Source Conference 2019 : The One with Lego

Symphony Legal - Source - Lego Serious Play - brochure starter packLast year I went to the Source Conference by Symphony Legal to play a board game. This year I flew in from Cyprus to play with lego. That’s how the first day of the conference ended so we will come to that later.

The MC was comedian Celia Delaney who told us the day was all about play.

Symphony Legal - Source Conference - Celia DelaneyViv Williams highlighted the problems in legal like PI issues and the downturn in conveyancing due to Brexit. But he said good things were also happening. The theme of the day was to be all about change to improve your law practice.

Symphony Legal - Source Conference - Paul ShrimplingAnd that theme was certainly one that the first speaker, Paul Shrimpling, gave us a dose of in his presentation on ‘The moments of truth that determine your firm’s future success’. Paul had us holding our neighbours hands when we were supposed to be clasping our own hands and putting our watches on the opposite wrist from the norm (by the end of the session nearly everyone had reverted back to the usual wrist). He was demonstrating how change is hard. But the message was that if you continue to do what you have always done without change you will fail. Old habits never die – they are hard wired into us. If you want to change you need to instill new habits.

Baby boomersThen we had Henry Rose Lee with Inter-Generational Harmony & Inclusivity in the Workplace. There are, apparently, now five generations in the workplace:_

Silent Generation (Born 1925 to 1945 – aged 74 to 94)
Baby Boomers (Born 1946 to 1964 – aged 55 to 73)
Generation X (Born 1965 to 1980 – aged 39 to 54)
Millennials or Gen Y (Born 1981 to 1996 – now aged 23 to 38)
Generation Z (Born 1997 to 2009 – now aged 11 to 22)
Generation Alpha (Born 2010 to 2025 – now aged under 10)

I hadn’t heard of Generation Alpha before! Having reached Z we appear to be starting at A again and working through the alphabet. Hopefully the next Generation won’t be Beta though! Henry Rose Lee didn’t spend any time with us discussing Alphas – presumably because we don’t have to contend with them in the workplace as yet.

We had an interesting Q&A session about each generation where we had to guess the answer (true or false) and Henry Rose Lee would then tell us what the answer was. For example:-

  • It is false to suggest that Baby Boomers can’t use tech just as well as younger generations. Something I’ve blogged about at: Hack the Past : How the Legal Profession knew nothing about Technology
  • Generation X are the most stressed in the workplace. They are fewer in number in the workplace and as one of the delegates pointed out they have children that won’t leave home!
  • It is false that Generation Y and Z naturally build a community in the workplace – they have already built their community online.

We heard that Generation Z are Millennials (Generation Y) on steroids.

Money is the top priority Generation Y & Z consider in a job followed by culture and flexibility. I had thought that wasn’t the case.

You can expect 43% of Millennials and 61% of Generation Z to leave your law firm within 2 years of starting working for you.

Humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfish. Back in 2000 we could manage 12 seconds. That has now gone down to 8 seconds and a goldfish can do 9 seconds (N.B. all figures given being the average attention span). We want all generations to focus and all of us struggle to get things done. So it was suggested that for the younger generation we should make meetings slightly later and make them slightly shorter.

Perceptions of age also have an impact.

Symphony Legal - Source Conference - Perceptions of AgeWe heard that little innovation is doing things you aren’t doing but others are. Whereas big innovation is doing something more fundamental that shows large change. It is important for Generations Y and Z to know this. It is also important to be very clear in feeding back to them to confirm success, overcome failure and benefit from lessons learned – and do so at speed.

James Bond meeting the new Q for the first time in Skyfall is a good example of combining generations as a dream team:-

Then the spotlight was on three progressive law firms and how they are adapting to change in the legal landscape. I always like these sorts of sessions where you hear real life stories of what others are doing in the coal face. We heard from Alison McCormack, CEO, Brethertons LLP; James Brown, Founder, Hall Brown Family Law Group; and Anthony Sloan, HR Director, Ashtons Legal.

Culture is everything. Anthony Sloan of Ashtons Legal said if you’re going to change culture your heart has to be in it. What do you expect of your staff and your clients? What are your key values?

There is unlimited annual leave at Ashtons Legal. Anthony Sloan has a few rules for staff but ultimately it’s finding a work/life blend – and it’s about trust.

At Hall Brown Family Law Group every client gets their lawyer’s mobile number, day or night. All employees get a veto on new employees joining.

Rather than waiting until staff leave and finding out why they left, ask them why they’re staying! Alison McCormack from Brethertons is keen to ensure all staff feel part of the whole.

After lunch Penny Haslam told us about “cat bum-hole mouth”. This is the face people make when a competitor is getting a little bit more attention than them. She then went on to let us know how to make ourselves a little bit famous.

Symphony Legal - Source Conference - Penny HaslamYou need to do PIE: Performance, Image and Exposure

You need to be known, liked and trusted

Panels, speaking, legal awards, radio, TV, blogging, DIY video and sharing all of these things on social media will all help to make you a little bit famous.

Piggyback off of other content – see a news item in an area that you have expertise in and comment on it or write a blog post about it.

