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Renee Guida

Renee Guida

Director of Masterbrand

Ellen Bowley

Ellen Bowley

Senior Designer

At LEGO, play is an essential building block to teamwork. It’s the framework for out-of-the-box thinking, creativity, and a global household mainstay that spans generations.

From how they innovate new product ideas to how they execute marketing campaigns, the teams at LEGO have one focus — inspiring innovation.

In this episode, we talk to Senior Designer Ellen Bowley and Director of Masterbrand Renee Guida about trying new approaches, stepping outside of your own boundaries, and leveraging the strength of teammates to build something spectacular.

Whether it’s creating new toy sets with specialized expertise or piecing together global marketing campaigns, teamwork at LEGO is an all-hands — and all-fun — effort.

As the champion of teamwork, Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences. Empower your team to do its best work through Adobe solutions — learn how in the webinars below.

Show notes

The Power of Teamwork is brought to you by Adobe and hosted by Claire Craig.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on this podcast does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent.

At LEGO, play is an essential building block to teamwork. It’s the framework for out-of-the-box thinking, creativity, and a global household mainstay that spans generations.

From how they innovate new product ideas to how they execute marketing campaigns, the teams at LEGO have one focus — inspiring innovation.

In this episode, we talk to Senior Designer Ellen Bowley and Director of Masterbrand Renee Guida about trying new approaches, stepping outside of your own boundaries, and leveraging the strength of teammates to build something spectacular.

Whether it’s creating new toy sets with specialized expertise or piecing together global marketing campaigns, teamwork at LEGO is an all-hands — and all-fun — effort.

As the champion of teamwork, Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences. Empower your team to do its best work through Adobe solutions — learn how in the webinars below.

Show notes

The Power of Teamwork is brought to you by Adobe and hosted by Claire Craig.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on this podcast does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent.

Renee Guida

Renee Guida

Director of Masterbrand

Ellen Bowley

Ellen Bowley

Senior Designer

The Power of Teamwork Season 2, Episode 2

“A Collaborative Playground and the Building ‘Bricks’ of Innovation” — LEGO

Host: Claire Craig, Organizational Development Specialist, Adobe

Guests: Renee Guida, Director of Masterbrand; Ellen Bowley, Senior Designer

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Renee Guida: Play inspires teamwork because it teaches you to be able to try new things, to leverage the strength of other people to be able to get something done.

Ellen Bowley: It teaches you to lose your boundaries a little bit, be a little bit goofy, be a little bit fun, and try out new things you wouldn’t necessarily try if you were structured in this little box.

Claire Craig: Hi, everyone. Welcome to this episode of The Power of Teamwork. I’m your host, Claire Craig, and today we’re going to talk about the importance of play, empowering innovation, deepening connection, and creating a culture of teamwork that has built the biggest toy brand in the world. We’re joined by two members of LEGO today, Designer Ellen Bowley, who is here all the way from Denmark, and Director of Masterbrand Renee Guida.

I’m so thrilled to have you both here. I’m a huge fan of LEGO. I grew up with brothers and so I used to try and fight them for our big LEGO tubs. I think there’s some sort of like ASMR situation when you have a big tub of LEGO bricks and you just run your hands through them. I’m a huge fan and have been my whole life, but I want to hear about your experience.

So, Ellen, let’s talk to you first about what’s your experience growing up with LEGO. Did you always have a connection to the brand? 

Ellen: So yeah, just like you, I grew up with three brothers, and they’re all very different ages. So initially it was just me and my older brother, and he was obsessed with LEGO toys and we got some from our cousins.

My dad also had them growing up. So it was very much all around us all the time. My main memories is him getting LEGO Star Wars or like superhero sets or LEGO City sets and me destroying them and making what I wanted to make out of those sets instead. So little houses or places for animals. So I think this was my first main memory of LEGO toys.

Claire: That’s amazing. My brother is also a Star Wars fan and his bucket list set is that 7,000-piece Millennium Falcon, so agreed. And it looks like you already had your roots in being a designer. You’re like, I don’t like this design. Let me break it and build something better. Oh, definitely. Absolutely. 

Okay. What about you, Renee? Tell me a little bit about your history or background with the brand. 

Renee: Yeah. It’s funny because I didn’t play with the LEGO toys as much as a little kid. I was much more into role play and playing outside. So really when I started working here, I got to see the brand through the eyes of my kids.

So when I first started here, my oldest daughter was about four and she’s almost 15 now. So she started with Duplo, but then I really sort of saw the spark when she got into LEGO Friends and was really not only just building these worlds, but like how she would play. And like the pride that they feel.

And then I have two nephews also, and they’re huge builders. They are nine and 11 now, and they literally text me pictures of the things that they’ve built and my sister-in-law is almost like, I have no more room in my house, but I get to see in the kids in my life now, almost like how we feel about the bricks and you see it come to life and it’s really amazing just to see their pride and how excited they are.

