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Lego Serious Play 2“Are you ready for serious fun?” says Steve Morris, a LEGO Serious Play® facilitator certified by the Association of Master Trainers. Şirin interviewed Steve on the power of LEGO Serious Play and you can join us at our upcoming webinar to ask any questions you may have for solving serious problems in a fun way that also helps thrive cohesiveness in teams.

What is Lego Serious Play and how long has it been around?

LEGO Serious Play is a facilitated meeting, communication and problem-solving method where participants are led through a series of questions and build their responses in 3D. The method is built around the concept that the knowledge exists already in the room, and the structure allows us to have that knowledge be surfaced as a creative way of solving problems that have no straightforward, or possibly multiple solutions. The methodology was developed by the LEGO corporation 20 years ago for their strategic planning process, and has been refined and field tested ever since.

How can businesses utilize this methodology for results?

The structured framework is the key to allowing a group to come together to solve a difficult problem. Traditional brainstorming techniques have been discredited years ago, and the LEGO Serious Play provides a way to unlock the team’s potential and get the group finding tangible solutions. It has been used successfully for everything from getting a team to come to a shared understanding of how they are going to work together better, to developing the organization’s guiding principles for their emergent strategy initiative.

Can you share some success stories from your practice?

One of the key advantages of the method is developing psychological safety, which is the most important trait of en effective team according to research done by Google on their own teams. Establishing this safety really allows the individuals and the group to go deeper, and I have personally found it very powerful in examining my own business. I have seen the method really allow people to share in ways they would never have done before and seen the unique insights that start coming up when people pick up bricks and begin building their ideas.

Why exactly does it work in unique ways?

Firstly, it is play, Serious Play, but still fun, and with that comes a relaxation from the participants that allows real creative thought to arise. To me the real magic is in the hand-brain connection as when we start building things with our hands we begin changing, rearranging and cementing knowledge structures in our minds. Finally, the structure allows everyone to participate, and we get 100% lean-in engagement in contrast to the usual business meeting dynamic where one person dominates with 80% of the talking and everyone else checks out.

What led you to training and consulting with Lego Serious Play?

I am passionate about helping people solve problems, and for over four years I have been exploring lots of paths to help people get their ideas out of their heads and to build them in 3D. The LEGO Serious Play method has been an instant winner for me because there is no barrier to having a group of adults pick up bricks and start piecing them together as their thoughts gel. I have really enjoyed working with the tension between Serious and Play, and seeing people light up as they get to do real work while having fun.

At StrategicStraits, we specialize in global business solutions. Our interconnected world poses more and more diverse problems, and the ability to solve these problems in creative ways is a critical leadership skill.

We thank Steve Morris for his insights and sharing his expertise, and look forward to connecting with everybody interested in this topic at next week’s webinar. Register for Free 30-Min Webinar with guest speaker at 11:00 a.m. EST on April 25, 2019. Please join with your questions or your own experience utilizing the Lego Serious Play ready to be posted in the chat box in Zoom.  Share this post to be able to include as many as possible in this opportunity to connect.

Steve Morris 2Steve Morris is passionate about helping people with solving problems at work. Originally from New Zealand, Steve’s background is a creative design engineer. He started his career designing sail boats for the America’s Cup and Volvo Round the World Yacht Races, and created a makerspace workshop in Silver Spring, MD, to inspire and teach people how to be creative.  The Catylator workshop taught hundreds of teens and adults how to actualize themselves as creative beings, and had notable success with helping young women open to pursuing STEM career paths, and providing unique professional development for organizations such as the DC Public School system. Steve helps teams in organizations work together more cohesively to solve problems rapidly, using his toolbox of time-saving and effective structured frameworks: LEGO Serious Play and Design Sprints.

Steve has a Masters Degree in Engineering in addition to an MBA from the highly ranked Smith School at the University of Maryland.  He has been a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), is a LEGO Serious Play facilitator certified by the Association of Master Trainers, and is certified to facilitate Design Sprints.


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US Map 2You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. said Al Lichtenstein during our webinar on building networks and networking with a global mindset. We discussed best practices in networking especially by looking at networking experience in the United States. Here are key insights from our discussions:

Stay in touch; starting to network when you need to will take more effort. Networking should be part of your everyday life. Being informed about your networks will help you be more productive and ultimately more marketable. Building networks to reach strategic goals will help decision makers make confident and enthusiastic decisions about your candidacy or business.

