LEGO: Tool or toy? You decide.
Do you remember sitting on the floor, painstakingly perfecting your dream house of bricks? Or maybe meticulously meditating over each line of the instruction booklet? Either way, you probably have some kind of memory with LEGO bricks, even if it’s stepping on one with no socks (or with socks, for that matter).
The brand is known worldwide for its bright, primary yellow and red colors, and bubble-style font. This might be why LEGO is seen to many as just a ‘toy.’ But, is LEGO also a tool?
How LEGO became the toy of the century (twice).
So, where did it all start? From the mind (and hands) of Ole Kirk Christiansen.
- Ole Kirk Christiansen began building houses in Denmark during the summer and furniture in the winter.
- When that didn’t catch on, he looked to producing wooden toys.
- Sadly, his workshop burned down in 1924.
- Less than 10 years later, the new shop was struck by lightning. Perhaps a stroke of bad luck?
- LEGO was officially founded in 1932.
- But then, more bad luck: a short circuit was the cause when fire struck again during World War II.
- And in 1960. You guessed it. It burned down a final time.
Luckily, LEGO was already producing plastic toys by that point. (In their shoes I would have called it a day!)
The unique idea behind these plastic bricks came from a team of designers and engineers and involves connecting blocks set out in a ‘toy system.’ The toy system makes it so that no matter which ones you have or how many you have, all the bricks fit together. The more you have, the more you can build.
It’s just a toy, right?
For a child, LEGO has obvious benefits. It teaches problem solving as kids work through instructions; math through the symmetry and patterns; and certainly patience and concentration. It also teaches creativity and the joys of experimentation through simply, well, playing and making something not so perfect.
There are LEGO sets you would expect to be over the head of the average 5-year-old, like Architect Colosseum with over 9,000 pieces and no minifigures. Or the Friends Central Perk scene (the phrase ‘Pivot!’ may be lost on them). Insiders know what I’m talking about. I have this set, it’s great. The bricks are also seen in the art world, with contemporary artists such as Nathan Sawaya creating impressive, life-like sculptures out of LEGO.
There is a market for LEGO for all ages, and its benefits for children are clear. But can it still teach us skills as adults?
LEGO in the board room: the value of play at work
Page Moreau, Professor of Marketing at Wisconsin School of Business, researched how to get more creativity into businesses. Through ‘free building’ (no making that orange chesterfield for Rachel to spill coffee on, sorry), we can actually greatly improve our abstract thinking. Imagine the benefits.
LEGO Serious Play (LSP) is a training and certification program where you can learn how to apply LEGO to any type of business situation, such as meetings and brainstorming sessions. So, you can get a certificate to go on your CV that says ‘I know how to play with LEGO’, I hear you ask? It’s a bit more complex than that. The program is run by instructors with over 30 years of experience in adult education and the pedagogy of play. But to put it simply, yes!
The next time you and the team sit down together to discuss how to approach those hard-hitting business questions like how to develop new revenue streams or engage a completely new audience, make sure to remember your pen, paper, and a box of LEGO bricks. Then see how the creative ideas start flowing.
In the past, creative agencies have been known for their ping pong tables, popcorn makers, and video games. But at outré creative, all we need are LEGO bricks to get the creative juices flowing. And PS, we’re happy to join your brainstorm any time.
As for me, my Friends LEGO set is proudly on display at home. Joey is enjoying an entire pizza all to himself.