Claire: I love that because it knows no age limit, right? LEGO is just accessible for everyone. I have a son as well. He has some special needs, so his dexterity isn’t great. So we started with Duplo and he’s able to manipulate those toys really well, which is great because, again, it makes it accessible for him.

And I love that you got to know the brand through the eyes of a child, which is a really fresh way to see something. So brick by brick, we’re making it work. I want to hear a little bit more about how you got to your role. So let’s start with you, Renee, because again, you didn’t grow up playing with LEGO, but you got to this brand.

So tell me about your journey to LEGO. 

Renee: Yeah, so I was an English major in college and classically did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I loved writing, I love storytelling, and I went into PR and worked kind of on the agency side for a while, but I really yearned to work for a company that had a mission that I could believe in and something I could be really proud of and feel like I was contributing to something bigger than myself, not just shilling a product or talking about something that didn’t have any depth to it. And so when I found The LEGO Group, I was super excited because what an amazing brand to be behind, but I truly didn’t realize how much more there was to the brand until I got here and then working in the role I’m in now, really seeing how we live our, our passion and our values.

It really does come through everything. So it’s been really fun to be able to work through a lot of different areas within the company too. I started working in the retail side and then moved into brand. So it’s been a great journey to be able to take a lot of those experiences along the way and then see them really come to life to support a brand that I really believe in.

Claire: I remember when I first got pregnant, I asked my friend who was a mom that I respected, I said, what is the one thing you would tell me to teach my child early? And she said, “Well, I would say, let your child fail often and early.” And I was like, “What?!” And it’s funny because what she meant by that was like, actually, if you’re allowing children to experiment with failure early, they learn that it’s not debilitating, and they become much more resilient overall.

And for something like LEGO, if you build something and it doesn’t work out, you knock it down and you build it back up. And that’s actually a huge building block of resilience. And that resilience is a huge factor in teamwork. 

Now Ellen, I want to hear from you a little bit more. As a designer, you’ve got to get inspiration from somewhere, whether that’s knocking down your brothers’ sets and building your own—where does your inspiration come from? 

Ellen: Well, like just to jump in like that was funny what you’re talking about right now because today I’ve been struggling so much on one of the models that I’m building and I’ve been doing the same little part of it all day like over and over again trying so many different variations and yeah it was super interesting what you’re talking about like the resilience you build up of like trying to problem-solve and getting other people to help you so that was literally all my day today but where does my inspiration come from? Children, for sure.

I think the themes that I work in, so LEGO Friends and some other themes as well, they are aimed at children and kids around the ages of 5, 6, to 8, 9, 10. We do a lot of testing with children. We show the kids the models that we’re building. We ask them for their opinions. We ask them what they like, what they don’t like. We do market research on big, big groups of children and parents and adults and see what they’re really looking for in their toys. Do they want role play? Do they want mastery play? And there’s loads of different avenues and types of play that the kids are looking for. No one child fits into one box.

They are spread all over in terms of types of play. And we’re really trying to get all of the products within The LEGO Group to be accessible for every type of child and the way that they play. 

Claire: That’s really interesting. One thing I know about kids is they really tell you like it is. One thing that’s crucial to successful teamwork is being willing to gather and take feedback. So please tell us about what kind of feedback you get from kids. 

Ellen: It’s one of my favorite parts of the job is when we’ve been working for so long, like several months, building these models, refining them, working on them together, swapping them between each other. And then we take them to let’s say the US or other markets, and we get this focus group of children and initially we hide the models and then the kids will come in and then we will unveil them either one at a time or all at once and either you’re met with like a room full of just screaming kids because they’re like, “Oh my goodness I can’t believe it, this is everything I’ve ever wanted in the world!” You’re like, “Well cool, I guess it’s like positive then!” or you get just silence and they’re like, “No I don’t get it,” and you’re like, “All right, we’ve got some work to do.” So like it’s super interesting they’re really honest with what they like and don’t like and you know, in the brand that I work in, in France, one of the things for our kids is toilets.

They like realism. They want to be able to shrink down and be there and pretend that they’re in the set and pretend that that figure is them. And so toilets are super important because where are they going to go to the toilet so they can have this massive model that like has got all these details, all these play scenarios, everything that they can play out, like this world of imagination.

And they’re like, “Yeah, but there’s no toilet.” Oh, okay. Like the one thing. So it’s super interesting. 

Claire: That’s so cool. I would never have thought about that, although I do know my son is fascinated by the toilet as well. So that trends correctly in my mind, but that’s wild that they really hone in on those details that are important to make it real for them.

Ellen: Yeah. Definitely. 

Claire: This is The Power of Teamwork, and we’re talking with LEGO’s Renee Guida, director of masterbrand, and Ellen Bowley, senior designer. LEGO is a global company that started in 1932 that now has tens of thousands of employees to bring play to everyone. That’s some major teamwork that has to happen. So let’s continue, what’s it like to work in that team environment?

