Tag Archives: Lego

LEGO Knows Why Companies Don’t Innovate

LEGO Knows Why Companies Don't Innovate

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“Lego’s Latest Effort to Avoid Oil-Based Plastic Hits Brick Wall” – WSJ

“Lego axes plans to make bricks from recycled bottles” – BBC

“Lego ditches oil-free brick in sustainability setback” – The Financial Times

Recently, LEGO found itself doing the Walk of Atonement (see video below) after announcing to The Financial Times that it was scrapping plans to make bricks from recycled bottles, and media outlets from The Wall Street Journal to Fast Company to WIRED were more than happy to play the Shame Nun.

And it wasn’t just media outlets ringing the Shame Bell:

  • In the future, they should not make these kinds of announcements (prototype made from recyclable plastic) until they actually do it,” Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics
  • They are not going to survive as an organization if they don’t find a solution,” Paolo Taticchi, corporate sustainability expert at University College London.
  • “Lego undoubtedly had good intentions, but if you’re going to to (sic) announce a major environmental initiative like this—one that affects the core of your company—good intentions aren’t enough. And in this instance, it can even undermine progress.” Jesus Diaz, creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, writing forFast Company

As a LEGO lover, I am not unbiased, but WOW, the amount of hypocritical, self-righteous judgment is astounding!  All these publications and pundits espouse the need for innovation, yet when a company falls even the tiniest bit short of aspirations, it’s just SHAME (clang) SHAME (clang) SHAME.

LEGO Atlantis 8073 Manta Warrior (i.e., tiny) bit of context

In 1946, LEGO founder Ole Kirk Christiansen purchased Denmark’s first plastic injection molding machine.  Today, 95% of the company’s 4,400 different bricks are made using acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), a plastic that requires 4.4 pounds of oil to produce 2.2 pounds of brick.  Admittedly, it’s not a great ratio, and it gets worse.  The material isn’t biodegradable or easily recyclable, so when the 3% of bricks not handed down to the next generation end up in a landfill, they’ll break down into highly polluting microplastics.

With this context, it’s easy to understand why LEGO’s 2018 announcement that it will move to all non-plastic or recycled materials by 2030 and reduce its carbon emissions by 37% (from 2019’s 1.2 million tons) by 2032 was such big news.

Three years later, in 2021, LEGO announced that its prototype bricks made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles offered a promising alternative to its oil-based plastic bricks. 

But last Monday, after two years of testing, the company shared that what was promising as a prototype isn’t possible at scale because the process required to produce PET-based bricks actually increases carbon emissions.


LEGO Art World Map (i.e. massive) amount of praise for LEGO

LEGO is doing everything that innovation theorists, consultants, and practitioners recommend:

  • Setting a clear vision and measurable goals so that people know what the priorities are (reduce carbon emissions), why they’re important (“playing our part in building a sustainable future and creating a better world for our children to inherit”), and the magnitude of change required
  • Defining what is on and off the table in terms of innovation, specifically that they are not willing to compromise the quality, durability, or “clutch power” of bricks to improve sustainability
  • Developing a portfolio of bets that includes new materials for products and packaging, new services to keep bricks out of landfills and in kids’ hands, new building and production processes, and active partnerships with suppliers to reduce their climate footprint
  • Prototyping and learning before committing to scale because what is possible at a prototype level is different than what’s possible at pilot, which is different from what’s possible at scale.
  • Focusing on the big picture and the long-term by not going for the near-term myopic win of declaring “we’re making bricks from more sustainable materials” and instead deciding “not to progress” with something that, when taken as a whole process, moves the company further away from its 2032 goal.

Just one minifig’s opinion

If we want companies to innovate (and we do), shaming them for falling short of perfection is the absolute wrong way to do it.

Is it disappointing that something that seemed promising didn’t work out?  Of course.  But it’s just one of many avenues and experiments being pursued.  This project ended, but the pursuit of the goal hasn’t.

