LEGO bricks can be assembled into blocky representations of almost anything!
The concept of LEGO pieces is brilliant. In the latest iteration, the company uses computer technology to transform any image into a structure that can be assembled from LEGO pieces, based on a design submitted by a customer. The only condition is that the final assembly still looks like it is built from blocks. That is a powerful way for the company to live and demonstrate its brand in every aspect of how it communicates with consumers.

How can LEGO blocks be a powerful business tool? The pieces are small, simple and mostly rectangular. They are immensely versatile and can be assembled into blocky representations of almost anything. Just as doodling in 2 dimensions can result in simple visual representations of new ideas, playing with LEGO pieces can achieve tangible, 3-D approximations of a new product idea.

LEGO-based Team Exercise

Here’s a fun way to use LEGOs to improve alignment, communication, and creativity within your product development team. For this exercise, divide your team into 2 groups:

  • the “engineers”, those responsible for the technical aspects, and
  • the “marketers”, who focus on business issues.

Give the engineers a photo of an airplane made with LEGOs. Give the marketers a photo of a boat, also made with LEGOs. Each group is not to see what photo the other group is looking at. Finally, give each group exactly 7 minutes to write instructions which the other group will use to assemble what is in their photo.

Based on the instructions from the engineers, the marketers will try to assemble an airplane, without seeing the photo. Likewise, the engineers will try to assemble a boat, also based solely on the marketers‘ instructions. Give each team 7 minutes and a large bag of LEGO pieces to do the assembly.  But do not tell the teams that some key pieces are, in fact, missing from their bags. Using only what they are given, the teams cannot complete their tasks.

Observe how they proceed and debrief afterward. What was their experience? How effective were the instructions? Did the engineers and marketers differ in the way they wrote and interpreted instructions? How did they react when they discovered that pieces were missing? The resulting awareness can highlight opportunities for improvement for everyone.

Categories: Insight

Po Chi Wu

Visiting Professor in the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley, and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Business and Management at The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology. A highly successful international venture capitalist and entrepreneur, he has lived and worked both in the United States and in Asia, and brings a unique perspective and the rich context of more than 30 years of experience and insight into the challenges of innovation and entrepreneurship.

1 Comment

What can we learn about creativity from pipe cleaners? | Advantary · May 14, 2018 at 9:07 am

[…] we believe in learning from playing with ordinary objects. I’ve written recently about improving creativity using LEGO pieces. But pipe cleaners can also be very useful for exploring […]

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