The fun at work blog series continues as we shine the spotlight on our collaborator Jenny Theolin. Here, Independent Learning Consultant Jenny provides some unmissable insights, tips and tools for raising engagement levels and facilitating fun in the workplace, as well as her valuable learnings as former MA Programme Leader at Hyper Island. Follow the fun-fest below.

What’s your experience with facilitating play

Having facilitated play with teams of six to 330, I’ve done everything from Lego challenges, using marshmallows and ball pits to incorporating music and dance, and even a crocodile or two! I’ve also run hybrid energisers for groups of up to 60, and live ones with up to a staggering 1400 attendees.

My experience in facilitating such diverse groups has taught me how to create an engaging and exciting environment that motivates participants to be their best.

Facilitating in a ballpit

Facilitating in a ball pit with Santa Maria and Rider.

“Whether it’s a small team or a large audience, I always aim to use my energy and tools to captivate and inspire.”


How do you create a fun environment?

Let’s face it, group discussions and workshops can sometimes be a bit of a snooze-fest.

But as an expert in facilitating these events, I’ve found a great way to keep things lively: mirroring energy.

People tend to mirror the behaviour of those around them. So, if I want my audience to be pumped up and engaged, I have to set the expected levels of enthusiasm and energy. Basically, if I’m bouncing off the walls with excitement, my participants are more likely to follow suit. And it’s not just about setting an example – it creates a positive feedback loop where my energy inspires and motivates them to participate more actively.

So, if you’re leading a group discussion or workshop, don’t be afraid to be a little extra. Get excited, be engaged, and live in the moment.

“By being a mirror of the energy you want to see, you’ll create a positive and dynamic environment that everyone will enjoy. Trust me, it works like a charm.”


Next up is empathy. A powerful tool for engaging people because it allows us to connect with people on a deeper level, build trust and rapport, and create a more inclusive and supportive environment.

If you want to create a fun work environment, start by actively listening to others. Pay attention, use non-verbal cues, paraphrase, ask open-ended questions, and validate feelings. By doing so, you can build empathy, foster relationships, and create a supportive and inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive.

Mindset Methods Magic

Mindset, Methods, Magic Talk at London Metropolitan University feat. my Feelings Frog

Thirdly, underpinning play with research can help convince sceptics who may view play as frivolous or unproductive. By citing research that supports the benefits of play-based activities, such as increased creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving skills, it becomes easier to justify the use of unconventional methods like marshmallows, ball pits, and even crocodiles in facilitating team building and learning experiences.

“By using research to support the effectiveness of these playful approaches, sceptics are more likely to be convinced of their value and embrace them as a way to improve team performance and engagement.”


What is serious play and why is it useful?

Serious Play isn’t just a fancy buzzword, it’s an actual thing that can benefit your workplace in many ways. If you’re not incorporating playful activities and exercises into your work, you’re missing out on some serious benefits.

Lego Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that uses Lego bricks and other tools to encourage creative thinking and problem-solving in groups. It was developed by the Lego Group in collaboration with organisational development experts in the late 1990s and has since been used by organisations around the world.

The process involves participants building 3D models using Lego bricks to represent their thoughts, ideas, and perspectives on a given topic or problem. Through a series of facilitated discussions and activities, participants share their models and insights, leading to a deeper understanding of the problem and potential solutions.

Lego Challenge with Fatshark Games

Lego Challenge with Fatshark Games

The Lego Serious Play methodology is designed to engage participants in a hands-on, experiential learning process that encourages collaboration, communication, and creativity. It has been used for a variety of purposes, including team-building, strategic planning, innovation, and problem-solving.

“Why wouldn’t you want to improve creativity, collaboration, problem-solving and employee well-being? It’s a no-brainer.”


And if you’re worried about it being too frivolous or not serious enough, remember that Serious Play is intentionally designed to have a practical purpose.

What are your biggest learnings from your time as MA Programme Lead at Hyper Island?

MA Digital Management | London

Photo by Joe Sarah

I played a leading role in Hyper Island’s part-time MA Digital Management programme. Launching it in Stockholm was a proud moment. My role was to help design an engaging curriculum and facilitated the student’s learning experience, including sourcing speakers and workshop leaders, creating live briefs with businesses, and supporting student progress through group development sessions and reflection.


Some of my main learnings:

Tools are only as effective as how we use them

In our modern work environment, we have access to an incredible array of tools and technologies to help us do our jobs more efficiently and effectively. However, while these tools can certainly be helpful, it’s important to remember that they are just tools. The real value of our work lies not in the tools we use, but in how we use them. After spending three years deeply working with Hyper Island’s toolbox, I started Toolbox Toolbox to illustrate how many more ways there are to do things!

From group to team

Susan Wheelan’s ‘Integrated Model of Group Development’ (IMGD) is a framework that describes the stages of group development, the tasks and behaviours associated with each stage, and the leadership interventions that are most effective in each stage. It’s become a widely recognised and influential model for understanding group dynamics and has been used to guide the development of teams in a wide range of contexts.

As a leader, learning about the IMDG has been incredibly valuable in helping me understand how to support and guide teams through the various stages of group development. It’s given me a greater awareness of the complex dynamics at play within any group or team.

Coaching at Product Design Meetup in Belgium


I’ve found my inner giraffe

Designing and facilitating feedback and reflection sessions have provided me with the chance to really practise empathy.

“Having empathy has not only made me a better leader but also a better person, as I’ve been able to cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation for the experiences and emotions of those around me.”


Marshall Rosenberg’s’ Non-Violent Communication’ has been a huge influence and is now part of my expert subject areas. Marshall uses the terms “jackal” and “giraffe” to represent two different modes of communication. Jackal language is critical, judgmental, and aggressive, while giraffe language is compassionate, curious, and empathetic. It’s a giraffe because of the long neck to see the bigger picture, and it also has the biggest heart of mammals.

Why should someone consider a master’s programme at Hyper Island?

Embarking on a part-time master’s degree alongside work presents an excellent chance to put newly gained knowledge and skills into immediate practice, forming a beneficial feedback loop that reinforces learning and improves its retention. The combination of theoretical learning and practical application results in enhanced critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and decision-making skills. This opportunity also facilitates the exploration of new career avenues and progression in current professions while learning to apply new skills in real-time, which ultimately leads to a more satisfying and rewarding career.

The fun at work investigation continues

In the third and final instalment of this fun at work blog series, we’ll hear from different voices who are looking to change the engagement game at their organisations. We’ll also explore the fun titles that have been created specifically to boost enjoyment in the workplace! Stay tuned.


Follow Jenny’s journey
Jenny Theolin brings a different kind of perspective to the learning industry. With nearly two decades of experience in the design field and a unique background of living all over the world, Jenny combines her creative skills and diverse perspectives to create impactful and memorable learning experiences.

Check out Jenny’s website
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Article updated on: 11 March 2024