Is 2 years a long time to figure out that you can’t scale a prototype and still meet your goals?  Maybe.  But, then again, it took P&G 10 years to figure out how to develop and scale a perforation that improved one-handed toilet paper tearing.

Should LEGO have kept all its efforts and success a secret until everything was perfect and ready to launch?  Absolutely not.  Sharing its goals and priorities, experiments and results, learnings and decisions shows employees, partners, and other companies what it means to innovate and lead.

Is LEGO perfect? No.

Is it trying to be better? Yes.

Isn’t that what we want?

Image Credit: Pixabay

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The Future of Collaboration in Innovation

Trends and Opportunities

The Future of Collaboration in Innovation

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

In today’s rapidly changing world, innovation has become a key driver of success for businesses across all industries. However, the traditional model of innovation, where organizations rely solely on internal resources and expertise, is no longer sufficient. In order to stay ahead of the competition and drive impactful change, businesses must embrace collaboration as a fundamental aspect of their innovation strategy.

Collaboration in innovation involves working with external partners, such as other companies, research organizations, startups, and even customers, to share knowledge, expertise, and resources. By tapping into the collective brainpower of a diverse group of stakeholders, businesses can access new ideas, perspectives, and capabilities that can fuel their innovation efforts.

One of the key trends shaping the future of collaboration in innovation is the rise of open innovation platforms. These platforms, such as InnoCentive and NineSigma, provide a space where organizations can crowdsource solutions to their most pressing challenges by tapping into a global network of innovators. By leveraging these platforms, businesses can access a vast pool of talent and expertise that can help them solve complex problems and drive breakthrough innovation.

Another trend driving collaboration in innovation is the shift towards ecosystem-based innovation. Instead of relying solely on their internal resources, businesses are now looking to build ecosystems of partners, suppliers, and customers to co-create value and drive innovation. For example, companies like Procter & Gamble have successfully leveraged their open innovation ecosystem, Connect + Develop, to source new product ideas and technologies from external partners.

In order to illustrate the power of collaboration in innovation, let’s examine two case studies of companies that have successfully embraced this approach.

Case Study 1: LEGO

LEGO, the iconic toy company known for its colorful building blocks, has long been a pioneer in collaboration in innovation. In recent years, LEGO has partnered with a diverse range of external stakeholders, including customers, researchers, and even Hollywood studios, to drive innovation and create new products.

One of LEGO’s most successful collaborations has been with the online community LEGO Ideas. Through this platform, fans of the brand can submit their own ideas for new LEGO sets, which are then voted on by the community. If an idea receives enough votes, LEGO will work with the creator to turn it into a new product, sharing royalties with the original designer. This collaborative approach has not only led to the creation of popular sets like the LEGO Ideas Saturn V rocket but has also helped LEGO tap into the creativity and passion of its most dedicated fans.

Case Study 2: GE

General Electric (GE), a multinational conglomerate known for its diverse portfolio of products and services, has also embraced collaboration as a core part of its innovation strategy. In recent years, GE has partnered with startups, universities, and other companies to drive innovation in areas such as advanced manufacturing, energy, and healthcare.

One notable collaboration is GE’s partnership with the software company Quirky. Through this partnership, GE has leveraged Quirky’s online platform to crowdsource new product ideas from aspiring inventors. GE then works with the inventors to bring these ideas to market, helping them navigate the complexities of product development and distribution. This collaborative approach has not only resulted in the creation of innovative products like the Aros smart air conditioner but has also helped GE tap into new sources of creativity and innovation.


Collaboration in innovation is key to driving meaningful change and staying competitive in today’s fast-paced business environment. By embracing open innovation platforms, building ecosystems of partners, and collaborating with external stakeholders, businesses can access new ideas, perspectives, and capabilities that can fuel their innovation efforts. The future of collaboration in innovation is bright, filled with exciting opportunities for businesses to drive impactful change and create value for their customers.

