The power of imagination

When I was young, like most children I loved playing with Lego.

I had two enormous tubs of it, every type of brick you could imagine – all different shapes, colours and sizes.

To this day, playing with Lego is one of of my most vivid memories, because I can associate moments in time with the different things I made.

Over time, the types of thing I used to make changed – much of it was based on what I’d seen on TV, or in a magazine – submarines from James Bond, and a huge X-Wing fighter after watching Star Wars (the original one).

This was back in the 80’s, a time when we had one television in the house, with four channels, about an hour of children’s TV a day, and where, the channels used to shut down and stop broadcasting overnight.

Everything I used to do with my Lego, from building things, to playing with them afterwards, was down to my imagination – and a lot of patience/frustration in working out how to create my next masterpiece made of plastic bricks.

I love Lego, because it is truly one of those things where your imagination is the only limit as to what you can create – that and how many bricks you have.

Today, on Instagram, I saw an advert for an augmented reality Lego app. The idea is, you build something, then point a phone, or a tablet at it the thing you’ve made, and it turns what you’ve created into a game on the screen.

At first I thought “that’s cool”, but after a few minutes it felt at-odds with what Lego is all about. Lego is about unleashing your creativity and building something awesome, then letting your imagination take over when you play with it.

Playing some sort of pre-defined game based on what you’ve made, feels completely removed from what Lego is all about – certainly from my perspective. Actually, I felt a bit sad to see it… Does Lego feel like its core product is no-longer satisfying its core user-base? Does Lego feel like it needs to diversify to stay relevant in this technology-obsessed world in which we live?

I’m sure many who see it won’t agree with me, but I’ll leave you with this one additional thing…

Tonight, Jake, my three year old son, came and joined me in the kitchen whilst I was cooking dinner. He doesn’t really know it but he’s got so many things I could only dream about as a child. I’ve worked hard my whole life to give him and my family everything I didn’t have growing up – every toy you could imagine. But tonight, he didn’t want to play with his toys, instead, he wanted to stand on his much-loved IKEA stool, and make shapes with the seeds from a pepper I’d just chopped up. Something he did for half an hour.

So I say to Lego, please don’t feel like you have to embrace every bit of technology going, because deep down, a child’s imagination is so amazing, so incredible, that all you need to give them are a few seeds (or bricks) and they’ll do the rest.

Interestingly, I also saw this ad, done by Ogilvy Canada, so I like to hold out hope. Because this is the Lego that I know and love:

This is not a strategy

Graham Kenny provides his thoughts on the subject on HBR here

One of the best bits of advice I ever received is that, when scrutinised, most strategies aren’t really strategic in the slightest. In fact, they’re most-likely to be objectives, or actions, or activities. 

A strategy is not:

  • A presentation
  • A chart
  • A metric
  • A percentage
  • A goal
  • A sales target
  • A model
  • A diagram
  • An aspiration
  • An objective
  • A survey

A strategy is the best possible way to achieve a desired outcome, and you should be able to articulate it in a simple sentence. Everything else is either the means (to help deliver on the strategy), or the end (the result, the outcome).

If you can’t articulate your strategy simply and clearly, it probably isn’t a strategy.

When a survey really isn’t needed…

I’m often amazed with some of the reasons given to justify running surveys. More often than not, they happen either to reinforce a point of view, or simply because people don’t know what they’re doing, or where to look for the right answer. Or, they simply don’t want to accept the truth staring them in the face.

This is one of those surveys. Walk into any agency and have a look around. Have a look at the management team, the MD, the CEO. You’ll see that the survey is correct, but again, I’m not sure it was even needed in the first place.

The good thing is, the industry is going through a massive period of change, and that can only be a good thing, right?