Within the seemingly endless permutations that just six colourful LEGO bricks can become, lies an interesting lesson in creativity, the art of possibility, and an understanding of exponentially.
Consider this: what are all the different ways you can put together six 2x4 LEGO bricks?
It does sound like the sort of puzzle that only an AFOL (Adult Fan Of LEGO) might be fascinated by. Interestingly, it is a more complex mathematical puzzle than it may appear. It is a bit like three-dimensional chess—adding a dimension increases the complexity from the two-dimensional by many factors.
The first answer that was supplied to the patent office was 102,981,000. In fact, it is actually many more. Renowned Danish mathematician Søren Eilers discovered that the true figure sits at a staggering 915,103,765.
It is a very big number, and if you tried to make them all yourself, insanity would probably be the most likely outcome! And while hard to calculate, this puzzle still has a finite outcome.
Contrast this with exponential mathematics. In simplified terms, it's the concept of starting with a single item—like a grain of rice—and doubling it with each step forward. Guess how many steps you would have to take before you would be drowning in rice? By about the 24th step, you'd be completely overtaken and unable to breath.
Currently, we are in the midst of exponential growth in terms of the pace of technological growth. What this means is change is coming at us like the exponential accumulation of grains of rice. At the moment, we may be at Step 3, or we could be at Step 6. It's a little hard to say for sure, and it's been the subject of many heated debates.
What we know is true is that the comparative challenge of figuring out how many combinations there are of six bricks, is as difficult as navigating the implications (and possibilities) created by exponential change.
As I looked at the challenge of how you might go about putting together all those different combinations of bricks, instead of being overwhelmed, I became curious. I contemplated not only how it could be accomplished but also the infinite creativity we have as a species to solve both little problems and really big ones. It turns out, those six humble bricks held a great deal of insight into the endless imagination that we possess not just on an individual level, but also collectively.
When I look at problems now—whether they're business-related or otherwise—I've started approaching them with the attitude that there may actually be 915,103,756 different solutions. It's just a matter of persisting until I find the right combination for those six interlocking puzzle pieces to fit together that will change the game. And it could be (quite literally) within my grasp to do it.
With all that said, I am still working out how to build all 915,103,756 combinations—it's a lot of bricks that will need a lot of space and probably a great deal of imaginative engineering!
Beyond my fascination with LEGO itself, my interest has turned to how play can be applied to business problem solving and unlocking people's storytelling ability. Over the last few years, I've started integrating LEGO Serious Play into my workshops and teaching practice. Its methodology is designed to enhance innovation and business performance. This is based on research that shows this kind of hands-on, minds-on learning produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its many possibilities.
If you're trying to work past a problem in your business, one of these workshops might just help you through it. Get in touch to find out more about how they work, and how they could be the right solution for your team.