learning at lego

brand-as-business bit:  Businessweek’s piece on Lego‘s attempts to crack the girl code describes how the company used anthropological research methods to understand its users:

“You could say a worn-out sneaker saved Lego. ‘We asked an 11-year-old German boy, ‘what is your favorite possession?’ And he pointed to his shoes. But it wasn’t the brand of shoe that made them special,’ says Holm, who heads up the Lego Concept Lab, its internal skunkworks. ‘When we asked him why these were so important to him, he showed us how they were worn on the side and bottom, and explained that his friends could tell from how they were worn down that he had mastered a certain style of riding, even a specific trick.’

“Lego saw it had drawn the wrong lessons from computer games. Instead of focusing on their immediacy, the company now noticed how kids responded to the scoring, ranking, and levels of play—opportunities to demonstrate mastery.”

“Encouraged by what it had learned about boys, Lego sent its team back out to scrutinize girls…Beauty, on the face of it, is an unsurprising virtue for a girl-friendly toy, but based on the ways girls played, [researcher] Groth says, it came, as ‘mastery’ had for boys, to stand for fairly specific needs: harmony (a pleasing, everything-in-its-right-place sense of order); friendlier colors; and a high level of detail.”

Designing research to include observation (in addition to asking) and examination of artifacts (like old sneakers) allows you to get beneath the surface, understand the why behind behaviors and attitudes, and uncover rich insights that enable you to really connect with people.

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