SPECIAL BONUS: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: Unsplash

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The Benefits and Challenges of Open Innovation

The Benefits and Challenges of Open Innovation

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

Innovation has always been the lifeblood of successful organizations. It fuels growth, promotes competitiveness, and drives industry disruption. Traditionally, innovation was conducted within the boundaries of individual organizations, with internal R&D teams tirelessly working behind closed doors to develop new products or services. However, the rise of open innovation has revolutionized this approach, allowing companies to tap into external sources of knowledge, ideas, and expertise. By embracing collaboration with external partners – such as customers, suppliers, startups, and even competitors – organizations can magnify the potential for groundbreaking innovations. Nonetheless, this new paradigm comes with its own set of challenges. In this article, we will explore the benefits and challenges of open innovation through two illustrative case studies.

Case Study 1: Procter & Gamble’s Connect + Develop Program

Procter & Gamble (P&G) is renowned for its strategic implementation of open innovation. In 2000, the company realized that its internal R&D efforts were not generating sufficient breakthrough innovations. Instead of solely relying on its own resources, P&G decided to embrace external collaboration. Through its Connect + Develop program, P&G reached out to external partners including universities, entrepreneurs, and small to medium-sized companies. P&G provided them with a platform to submit innovative ideas and solutions. By doing so, P&G successfully tapped into a vast network of external expertise, expanding its innovation ecosystem. This ended up playing a vital role in the development and launch of successful products like Swiffer and Olay Regenerist.

The benefits of P&G’s open innovation approach were manifold. First, it significantly reduced the time and cost associated with the development of new products. Second, it allowed P&G to access a wider range of expertise and knowledge, effectively leveraging external perspectives that may not have been present within the organization. Third, it helped foster a culture of innovation both internally and externally, as P&G became known for its willingness to approach innovation with an open mindset.

However, open innovation also posed several challenges for P&G. One of the biggest was the need to manage intellectual property. When collaborating with external partners, P&G had to strike a balance between sharing enough information to enable collaboration while protecting its valuable proprietary knowledge. Establishing trust with external partners was also crucial, as it required a level of transparency and mutual understanding to forge successful collaborations.

Case Study 2: LEGO’s LEGO Ideas Platform

LEGO, the iconic Danish toy company, successfully harnessed open innovation through its LEGO Ideas platform. Launched in 2008 as LEGO Cuusoo, the platform allows LEGO fans and enthusiasts to submit their own designs for potential LEGO sets. Once submitted, the designs are available for public voting. If a design receives 10,000 votes, it goes through an official review process by LEGO’s design team, and if selected, the design becomes an official LEGO set sold worldwide. This open innovation approach not only engages LEGO’s passionate fan base but also acts as a novel source of innovative product ideas.

The benefits of LEGO’s open innovation approach with LEGO Ideas are evident. It provides a direct connection with customers and empowers them to contribute to product development. This not only improves customer satisfaction but also increases brand loyalty. Moreover, the platform acts as a crowdsourcing tool, amplifying the diversity of ideas and creativity beyond what LEGO’s internal teams could generate alone. Furthermore, the LEGO Ideas platform enables LEGO to gain insights into emerging trends and customer preferences.

Despite its success, LEGO faced challenges in managing the volume of submissions and ensuring the profitability of the resulting sets. Additionally, balancing customer desires, brand consistency, and manufacturing feasibility required thoughtful curation and selection processes to determine which ideas would be pursued.


Open innovation offers numerous advantages to organizations seeking to enhance their innovation capabilities. These benefits can range from better utilization of external expertise and reduced time-to-market to increased customer engagement and differentiation. However, companies embarking on open innovation journeys must navigate potential challenges around the protection of intellectual property, establishing trust with external partners, managing a large volume of submissions, and curating the best ideas. Overall, as exemplified by Procter & Gamble and LEGO, organizations that embrace open innovation strategically and overcome these challenges can unlock tremendous potential and gain a competitive edge in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape.

