What Makes a Duck a Duck? A playful Introduction to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

There is an old saying which is often used as a rational argument in philosophy against diffuse thinking and armchair philosophising and relates to… ducks. The basic structure goes: If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck then it must be a duck. The argument was most eloquently (and slyly) epitomised by Douglas Adams in his book “Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency” as:

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.

An argument most often used in favour of realism, in Douglas Adams’ version becomes a parody by retaining a well-nurtured hint of scepticism. And when it comes to using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology (hereinafter LSP Methodology) to explore issues of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) clearly a duck sometimes is much more (and much less) than a duck. Especially a duck made of LEGO bricks…

And so it was with LEGO bricks and using the fundamental principles of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology that our 30+ business academics were busily building ducks in our Professional Development Workshop, which was part of this year’s Chartered ABS Learning, Teaching & Student Experience conference. And their ducks were built for a noble cause: to demonstrate the complexities of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Our PDW was only a teaser, of a trailer, of a series of actual workshops on EDI that we are running this year (courtesy of the Chartered ABS Scholarship we received in December 2018), but we hope it provided food for thought. With a focus on the interplay between diversity and equality we used a metaphor of a LEGO-based duck to problematise the boundaries between the two concepts.

As a first step our participants were asked to create ducks using seven yellow LEGO bricks (a very old LSP methodology warm up exercise) and to identify what makes them all equal members of the yellow LEGO duck-verse. Then they were asked to create ducks using random LEGO pieces, creating a plethora of fascinating, diverse ducks as shown in the picture above. And the question posed was, how diverse could a LEGO duck be before it ceases to be a recognisable LEGO Duck in the LEGO Duck-verse?

The essence behind the question is not frivolous nor fickle, even if it is playfully presented. If we are to fully embed Equality, Diversity and Inclusion ideas in our learning and teaching it would impact the way we manage the classroom, set assessments, or develop the curriculum. The Chartered Association of Business Schools is fully aware of the importance of EDI for Business Schools, but its importance in business schools has far superseded its implementation. Chartered ABS has already documented that there is insufficient embeddedness of EDI concepts and issues in the educational curriculum of the business schools (Perriton & Elliot, 2018). But to do so means that business academics would need to be brave and face the controversies and sensitivities surrounding these concepts.

Our workshops scheduled for the Autumn of 2019 aim to use the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology as a non-intrusive and safe way to facilitate clarity, understanding and the tackling of the complexities underlying the embeddedness of EDI in learning, teaching and curriculum.

Practically, we have designed and planned to deliver three workshops in London, Bedford and Kent to engage business school academics, professional service staff of business schools as well as the wider business school community to engage and reflect on EDI issues while building beautiful and elaborate LEGO structures.

If interested to join us for our workshops in Autumn 2019, do not hesitate to contact us for more details.


Dr. Alexander K. Kofinas is an accredited LSP methodology facilitator and part of a research team of academics together with Dr. Crystal Tsay, Dr. Christina Scwabenland, & Dr. Anna Romanova. The team is currently using LSP Methodology to explore issues of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. The Team has been running a number of workshops hosted by University of Bedfordshire and University of Greenwich that will be the actual workshop (and not the trailer of the teaser of a workshop!) on EDI.