending each day ‘tricking’ children in to learning through play. It struck me that as we adults, we are generally expected to acquire knowledge and skills through traditional methods, heavy on PowerPoint, facilitator speak and passive learning. However, these methods ignore the very serious science backing interactive, learning in action.

Games are the ideal environment to inspire creative thinking, as they break conventional ways of working and seeing the world. They are also a lot more fun than a two hour PowerPoint presentation! By encouraging teams to be more playful, they naturally become more relaxed, curious, experimental, open-minded and less averse to risk – all fundamental to a creative mindset.

We’re big into science and the current research by Dr. Stuart Brown, neuroscientist and leader of Stanford’s ‘From Play to Innovation’ class, exploring play and its impact on corporate change. Brown’s research advocates that play shouldn’t stop once we’re fit for facial hair, as it continues to have a dramatic and positive impact throughout our lives. As adults, play creates rich, new neural connections that fire together in new ways building more creative, productive and innovative minds, which in turn creates more creative, productive and innovative people and societies.

The Greek philosophers rained praise on play, hailing leisure time and games as the foundation of ‘the good life’. More recently, Professor Jonathan Gershuny, Oxford University’s time-use expert, found that some of the greatest innovations, art, philosophy and discoveries were formed during play. Play is also our brain’s favourite way of learning and as integral to our biological wellbeing as sleep or nutrition.

Unfortunately, over 15 centuries, the Greek wisdom has gradually lost favour and work has become the golden beacon. JOiN THE DOT is conspiring to drive change through creative thinking and games are our favourite camouflage.

How have your teams/audience responded?

Hardingham: Extremely positively! Since launching in May, we have worked with a wide variety of industries, age groups and skill sets. We supported 94 developers, product managers, scrum masters, testers and consultants at Accenture UK through a digital transformation project, armed Deloitte Digital with the tools to survive in a creative economy, kick started product innovation for consumer finance provider NewDay, helped entrepreneurs think laterally and are working with two media agencies to support idea generation.

We pushed 54 budding founders at Escape The City to form, develop and test over 100 business ideas in one evening. Each entrepreneur left with a framework on how to generate ideas and tools to unlock creativity, helping demystify the creative process.

More recently, 20 communication hotshots from Lansons generated over 200 campaign ideas to meet specific pain points for target customer groups backed by insight in just 90 minutes. The best plans were reimagined in Lego and teams also created a ‘Blue Sky Future Report’, helping them visualise how the campaign might run in global media. 50 nerf darts and threw 87 balls were also fired during this time!

The feedback has been great with participants leaving empowered and inspired to flex their creative clout! Many of the ideas imagined during the sessions verge on creative genius. I have no doubt that the reaction would have been very different, if our sessions were based around more traditional teaching methods.

What’s your fav game you have played with you team/audience?

Hardingham: We developed a new game based on popular TV show ‘Dragon’s Den’ as a creative ice-breaker for innovation sessions. This is an interactive review of some of the best and worst business ideas launched in recent years. Participants play the dragon and decide whether they would choose to invest in each company.

It’s a great way to get everyone warmed up, initiate the dialogue around the basis of a good idea, discuss key learnings from perceived failure and help gauge the group’s current appreciation of business viability. It’s a lot of fun, as many businesses you might expect to have completely flopped are in fact hugely profitable, such as the ‘Pet Rock’ that made ad exec Gary Dahl a millionaire!

Has your team’s reaction to a game ever surprised you?

Hardingham: The only true surprise comes from participants, when they have a sudden realisation that they are creative and can conceive an abundance of brilliant, valuable ideas!

What game would you propose at a play14 event?

Hardingham: One of my favourite games is a take on rolestorming called ‘What Would Bieber Do?’ It’s a great creative problem solving tool and encourages participants to tackle puzzles from all directions. The theory is that if you pretend to be someone else, you’ll feel more comfortable putting ideas forward and it helps people come up with ideas that they may not have otherwise considered.

Everyone wears a character mask, ranging from Justin Bieber, Kermit the Frog or The Queen to a spoilt 6 year old, a local post man or a Chinese businessman. Once in character, they explain how their new persona would tackle the problem.

Flick Hardingham, Founder, JOiN THE DOT

imageFlick loves making things. Connections. Copy. Coffee. You name it. Over the last 10 years, she has been joining dots on almost every continent. She stole her creative talents from the media world, wrapped her head around experential learning theory as a teacher and mastered the agile mindset as a brand and innovation consultant for London’s nimblest start-ups.

She also has a (rather unhealthy) obsession with lateral thinkers and this summer launched JOiN THE DOT, running action-packing, interactive workshops to help companies hone the art of creative thinking, solve problems and generate ideas.

Twitter: @chasingdots

There are a number of different play14 conferences running all over Europe.


Checkout the play14 website to find out when the next one is.