Lego design thinking

Everything is awesome!
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!
Everything is awesome!
When we’re living our dream!

That’s the inspiring Lego Movie’s song that is the starting sign of the Lego Future Lab secret meeting in Palamòs, a sleepy town in Spain.
Every year around 50 employees of the Danish toy giant gather for an intensive week of brainstorming, group meals, and mid-ideation leaps into the pool. It all leads up to a 24-hour hackathon, where small teams—various combinations of industrial designers, interaction designers, programmers, ethnographic researchers, marketers, and even master builders, try to discover what’s obviously Lego, but has never been seen before.
Thanks to the new CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp in 10 year Lego has grown to become a profit-generating, design-driven and intuitive company and the goal of the Future Lab is to keep this process active by discovering more and more about the play experience of kids.
“It’s a very simple idea,” says Knudstorp. “All bricks are complementary. They all fit together. Which creates a system that you can be endlessly creative in.”
In 2003 the family company based in Billund, was on the verge of bankruptcy due to the change in toy industries and the relatively stuck offer of the toy bricks.
When Knudstorp was promoted to CEO, he started to make several changes to stabilize the company first, and then to begin a  phase of organic growth.
The first change was to invest in a deep ethnographic research about how kids really play in the world of today. Lego has the need and the obligation to know as much about this subject as every organization in the world but most important they have to dig in the experience of playing of nowadays.
This is why the Future Lab (along with a similar group that preceded it) has born.
They are the example of how a real design-thinking approach can bring a company from almost bankrupt to the biggest toy manufacturer in the world.
The yearly hackathon-trip in Spain is one of the way in which design thinking is effectually expressed in the company work but there are also others signals.
The entire Lego company is placed in the small town of Billund and the Future Lab’s headquarters in particular are in a old yellow-brick building that is intentionally separate from the other design groups because they need to protect themselves as a team in order to be free to work on experiences that are far away from what Lego does today.
It’s too easy to kill an idea that goes far from the usual concept but this is why a division like Future Lab is fundamental.
They are allowed to make mistakes and experiments because you can learn a lot from it.
“It’s led us to some extremely interesting concepts, even though 90% or more have never launched,” says Knudstorp. “But when you do such an exploration you become a lot more clever about everything from different business models to ways of developing a meaningful play experience. And you become wiser about the things you actually do launch”
To read more about Lego and the Future Lab: