When it comes to cool jobs, spending your days helping people connect through LEGO might just be the coolest. We chatted with Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie to find out how she went from studying how humans connect on social media to connecting people as a Certified LEGO Serious Play Facilitator and creator of SUPERCONNECT.
‘Curiosity’ and ‘play’ aren’t words that you would typically associate with the workplace – especially a corporate one. But according to Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie, an award-winning play-based strategist, certified facilitator, innovation columnist and researcher, they should be.
“Research shows us that curiosity and play are not only incredible for improving business outcomes, but also help us to be more clear, connected and happy,” she says. “In fact, research suggests that play is actually a critical part of mental wellness.”
A lifelong fan of LEGO herself, Kate draws on her background in Internet Studies and game design to deliver play-based facilitation, engagement and consultation as a LEGO Serious Play Facilitator.
“My academic background is actually in Internet Studies,” says Kate. “I did a PhD at Curtin University’s Internet Studies program, where I used ethnography to examine how people navigate privacy and identity on Facebook. Before that I authored some of the very first research on how people connected on early social media.”
It was during these times back in 2007 that Kate got involved in game design. She found that spending all her time thinking about how Facebook threatens privacy wasn’t great for her mental health, especially at a time when few people knew what was actually happening online.
“I needed something to lighten my life, and game design became a great outlet,” says Kate. “Imagine a big, live-action escape room that you play in the city streets – that’s what I was designing. It gave me something creative and less serious to focus on.”
After many years creating these bespoke experiences and seeing how play could connect people of all ages, Kate decided the natural next step was to add LEGO Serious Play to her toolbox… especially since she had been a lifelong fan of LEGO.
“Designing transformative experiences helped me understand the power of play,” says Kate. “LEGO Serious Play had been on my radar, but the final push actually came through Instagram – sometimes, the algorithm is a good thing!”
“As I learned more about how LEGO Serious Play works, my mind was blown,” says Kate. “I discovered how the familiarity, comfort, fun and playfulness of LEGO bricks could create trust, understanding and connection between people. Through my work, I help people gain deep insight and clarity about themselves and others, beyond the superficial.”
Kate merged her game design experience and research background with LEGO bricks to create her own flavour of LEGO Serious Play called SUPERCONNECT. It’s all about connecting people and rapidly creating trust, understanding and clarity through the power of play and curiosity.
Organisations like Commonwealth Bank of Australia, RSM, Deakin University and the Department of Finance (Western Australia) have enlisted Kate to bring her revolutionary play-based approach to workshops, team building events, stakeholder consultations and more.
“I can deliver play-based facilitation, engagement and consultation that not only gets serious results, but is also seriously fun,” says Kate. “It helps that almost everybody has some experience with LEGO – whether while growing up or with their own kids - so it is easy to get people into a place of play where curiosity flourishes and new ideas can easily be born.”
Using SUPERCONNECT, Kate has done everything from live events with 600 people all building and connecting through LEGO to Zoom-based speed networking events with participants across the globe.
“Sometimes my sessions will be led by intuition and openness, so there is an element of planned flexibility,” says Kate. “That’s where my background in ethnography comes in really handy.”
To source the LEGO she needs for her sessions, Kate works closely with Judy and the BrickResales team to create off-the-shelf or custom kits for clients. And she loves working with another women-led business and being able to offer her clients an eco-friendly option with recycled LEGO bricks.
“I first met Kate when she inquired about LEGO Serious Play kits for one of her conferences,” says BrickResales founder Judy Friedman. “She really introduced me to all that’s possible with LEGO Serious Play and how my business can be involved.”
Looking beyond the traditional corporate space, Kate has also created Lovego, a tool to help corporate women in the dating scene. It uses the same SUPERCONNECT technology that connects people through play in the boardroom help people connect on dates! Who knew so many opportunities could come from tiny LEGO bricks?!
“I like to say that I’m professionally curious, so finding LEGO Serious Play was the perfect fit,” says Kate. “I’ve loved everything that I’ve done, but this feels like what my gift is – it makes me so happy because it makes people so happy.”
Judy says that this shared ability to connect with people through play has encouraged her partnership with Kate to thrive.
“I think we have bonded because we both get to connect with people of various socioeconomic statuses (don’t forget that people with money buy recycled LEGO, too), different levels of academia and all ages,” says Judy. “I guess in our own ways, we both offer a safe place for people from different backgrounds.”