You have to showcase your expertise. Use FACE to prepare what you want to say: Fact, Add detail, Comment and give an Example.

Symphony Legal - Source Conference - Penny Haslam - FACE

Then it was time to round of the day (before the evening dinner and awards ceremony) with a Lego Serious Play Workshop led by Sara Traynor.

A few weeks before the conference, and with no relation to it at all, Jason Moyse had posted on LinkedIn:-

Can someone please convince me that Lego Serious Play isn’t nonsense? or a fad…

Admittedly, I’ve never tried it, never looked at it, I’m only just reading about it. It looks like banana crazy corporate gaslighting BS.

…. and it looks super fun. People enjoy it. That is good.


is this a real business outcome thing, or give a break from tedium of everyday work thing?

Joanna Goodman responded:-

hahaha! I think it should be barefoot lego play – to umm find the pain points 😂 Seriously, I believe some people have far too much spare time and money.

Jason came back with:-

I am not saying it isn’t good or useful. I really have no idea and am interested. It looks really fun. But is that the point? Does it also achieve business goals that make the investment of people’s time worth it? It “seems” silly–but maybe its not. I really do want to hear from people that vouch for its effectiveness… not just those that deliver it… but those that experience it from client perspective.

Joanna wasn’t changing her view:-

Well my son has a qualification in model making from art school so he can create complex models with structural integrity- that’s design/engineering/art but it doesn’t make him a business strategist. This ‘Serious Play’ is deliberately confusing different disciplines to fleece businesses in my opinion.

Alex G Smith had a different view:-

It’s very powerful when using a great facilitator. I experienced it as a participant in an out of industry course and it was brilliant.

Stephen Allen wondered if Joanna Goodman might want to try it with Meccano instead.

I said:-

I’m happy to approach it with an open mind and take a view. I’ve never done Lego Serious Play before but don’t think I’m too late to give it a whirl in my 50s. That is why I’ve booked into the Symphony Legal Source Conference.

And here I was a few weeks later about to seriously play with Lego.

Sara Traynor had said on LinkedIn, in response to Jason Moyse, that:-

Lego Serious Play is the most effective facilitation technique I have seen for getting business results (in over a decade of running change/leadership/coaching workshops). I am an accredited facilitator so in case you think I’m biased (I am, based on my experience) here is a link to some academic research into LEGO Serious Play (also check out the publications).

We were about to find out if this was true.

We were each given a starter pack of Lego Serious Play.

Symphony Legal - Source - Lego Serious Play - starter packThen Sara gave us creative tasks to fulfil. First task was to build a tower:

Symphony Legal - Source - Lego Serious Play - TowerThis brought out diversity and inclusion.

Then your role in your law firm:-

Symphony Legal - Source - Lego Serious Play - Law Firm Roles

This made us think about the role that we play in our law firms and who we support or help within the firm. It made us think about why we like what we do and brought out the benefits to our colleagues and clients.

We had to describe a nightmare day:-

Symphony Legal - Source - Lego Serious Play - Nightmare DayAnd finally ideas taken back from today’s conference:-

Symphony Legal - Source - Lego Serious Play - ideas taken backSo what did I think? It was just a small taster but I enjoyed it. It made you think about things in a way you might not otherwise have done. The building process re-emphasised and strengthened the ideas that came to mind and made them easier to articulate when it came to explaining them to others. I could see the benefits of a longer tailored workshop at your own firm where you could work on issues that you wanted to particularly tackle with your team. I can report back to Jason Moyse that I didn’t consider it nonsense or a fad. Do give it a whirl Jason if you haven’t already.

Although recently Jason tweeted an article from the Financial Times: How making Lego models helps build better leaders, and in particular highlighted a comment on that article:-

I am a corporate lawyer and have worked with and for leading law firms and companies.

Everyone hates and sees as pointless and humiliating these sort of stupid childish exercises. With one exception: partners and very very senior managers.

Why? Because the person above you has bought into this stupid idea.

It is the Emperors New Clothes. It installs a culture of fear at the top where absurdity is required for advancement. Do you think the armed services resort to lego in a crisis?

No wonder we had the Banking Crisis.

I assume this corporate lawyer, like Joanna Goodman, hadn’t actually partaken in a Lego Serious Play Session. Do try it before you judge it.

Viv Williams wrapped things up and then it was time to get our glad rags on for the evening dinner and awards ceremony where my law firm, Inksters, picked up niche law firm/specialist team of the year and the most innovative marketing award. We had magic tricks from Nick Ruston and comedy and music from Celia Delaney.

The conference continued on Friday morning with sessions on Getting the Best out of Technology and Operations and Aligning Finance, Business Development & Marketing. I, unfortunately, couldn’t stay for those and had to make my way back to Glasgow.

Like last year the Source Conference by Symphony Legal was a bit different from the norm. It was engaging and thought provoking. I have my final Lego creation to remind me of a takeaway from the day.

After last year’s cash flow board game and this year’s Lego Serious Play I’m wondering what they will come up with for us to play with at next year’s conference?

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