Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

The Square Wheels Controversy – LEGO or Line-Art?

Since 1993, I have been presenting workshops internationally using a series of line-art images around the concept of Square Wheels. They can represent things that work but that do not work smoothly and they beg the question about what round wheels can replace them. Users and audiences consistently tell us that this is the best metaphor for organizational improvement or personal growth that exists anywhere.Testimonial on Square Wheels metaphor use

Generating the understanding that Square Wheels represent how things really work is incredibly easy and people get the concept readily. Cognitive dissonance then becomes one of the driving forces underlying the subsequent generation of Round Wheel Ideas for Improvement. The gap between the impact of the SWs provides motivation to decrease dissonance and improve the idea.

The controversy exists between our use of the old line-art drawings by Roy Sabean and the newer LEGO scenes, as you can see below:

Square Wheels metaphor for organizational improvement

We did a short online survey of users and the reactions were split as to which image was preferred. We asked our LinkedIn network as to their reactions and the feedback was also split. Some people prefer the old image and some prefer the new one, and there are a number of factors that underly this split.

People who prefer hands-on kinds of experiential exercises might prefer the LEGO, since they can bring the metaphor into connection with other elements or frameworks like LEGO Serious Play®. Others prefer the line art for its elegant simplicity. Other people’s reactions are mixed.

I do not think that there would be actual differences in application and usages, which can include facilitating innovation and creativity, aligning goals and values, generating active involvement and for coaching workplace improvements. We have extensive experience with both and they work seamlessly.

Facilitating discussions of issues and opportunities can also function as a team bonding or even a team building process if one then uses the discussions as an impetus for planning and then implementing new ideas.

The LEGO versions make generating stop-motion animations an easy and interesting process and we have a workshop design to use phones and inexpensive animation software to capture storylines around process improvement. The LEGO scenes make for more colorful posters and worksheets.

We would love to have your comments on the different approaches and we will send you one of our LEGO animations in exchange for a comment and signing up to our blog. Your input would be valuable and useful,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement products. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who designs simple, powerful learning tools.

See the powerful new Square Wheels-based teambuilding game,
The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO® Group®

Square Wheels metaphor about performance improvement

Also published on Medium.


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  1. Mike R

    I think I still prefer the old style but honestly have not tried the LEGO slides with a team (don’t have any of those slides)

    Looks like fun. Did you see LEGO promises their pieces will be 100% renewables in a decade

    • Thanks, Mike. There ARE a lot of issues around the two designs and there seem to be no easy answers. Technically, the line-art might be better because of the detail and design but the LEGO ones really do allow a lot more flexibility for use by us in packaging and for the purchaser if they desire to combine it with other LEGO tools and pieces. There are a lot of good designs for that.

      As to “renewable,” I wonder about the long-term impacts on the earth from continued production. It seems that they are not really popular in South America and they are gaining popularity in China (which has a lot of companies manufacturing blocks that are compatible with the ones produced in Denmark). As the production continues, the skewed distribution and the reality that nobody ever throws a LEGO piece away may start to shift the spinning of the earth as the weight of the blocks increases in many places yet South American continues not to have such distribution.

      Eventually, the weight of the blocks might cause off-axis spinning of the Earth, and may cause some orbital or alignment issues, changing climates or maybe causing the Earth to change its orbit around the Sun.

      Scary stuff to consider, actually…

      Ya think?

  2. Scott – I really don’t have any deep convictions about this as yet having no experience to base an opinion on. On a superficial level, the Lego appeals more to my eye and imagination. That’s my ha’penny’s worth.

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