Networking is very much about being visible.  Try to meet in-person to also have time to connect at diverse levels and make a visual memory. An in-person meeting will reflect your energy levels. Look to build trusting relationships.

Prepare to be resilient. Getting a new job or identifying a new business opportunity can take time, especially if you have not been networking for a while. Networking can feel daunting and can involve a great deal of rejection. Prepare mentally and physically for this journey.

Share your story with a succinct message.  What makes you different and why? Understanding why you are qualified for a particular job or a specific business opportunity can open up even more doors in the same direction. Let others know what energizes and motivates you about this kind of work.

Utilize social media. Often times, when we ask how people engage with their LinkedIn contacts they don’t have a quick answer. Use social media to learn, connect, share and possibly co-create (posts) for visibility.

Always be aware of networking opportunities during normal routines. You may meet your next opportunity at the gym or a social function.

Develop and become part of an ecosystem that provides value to your clients and contacts.  Being in touch with contacts requires resourcefulness. We are much more resourceful when working with others who have diverse areas of subject matter expertise of interest to our clients and contacts. We become valuable to clients and contacts when they achieve success by being in touch with and working with us.

Be organized.  Networking is a path towards your strategic goals. You will most likely need to make connections between diverse contacts. Make sure to take notes and keep a journal. Spreadsheets can work great for this purpose.

Set networking goals.  Building business in three to six months-time can require at least six diverse forms of calls on contacts per day. The more contacts you make, the greater the chances of you achieving your goals.

Remember cultural differences in networking.  Building trust and a long-term outlook on relationships vary across cultures when networking. While your group associations and relations may be important in the culture familiar to you it is typically important to understand the problem and demonstrate your capabilities in the United States. Good conversation starters may be the weather, sports, hobbies and how a person may have joined the job, event or industry, and are sensitive to any privacy concerns people may have. The United States also covers a large geographic area and people’s world views and business practice may differ significantly according to the local culture and their own diversity factors. It’s necessary to analyze a situation from a cultural, regional and personal perspective before building your networking strategy and tactics.

Thank you, Al for sharing your expertise with many examples and stories from your own experience which lit the way to networking for success in the United States for us.

Looking forward to great conversations again soon…

Al LichtensteinAl Lichtenstein is a senior human resources executive and a career coach with a track record of achieving results. Before founding HR RESULTS, LLC, he worked for companies in the professional services and life sciences industries.  Being a hands-on head of HR and a contributing member of the senior management teams, Al is used to recommending strategic HR initiatives and then “rolling up his sleeves” and implementing them. His Human Resources departments supported organizational growth and development by being customer focused and highly responsive.

He has extensive experience addressing strategic organizational HR issues, designing and implementing results based performance management processes, aligning them with organizational reward and recognition systems. He developed and facilitated programs for company selection processes, focusing on interviewing skills and creating legally sound behavioral interview questions. He designed, implemented and conducted management and leadership development training programs and facilitated cross functional teams in the creation of career ladders and career development programs.

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Starbucks Roastery Milano - the buildingHow was Starbucks able to create a unique experience in its store in Milan? How does YouTube leverage the diversity of its users to find diverse applications of its technology around the world? How do these questions compare with an international business problem you or your business is facing?

Below you can find critical insights Bruce Burnside shared from the field of anthropology at a Global Mindset in Action webinar in March. The perspective and toolbox of the anthropologist may be just what you need to solve your current business problem.

Start with a beginner’s mind. Test your assumptions when confronted with a new cultural situation.

Engage from a point of rapport and trust. Letting go of your pre-existing judgments and opening your mind up to considering different perspectives will lead to a flow of information.

Ask “why” often and in different ways. “Tell me more about this” can be a very useful way to elicit more critical information and identify commonalities in thinking or connecting.

Observe to obtain unspoken information. Adopt a practice of objective observation. Observing a situation may enable to identify the hidden information behind words and give you the opportunity to ask for the story explaining the situation or a cultural phenomenon.

Embrace difference and diverse thinking without fetishizing it. When did you practice something that you learned in a different culture to see how this might work for you or because you liked the practice? Embracing diversity can result in great creativity and innovation.

