#INNOVATION – Back to the basis, or how can great ideas fall through due its high complexity


There is a moment in the LEGO history, that fascinates me. During some complicated years for LEGO as company, one of the policies which driven the organization, was try to copy models which are profitable for the company. Among those models were the LEGO RCX set (then LEGO Mindstorms). The basis of these sets was the ability to create artifacts and provide them with intelligence and mobility thanks to electronic components. One of the lessons that LEGO would learn of this, is that this set was a big hit with the "not so young target people", this is also we would see in other thematic sets like LEGO Stars Wars.

Important: I must really write the excellent example of OPEN INNOVATION that was made prior to the launch of LEGO Mindstorms. It is an amazing example of community, collaboration and customer focus.

I’ll go back to the history. One of the chosen decisions was to incorporate many of these “electronic capabilities” into the trains sets. As yu can imagine, behind this decision, there was a great effort of the technical team, designers, and other departments. However, when the product was launch to the market, they began to understand that the "customers" thought in a different way. For example, trains had endowed with them with the ability to go in 2 directions with a complex system of electronics, gears and internal motors. There was a big surprise in the LEGO employees, when they realize that children / users not used at all this functionality. When a child wanted to train to go in the opposite direction, it simply lifted it, it put it on the tracks facing the other direction and that’s it. We can call it "The logic of a 3-year-old child".

Those of us, who have a background as developers, have learned this lesson over time (and errors, plenty of them). In my personal experience, concepts such as the KISS principle, or the Occam’s razor; they helped me to take me a while behind some important decisions, and look for the best possible solution. In other cases they served as the base to understand that something was too complex and that it needs a process of rethinking.

If we speak of innovation there is a phrase that perfectly represents this:

In the School of Innovation, Less is Often More

This phrase is also the title of an article of the year 2011 of the NY Time. In the same Nicole Laporte takes as starting point the process of shrimp breeding in the United States.

"Since the 1980s, the United States has increasingly depended on other nations for shrimp production. As scientists have struggled to find a way to increase yields, they have turned to a technology in which shrimp are farmed indoors in large, rectangular tubs of water, laid out side by side. But this method, known as ‘raceways’ technology, does not produce enough seafood to be very cost-effective. Agricultural experts were stymied until Addison L. Lawrence, a scientist at the Texas AgriLife Research Mariculture Laboratory, had an idea so simple that it was revolutionary: Why not stack the tubs on top of one another?"

We see once more time, if we work in a domain we know, a simple idea can be much more valuable and effective than a "big idea" (as the large capacities in a train for a 3 years old child).

The ideal to carry out this would be a fairly simple framework:

· Work with small steps. And of course, we should go in the right direction.

· Make regular pauses to find out what has been learned so far.

· Identify the next step from that learning lessons.

As says Eric Ries, in his book "The Lean Startup":

“In the Lean Startup model, an experiment is more than just a theoretical inquiry; it is also a first product.”

Saludos @ Barcelona

/El Bruno

Note: If you are interested in learning more about the LEGO history, I recommend the book "Brick by Brick, How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry". Behind this sample, there is a great background with the financial problems of LEGO, the process of try and error that became a very interesting history.


– LEGO Mindstorms http://www.lego.com/en-us/mindstorms/?domainredir=mindstorms.lego.com

– Brick by Brick, How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry http://www.amazon.com/Brick-Rewrote-Innovation-Conquered-Industry/dp/0307951618

– KISS Principle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle

– La navaja de Occam https://elbruno.com/2013/05/17/alm-sobre-house-la-navaja-de-occam-y-como-al-final-todos-la-cagamos/

– In the School of Innovation, Less is Often More http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/business/simple-innovation-is-often-the-most-successful-prototype.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss

– The Lean StartUp http://www.amazon.com/The-Lean-Startup-Entrepreneurs-Continuous/dp/0307887898

[Tags Innovation, Kiss, Occams Razor, Lego, English Post]

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