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How Lego Changed Brave Soles

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Recently, Brave Soles had our first official team building workshop - in our tire production centre around a big table and sitting on benches. We also had a surprise visitor show up: Lego.


It was a pure joy to experience.


When Carol Vickers, our team culture coach, first suggested using Lego, I have to admit that I was hesitant. Looking back now, I realize that it was the perfect way to start a conversation with our team.


I had told our sole production team that we would be taking the afternoon off to do some learning. They were hesitant and smiled politely as I told them to keep an open mind. I had no idea that it wouldn’t just be them who would be impacted by what we did. In fact, I was amazed at what happened.


But first, to fully appreciate our experience, you have to be able to understand why we chose Lego.


The large majority of our tire production team comes from backgrounds that would be hard to imagine. From former child slaves to political refugees, our team has a very different life experience than many of us.


But the one thing we discovered that we have in common is the pull to nurture our imagination and relationships.


When the lego bags were emptied onto the large table, there was a stunned silence for about 2 seconds. But then, everyone erupted in raucous laughter, eagerly reaching for the bright, enticing little blocks, bobbles, and lego accessories. Faces were transformed into playful smiles as they dug into the mountain of Lego.


In fact, people even moved closer together, laughing with delight at what each other was creating as they relaxed into a state of comradery and connection.


As Carol guided us through a series of questions that we answered via our colourful creations, I had the opportunity to observe how each team member interacted with the invitation to invent with the Lego. I wanted to better understand what they connected with and why.


In a short amount of time, I learned a lot about our team and how they see the world.


For example, I learned that Alfredo, one of our raw tire cutters, loves anything he is working on to be neat and tidy, symmetrical and to have meaning behind it.


I learned that Luisa truly loves to make things beautiful and when she is cleaning up our workspace, it gives her a sense of accomplishment and meaning.


I learned that Ysmael never had the opportunity to play with toys as a child and that this opportunity drew him out in interesting ways and sparked his imagination.


I also learned from our team that being able to create things with meaning gives them a sense of pride and a desire to teach their children about what they do. They now talk to their children and family about why it’s important to consider our footprints on the earth and to be mindful about how we consume and create.


Bernard, our original tire wizard, shared with us that he wished his grandfather was alive to see the impact his tire knowledge is having on our work - and that his memory is living on in the shoes we ship all over the world.


It simply felt good to realize that we are building something together.       

Our afternoon started with Legos and ended with a round of beers for everyone, but it taught me so much more about the importance of what it means to build something together.


We are all giving clues to those around us as to how we feel about our lives and our place in the world. However, sometimes we also need the chance to share it with others.


Diversity is about so much more than language or race; it’s also about learning where our shared life experiences can intersect and grow together. Diversity is about you and me being willing to consider asking ourselves what we can learn from someone else - no matter where we have each come from in life.


Building Brave Soles has taken on so many crazy twists and turns. There have been many days when we have experienced the full spectrum of human emotions as we forge on with figuring out how to do better.


We started with virtually nothing but an inspiration and $250. I have learned to never underestimate the value of an idea that takes root in your heart. The people with whom you work with and serve are also what can give that idea meaning and wings.


On June 7th, we will celebrate our two year anniversary. We have learned many difficult lessons over these past two years in the journey of launching a social venture.


However, moments like these remind me that it’s always worth it when you can build a legacy for people to connect with and find their own story of meaning, too.


Thanks for being part of our reason why we do what we do.

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