The LEGO SERIOUS PLAY method has played a role in Harvard’s executive education curriculum since 2014, and has contributed to valuable insights about what makes customer experiences STICK longterm.

Harvard Professor Stefan Thomke began using the LSP methodology in his course on customer experience design after completing one of my Boston-area facilitator certification programs. In his classes for thousands (3000+) of senior executives from all over the world, Thomke had class participants build LSP models of magical customer experiences they have had. Using the LEGO models, class participants reflected on the design principles that made the experience magical and why the memory stuck. Notes that Thomke took, listening to the stories the LSP models evoked, became the foundation for his recently-published viral article; The Magic That Makes Customer Experiences Stick. The article won MIT Sloan Management Review’s #1 most popular article of 2019.

Thomke had expected customer stories to be expressed in standard business language such as efficiency, cost and value and was surprised at how many stories contained descriptions of emotional impact such as: Made me feel special. Showed empathy. Really cared. Trusted me. Really surprised us. Notes from these customer experience stories in combination with research on the many components of decision-making contributed to a critical insight: The rational approaches taught at most business schools – offer customers more value for money, add features, make service more efficient – are not enough.

The importance of emotion in decision making is gaining traction as evidenced by data from a variety of sources. A Gallop report suggests that organizations that can optimize the emotional connection with their customers can potentially have a 26 percent higher gross margin, an 85 percent higher sales growth, significantly less price sensitivity and three times the number of referrals.

In the MIT Sloan Management Review article, Thomke summaries five strategies to create memorable customer experiences or “emotional magic”:

1. Stimulate the senses.
2. Turn disappointment into delight.
3. Plan to surprise.
4. Tell compelling stories.
5. Run controlled experiments.

Details of how to apply each of the five strategies can be accessed through this link. 


Professor Thomke’s example of how LSP accesses emotion comes as no surprise to people who have experienced the power of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY. Deep, emotionally-based knowledge lives in our limbic brain and can flow directly to our hands as we build. This knowledge often seems or feels “irrational” because it is based on intuition and learning that transcends factors that can be easily explained. Yet these inexplainable feelings, such as trust, empathy and love, live at the heart of everything that matters.