Last but not least, Bruce provided an example where an experienced researcher found herself learning something new in one of her workshops by listening to her frustration. Frustration in international business may not necessarily be a problem. When we intentionally take a moment or a pause to reflect on this frustration and potentially enlist help we may learn something very new that advances us.

We ended the webinar by deciding to take a pause for reflection regularly and when necessary. Thank you, Bruce for sharing your expertise with many examples and research stories that truly helped us form a new repertoire of thinking, researching and innovating.  Looking forward to great conversations again soon…

Bruce BurnsideAnthropology is the science of human beings.  As technology becomes a much bigger part of the human life and we need to acknowledge the role of technology as a new diversity element in business. We think there is great value in the perspective of the anthropologist.  We thank Bruce Burnside for his continued contributions on the Culture Curious Global Minds Blog. 


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By Martin Moon

by Martin Moon

“How does conflict make you feel when working internationally?” is a good question to ask yourself. Then, how do you react to conflict? Do you tend to avoid it, address it on the spot, do you welcome it while wondering how this feels for the other?

Conflict often takes a big toll on business. This week, the news about how the Seattle business community reacted to the City Council’s new head tax traveled quickly around the world. There were probably articles about many other similar incidents, too. And how about the ones in your very own office, with your colleagues, board members, business partners, vendors, clients…

Additionally, doing business internationally takes the probability and complexity of conflict to a different level. Cultural, structural and geographic differences can add many new dimensions to conflict.

We were thrilled that Howard G. Beasey, the President and CEO of the American Turkish Council (ATC) was able to contribute to the Culture Curious Global Minds blog this week.

It is great to be able to elaborate on the importance of diplomacy skills when wanting to succeed in international business based on Mr. Beasey’s extensive experience in the U.S. – Turkey commercial relationship. There are surely many differences between the U.S. and Turkish markets. Yet the bilateral history is full of mutual journeys and business partnerships. We hope that this interview is a resource to those who work and want to work in this commercial space:

How do you see conflicts turn into opportunities in your efforts facilitating trade and investment between the United States and Turkey?

HB: When it comes to trade and investment it is important to remember that for a healthy bilateral relationship the trade must flow both ways.  The duality of prosperous trade relations creates a great deal of room for compromise and fertile ground for win/win opportunities if one is willing to look for them. 

What skills have you found most helpful when addressing conflicts? 

HB: The willingness and mental agility to accept the fact that business norms and cultures can and will differ and that these differences should not be viewed as good or bad but simply as the reality.  The sooner a person can come to this mindset the faster they will then be able to react and navigate the path for a successful outcome.  Too often we get caught up in the difference itself and cannot move past this to find a way forward. 

What life experiences do you find were/are critical to fulfilling the diplomacy and relationship building requirements in your job today? 

HB: I have had a number of interesting experiences in my career that have helped me to be more or less successful in building and maintaining professional cross-cultural relations.  For starters I have always espoused a “yes” mentality. In other words, one must start with the notion that yes is the answer and let’s figure out how to make this happen.  We have all met the individual who starts with “no” and then must be convinced that something can be done, who already starts from a deficit.  Additionally, I think that the experience of working in a multi-language environment over the years is helpful.  When you are working in these types of environments with or without interpreters you tend to use simple, concise, and direct language when communicating and secondly you will take time to listen and ensure you are understanding the subject or discussion before responding.  This professional patience and careful listening pays big dividends in this setting or frankly, any meaningful relationship.  

If interested in learning more about the nuances of doing business between the United States and Turkey consider signing up for “Work with a Global Mindset on the U.S. – Turkey Commercial Highway” to learn applicable leadership, management and communications models and engage in a Q & A session.

Unlocking the Global Mindset Energy Well: How often do you celebrate accomplishments? Celebrating the 12th Issue of StrategicStraits Weekly today – published in twelve consecutive weeks! Please use link if you would like this Newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox every week.


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2017 Conference PanelDid you sign up for our upcoming event “Working with a Global Mindset on the U.S. – Turkey Commercial Highway”?

he Turkish Statistical Institute announced a 7.4% growth rate earlier this year. Oya Narin, the Head of Turkish Tourism Investors Association said in an interview that 2018 will be a time for transition and rise for Turkey. Turkish investors and business people continue exploring U.S. markets via personal trips, trade missions and the SelectUSA Conferences. At the same time, economic analysts express concerns about key financial indicators of Turkey.

