Meet Michela Cozza: LSP – much more than just having fun
She is a sociologist, and she got her doctoral degree at the University of Trento in 2007. Until 2014, she worked as a Researcher at the Department of Sociology and Social Research in Trento, and then as a Senior Researcher at the Department of Information Engineering and Computer Science. In 2016, Cozza moved to Mälardalen University where she has been Head of the Subject in Organisation and Management since 2021.
She is a certified Lego Serious Play Facilitator and she works with the Open Space Technology method.
She is a member of The Nordic Research Network: Health and Welfare Technology and the Council of EASST-European Association for the Study of Science and Technology, and one of the founders of the international Socio-gerontechnology network. In addition, she is a member of international editorial boards of scientific journals and regularly reviews scientific articles.
In 2007, Cozza received special mention as an Excellent Reviewer by the Senior Technical Program Chair of the ACM-CHI2017 Conference. Alongside her research, which focuses on the relationship between society and technology, Cozza teaches courses in the Business Administration area at the School of Business, Society and Engineering, at the Department of Organisation and Management at Mälardalen University.
Ever since the Danish toy giant decided to reverse a declining trend, Lego Serious Play (LSP) has been a great success in the organisational world. For Michela Cozza, the method was exactly what she had been looking for in order to enhance the education quality and get committed students.
“It is a flexible and imaginative method, which simplifies the thought process and the ability to express oneself by building on the fundamental knowledge that is ‘in our hands’. In Western culture, we usually regard body and mind as separated, but LSP provides holistic learning by bridging the gap and harnessing the creativity” she explains.
“In addition, you use significantly more of your brain: as much as 80 per cent for those who show what they mean by building a model, compared with just 30 per cent for those who answer the task verbally. The explanation is that we are biologically created to use our hands; when we do so, up to 70–80 per cent of the nerve endings of the brain are connected to them. In sociology and psychology, where we investigate how we relate to one another, the dynamics become striking when we see how people interact by building with objects,” Michela Cozza explains.
She trained as a certified facilitator in London in 2018, after being asked to be responsible for the Business Research Method course and teaching qualitative methods. Today, Cozza uses Lego Serious Play both in teaching and in her own research.
How did the students react when you told them they were going to build with Lego?
“Of course, they were overjoyed, until I explained that we were going to have fun but not only fun – ‘hard fun’. You would think LSP is all about playing with building blocks, but this is serious and gradually the difficulty increases,” says Cozza.
The method is used to create team spirit, visualise your thoughts and gain an understanding of other people's perspectives, not least because the building activity is different for different individuals. And unlike the child's open-ended creation, an adult builds for a specific purpose.
“When we use our hands, we connect with our thoughts and ideas, while at the same time developing our ability to express ourselves and cooperate. In addition, our emotions are mobilised, which brings underlying drivers of decisions and other things to the surface,” says Michela Cozza.
As a facilitator, you don't build anything yourself during a workshop. On the contrary, LSP is an excellent way to individualise learning and shift responsibility for learning to the students.
The role is to provide technical supervision and create conditions for the participant to achieve the specific goal.
What do the students bring with them into the working world?
“An advanced tool that helps participants in projects and workgroups to engage wholeheartedly,” says Cozza. “I have used the method on Business Administration students who have had to identify and link together methodological research concepts, and on students in Design to create strong working groups. Thanks to LSP, the students become attractive on the labour market that need people with the ability to combine their skills and competencies in a new, flexible and more imaginative way.”
You have also benefited from LSP in your own research. Tell me more!
“I focus on welfare technology for older people, and before the pandemic we arranged a workshop in Västerås on welfare services. The participants came from different organizations, and what we noticed was that everyone had the same purpose but there was no cooperation. This is, of course, a waste of resources, because cooperation would provide the target group with better service on issues such as home safety for example.”
The research was organised by MDH, and the purpose was for the participants to get to know one another. The results showed that employees, even those within the same organisation, lacked knowledge about one another's competence.
“During our workshop, the participants discovered how much they actually had in common, and hopefully we have started a process where the participants begin to acknowledge one another's skills – and how best to use this.
The ability to offer efficient service is namely based on close cooperation between organisations and actors with specialist expertise,” states Michela Cozza.
“For us as researchers, it is important to find ways to help people work and build relationships with one another. Personally, I love what I do, and research is not just a job, but also a passion. Every day there is something new that I can investigate, both as a teacher and through my research.”
As a child, what did you dream about that you would work with?
“Medicine was interesting, and in some way or another that's what I'm doing. I have my specific knowledge of care for older people, and I am critical of the way they are often stigmatised and treated as passive recipients. Design is key, and if we want good accessible tools for older people, we should involve them and their knowledge in the development process. After all, we will become older people in the future. When we talk about older people, we are talking about our future selves.”