Bottom line: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: misterinnovation.com

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The Role of Open Innovation in Nurturing Creativity

The Role of Open Innovation in Nurturing Creativity

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

In today’s fast-paced and competitive world, fostering creativity and innovation has become a top priority for organizations seeking to stay ahead of the curve. Open innovation, a paradigm that emphasizes collaboration and knowledge sharing beyond the boundaries of a company, has emerged as a powerful tool in nurturing and fueling creativity. This article will explore the role of open innovation in fostering creativity and provide two case study examples highlighting its impact.

Open innovation breaks down the traditional barriers and silos that often hinder creativity within organizations. By opening up the innovation process to external partners, customers, and even the general public, companies are able to tap into a diverse range of perspectives and ideas that can spark creativity. This collaborative approach enables the pooling of resources, expertise, and insights, ultimately driving the development of novel and groundbreaking solutions.

Case Study 1 – Lego Ideas

One notable example of open innovation’s role in nurturing creativity is the LEGO Group. Facing tough market competition and declining sales during the early 2000s, LEGO embraced open innovation to revitalize its brand and reignite creativity. The LEGO Ideas platform was launched, allowing fans and enthusiasts to submit their own designs for potential LEGO sets. Users could vote for their favorite designs, and the ones receiving enough support would be considered for production. This open approach not only engaged customers more deeply but also provided a constant stream of new ideas for LEGO to leverage. The result was a resurgence in creativity, with sets like the LEGO Ideas Exo Suit and LEGO Ideas Saturn V becoming highly popular. This open innovation not only reinvigorated the brand but also significantly expanded the creative possibilities in the LEGO universe.

Case Study 2 – Microsoft Garage

Another compelling case study highlighting the impact of open innovation on creativity is the software giant Microsoft. In a bid to encourage innovation through open collaboration, Microsoft launched the Microsoft Garage initiative in 2009. The Garage encourages employees from different departments to collaborate on side projects and experiment with innovative ideas. Through this open innovation platform, employees are provided with time, resources, and a supportive environment to explore new concepts and technologies. One notable success story from Microsoft Garage is the development of the Microsoft HoloLens, a groundbreaking augmented reality device. Initially a side project of a few employees, the HoloLens gained significant traction within the company and ultimately became a flagship product, revolutionizing industries like healthcare, gaming, and architecture. The open innovation culture fostered by Microsoft Garage nurtures creativity within the company, leading to groundbreaking products that have a profound impact on the industry.


Open innovation’s role in nurturing creativity goes beyond specific case studies. By embracing collaboration, knowledge sharing, and external input, organizations can create an environment where new ideas thrive. Through platforms like crowdsourcing, innovation challenges, and co-creation initiatives, companies can tap into the collective wisdom and creativity of a diverse range of stakeholders. Such open approaches to innovation foster a culture of creativity and enable organizations to continuously adapt, evolve, and stay ahead of the competition in a rapidly changing world.

Open innovation plays a pivotal role in nurturing creativity within organizations. Through collaboration, knowledge sharing, and the inclusion of external stakeholders, companies can tap into a wealth of diverse perspectives and ideas. The case studies of LEGO and Microsoft demonstrate the transformative power of open innovation in driving creativity and innovation. By embracing an open approach, companies can unlock the full creative potential of their employees and stakeholders, leading to the development of innovative solutions that shape industries and define the future.

Image credit: Misterinnovation.com

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Innovation in Motion

Every once in a while someone comes along and takes what most people believe is a mature category and finds a way to inject new life, new innovation into it.

What’s even more impressive in the case that I’m about to talk about is that a new entrant has found a way to innovate in a category where the dominant player is often held up by innovation consultants and innovation keynote speakers (like myself) as a company that has an innovative culture and working environment, plus an open innovation program worth looking at.

What established player am I speaking of?


And if you’re not aware of their open innovation program, it is called Lego Cuusoo.

So how could someone come in and realistically challenge Lego?

By coming in with a building toy approach that is both Lego compatible but while simultaneously introducing new design and building capabilities.