The value of a global mindset is amplified in our interconnected world especially when stakes are high. The “reciprocal understanding” through the global mindset enables us to build relationships, communicate effectively, give feedback, negotiate and solve conflicts to achieve desirable results across cultural, administrative, geographic and economic divides.

Experience exchange and being well informed are critical when working in new markets. Members of the American Turkish Council (ATC) can register at ATC member rate. The participation of business people with and without experience in this bilateral relationship will enrich the content and functionality of this webinar.  We hope for a diverse attendance.


Did you know? Some Facts about Business in Turkey

There are over a thousand U.S. businesses doing business in Turkey. Large American companies like GE, Pfizer, Merck, P & G, Unilever, Coca Cola, Pepsi, IBM, Hilton, Ford have had headquarters in Turkey for many years with GE since the 1940s. More recent additions are Microsoft, Amgen and Amazon. Many of these firms have their regional operations in Turkey.

Turkish Airlines flies to the highest number of international destinations in the world. The airline has ranked as the best European airline for consecutive years and its philosophy is “Globally Yours”.

Turkish people are proud of (emotionally connected to) their brands. They’ve trusted the now internationally growing brands like Ülker (food), Arçelik (appliances), Mavi Jeans (textiles and fashion), Doğan Construction (construction) and Turkish Airlines (airlines) for decades.

Forty percent of small and mid-size businesses are involved in trade in Turkey. Many of these are dynamic family businesses with much experience in European and Asian markets looking to grow through bilateral and international collaborations. Turkey has also moved up on the Bloomberg Innovation Index. The geographic distance that gets perceived strongly and mentioned much more often than cultural differences by traditional small and mid-size businesses doesn’t appear to be a challenge to the innovation community of Turkey.

People address each other with Mr. And Ms. titles for a long time into the relationship or until a mutual agreement is made for first name basis. We will discuss this topic during the webinar.


Did you know? Some Facts about Business in the United States:

There are 50 states with their own rules and regulations. Many federal rules and regulations impact a foreign market entry such as the FDA regulations for incoming biotech firms. Additionally, there are many state and local rules and regulations that impact business incorporations, taxes, employment and other business areas.

Much meaning is packaged into words. You may receive a note saying “we have a 60-day cancelation policy” will remind trusted friends, colleagues and legal advisers in the United States. While understanding rules, regulations and contractual relationships raises the importance of working with good legal counsel this cultural nuance also results in helpful public content on websites and social media.

Business world and brands trusted. The business entity is expected to be a trusted institution. Brand reputation thrives through the brand promise, strategic communications and trustful customer relationships. Business leaders recognize the importance of corporate social responsibility towards the communities and the larger society.

Less than 10% of American small and mid-size businesses are engaged in international trade. Also, often times, a large portion of the trade in a company can be with only one country.

About a quarter of Fortune Global 500 are headquartered in the U.S. In addition to having businesses that were started in previous centuries on the list, the American business world is quick to send 21st Century model businesses like Airbnb, Uber and Tesla into the global business space.


Collaboration can help learn from each other and thrive internationally and globally

Being able to leverage cultural differences can result in innovation, productivity and effective global storytelling. We will compare the GlobeSmart® profiles of the United States and Turkey during the webinar. This will allow us to discuss some of the cultural nuances of the two countries. Diverse teams thrive when their leaders are educated in leading across diversity and global trends, and when team members are aware of differences and similarities.

Being able to leverage differences in business experience and geographic location can also enhance the empathy levels, relationship building capacity and global reach of diverse teams.


We recommend researching the nuances and history of this high potential bilateral relationship, and look forward to great conversations on June 6, 2018.


Unlocking the Global Mindset Energy Well: IKIGAI: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, a book authored by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles is being discussed in the international business community, too. “Eat until you’re 80% full” is one of the recommendations.

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The ATC partners with StrategicStraits, Inc. to help the organization revise its organizational identify, unique value proposition, membership benefits, business model, content strategy and organizational learning mechanisms.

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