Downtown Start-Up Shows Adults (and Kids) How to Lego and Learn

Susan Chiasson, Ph.D. sometimes describes her practice as the “anti-ropes course of teambuilding” to help people understand what she can do for them. She recently moved her start-up business, Powered by Play, to Union Worx Coworking in Downtown Arlington, and she loves it.

“I’m surprised by how much I enjoy it,” said Susan. “I’ve worked from home for years, so really, I initially joined for access to conference rooms. But now I take advantage of all the benefits. The space itself is great -- so open, uncluttered and well-designed -- that I can focus and not be distracted. I get more done in a shorter amount of time. Plus I have people to talk to. Sometimes it’s just social chitchat, but oftentimes we have substantive conversations about things like technology and marketing so I get new ideas. Plus COFFEE.”

Powered by coffee and collaboration, Susan enjoys the “personal stretching” of running her own business and is passionate about her results-oriented methodology.

Driven by Discovery, Powered by Play

“Powered by Play uses play, including building with Legos®, to help people make sense of and do something about their messy problems,” said Susan. As a certified Trained Facilitator of Lego® Serious Play®, Susan works with both individuals and groups. Typically, clients come to her with a specific issue or concern and often after trying more conventional approaches to problem-solving.

What might sound like a light-hearted exercise is rooted in proven strategies. Susan, who earned her Ph.D. from UT Arlington’s then School of Urban and Public Affairs, is a social science researcher with years of experience. Always on the lookout for new methods to help people work through problems, she discovered Lego® Serious Play® and was trained in its use in 2014. She launched Powered by Play two years later. So while she doesn’t work for Lego®, she is thoroughly convinced of the toy’s potential.

Leaning on LSP® pedagogy plus her own proven research, Susan designs workshops on money and career transition for individuals; burnout, teamwork, planning and decision-making for teams; and social/emotional intelligence for kids. Unlike her competitors, however, she doesn’t conduct interviews and focus groups to generate a top-down report because she believes that, in the end, the client is the expert on how to solve their own problems. In that way, she’s an “anti-expert.”

“I believe strongly that, when you’re facing uncertain and ambiguous situations and issues, you are the expert -- if you can get everyone talking about their ideas and insights in a productive way,” said Susan. “Time and time again, people are surprised with what they themselves know and can do to make sense of whatever issue brought them to me in the first place. Plus, it’s actually super-efficient.”

Start up and Go

Powered by Play is catching on. Susan has worked with a diverse group of clients including NAMI, MHMR of Tarrant County, the Trailhead at Clearfork, the Fort Worth Zoo, Baylor Women’s Acrobatics and Tumbling Team, Brite Seminary, and Galileo Christian Church.

Still, starting a business is a huge undertaking. What’s Susan’s advice to future entrepreneurs? “Persevere through the fear,” she said. “There are lots of scary moments, not all related to money, in starting a business — the big one being, “Will people like it and think it’s useful?’ You gotta keep going, and you have to think in terms of years, not a year. What helps me persevere is my belief that using play in a structured way helps people make sense of their world and feel more in charge of their lives. When people say ‘I didn’t know I knew that,’ it’s the best feeling.”

Get Out and Play: In Downtown

As we wrapped up our chat with Susan, we asked her one final question: “If someone was visiting Downtown Arlington for the first time, what would you tell them to do?”

“This is the hardest question OF ALL,” Susan replied, “because there are so many places I like to hang out in Downtown! Sugar Bee’s for coffee and pastry. Urban Alchemy for a glass of wine in the afternoon. My husband is keen for lunch at Tipsy Oak. If I start listing places for a good beer -- like Legal Draft, Kool Keg, or Division Brewing -- I’m afraid I’ll overlook one. Plus, the NEW LIBRARY. I’ve lived in Arlington for 35 years, and Downtown has never been more fun.”

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About Downtown Arlington

Designated by the State of Texas as the Arlington Cultural District, Downtown Arlington blends a unique mix of activities, sights, tastes and sounds that attract visitors and locals alike. Within its less than a two-mile radius, Downtown is home to a top tier public research university, prolific fine and performing artists and arts institutions, live entertainment, exciting NCAA and professional athletics, one-of-a-kind dining and retail, and a supportive business climate.