The main thing that this new competitor is bringing to bear to compete with the dominant Lego, is motion.

Think about what would happen if you smashed together the basic tenets of Lego with the basic tenets of Hasbro’s Transformers (more than meets the eye), and you’ll start to get an idea of what this new competitor is bringing to their crashing of the Lego party.

Who is this Lego competitor?

They are called Ionix Bricks.

Ionix Bricks - Innovation in Motion

They launched into the marketplace with a Saturday morning cartoon called Tenkai Knights on the Cartoon network.

Here is a video review of some of the initial robot characters, showing how they transform and can be configured and played with:

At first glance they look pretty fun!

Will they catch on and take some of the building toy market away from Lego?

What do you think?

Personally, I think that they have a chance of doing so, and if nothing else I think that Ionix Bricks and the Tenkai Knights are a good reminder that even in categories that people might think are pretty mature and the dominant player is unlikely to be disrupted, that isn’t necessarily the case.

And if you get bored with the pieces that come in any of the Tenkai Knights building sets?

Well, because they are compatible with Lego and other leading building sets, you can attach all kinds of crazy, random Lego pieces that you might already have from castle, space, or other kinds of sets.

Ionix Bricks are a good example of the “C” from SCAMPER – Combine – as they are exactly the kind of outcome you would expect if you combined Legos with Transformers. I wonder what kind of other crazy toys some young toy designer out there could come up with by combining Legos with something else.

In the meantime, I challenge you to keep challenging your own orthodoxies about what your product or service should look like, and how your industry should operate. You never know what kind of crazy new potential innovation you might come up with if you never take your product or service as perfected and keep challenging things at the edges.

What things about your product or service could you challenge? How could SCAMPER or other ideation tools help you?

I will be at the Back End of Innovation conference (November 18-20, 2013) in Silicon Valley. I hope you’ll join me!

(Save 25% with code BEI13IX)

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The Importance of Play to Innovation

A pioneer in research on play, Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults – and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age.

Pascal Wattiaux (whom I met after writing the Gever Tulley article) recommended an article on play from the Brick Journal, Issue 6. The article recounts an adventure in the Middle East with LEGO’s Serious Play – a consulting method, pioneered by LEGO, that centers on play. The article highlights four Serious Play consulting companies coming together to work with the 300 incoming graduate students for the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. Here is an excerpt:

LEGO Serious Play“The community building began with the students placed into teams and, led by Jens Hoffmann of Strategic Play, proceeded with the team members building LEGO models to represent themselves, their ideal teammate and what each individual would contribute to their team during the two day workshop. From there, the teams created a group model, with the team members building and writing about how their community could service society. While the models were challenging to think about, the students all were creative in their models and bonded while building the group model, with groups getting more and more animated in their discussions and building. Building was punctuated by comments and laughs as teams built different models and items. With a common goal, the teams began to bond, regardless of language and culture, and by the end of the day, each table had a shared model, a shared language and shared view of the world.”

So not only does play help to create happy, smart adults but it helps to create stronger emotional bonds and collaboration among team members. This second excerpt highlights the learnings from the two-day LEGO Serious Play workshop:

Importance of Play to Innovation“Afterwards, there was a final session devoted to evaluating the lessons learned. Bashar Al Safadi of Omniegypt was the host of this session, where the teams discussed what they learned from all of their activities. From their discussions, the top points were determined and presented to all of the teams. And through all the differences the students had when they first met, they found they had a lot in common – and they all had learned to communicate and have fun with each other.

After the session ended, many of the students took pictures with their new classmates and now friends, but one team took some of the ping-pong balls they used and signed them as a group, as a keepsake of their first meeting. At Discover KAUST, the students discovered more than a college. They discovered a community.”

You may have heard the saying “The family that plays together stays together.” Well, there is everything to be said for finding a place for play in the workplace (especially if it increases employee engagement and innovation), but can managers accept that?

What do you think?

Image Credits: KAUST, LEGO Serious Play

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