Ellen: From my side, what’s amazing about the design, part of the organization is we have people from the last I heard was 57 different nationalities working here in design. So people from all over the world and with all different backgrounds, you know, not everyone is from design. We have some that were journalists before, some that were lawyers, some like guys that were car mechanics, things like this.

And all of this like world of knowledge and experience coming together is what makes the product as good as it is and what makes it as accessible as it is to all different kids from all over the world. And I think that’s just such an important part of the job to highlight in my team. We have 14 different designers, and I think it’s seven or eight different nationalities again.

And it’s amazing to work with these people with just completely different views to you and things you’ve never thought about before that they’ve experienced and you’ve not. And so, yeah, the way that that comes together is just awesome. 

Renee: From the marketing side, I sit on the Americas team, so my responsibility is working with our global marketing teams, our global brand development team specifically, and then I work downstream with the teams in the US, Mexico, and Canada to kind of execute these global campaigns. But on the development side, working with the global teams, it’s fascinating to me how we can craft campaigns that do resonate globally and locally. So I think it takes so many different perspectives and to understand also the challenges in different markets.

We actually have a lot of things that are similar when you look at a country like Germany or the US or the UK. We actually have a lot of similarities. But then you can look at a country like China that has a lot of really unique needs. And so it’s really interesting and I feel like I get a little education no matter what meeting I’m in, just to learn about these different cultures and their different challenges and the kids and how they’re different and the parents. So it’s pretty fascinating, and I think the only way a big international brand like ours can be successful is by taking all of those different perspectives and really listening to each other.

Claire: Yes, that is huge. What I’m hearing is how much all the diverse backgrounds and global perspectives really add to the work. And that’s become a huge part of LEGO’s success. You spoke to this of being able to bring out each individual’s unique talents and skills. Renee, do you feel like that’s flowing through the work? How do you feel like that reverberates throughout the company? 

Renee: What’s interesting about The LEGO Group is we have a culture where everyone is empowered to be a leader. So we have something called the Leadership Playground where we have the pillars of bravery, focus, and curiosity. And so we try to lend ourselves to how we can lean into those attributes and help propel ourselves forward. So creativity doesn’t just sit with a design team or a creative team, it really sits with everyone—and a good idea can come from anywhere. 

I was told once by a former manager, which I still take this to this day, is if you’re invited to a meeting, no matter if you’re an intern or a VP, you’re expected to contribute. You’re invited for a reason. You’re not just meant to sit in the corner and not say anything. So, you know, you can be in a meeting with someone much higher up than you, and if you have something to say, everyone is super respectful and thoughtful and listens because you never know where a good idea is going to come from. Everyone has different perspectives, and creativity can come from everywhere. 

Claire: I love how you said creativity is everywhere and ideas are welcome regardless of where you are [and] where you sit in your organization. Ellen, how have you seen that come to life with a design team, for instance, where you come from all sorts of different backgrounds?

Ellen: Well, I think like Renee was just saying, you know, you can be 22 years old and have an idea that no one else has thought of. One of the main parts of my role is mentoring and mentoring new designers into the role and teaching them and educating them on how to design for The LEGO Group. My favorite part of doing that is you have these people that are straight out of university or coming from another job and they have just such a different experience or perspective or a different way of playing or they question things that you’re doing that you don’t question because you’ve been doing it for five, six years and they’re like, “Why are you doing that?” and you’re like, “Well yeah okay, why are we doing that?” And it’s super good and like refreshing part of the job because they come with so many different perspectives and, yeah, it’s really cool.

And then, nationality-wise, because we are, a lot of us from all different backgrounds, then people are bringing their own experiences from their own childhood, like, what did they play with when they were growing up in China? Or what did they play with growing up in the Netherlands? Like, very different.

And the way that they played, and the way they interacted with their friends, and then also parents with kids—a lot of our designers have kids and the way that they’re bringing up their children and their experiences of what their kids are into versus someone else’s kids. And it’s just this massive pool of knowledge that we are trying to find the best ways to like bring into our toys and our products so that we can then pass it on to other kids out there.

Claire: Yes, that pool of knowledge. I love that. But what I also know from having worked on teams, international teams throughout the years, is that it can look really rosy from the outside and sometimes things will be clicking along really well. But there’s inevitably with any kind of creative venture, some level of failure. So I want to hear, what have you learned from that failure that happens? 

Ellen: Ah, so I fail all the time, right? As my job as a builder, like I’m here to build models and work in a team building toys, and you never get like one idea and just build it straight away and you’re done. It’s a process. You have to like build it up, take it apart, build it up, take it apart, you get input from marketing, you get input from other designers, you will test some function, like you want something to move in a certain way, and it doesn’t work. A lot of it’s like engineering, when we’re using LEGO Technic, it’s like engineering gears and things together, and oftentimes, at least for me, that doesn’t work.

So my way to overcome that failure is to work with the designers around me. Because we are from different backgrounds, with different experiences, we have people who are like amazing at color theory, let’s say, or someone who’s really good at engineering, or someone that’s really good at architecture and facade, someone that’s good at vehicles, and I’m going to use that knowledge because they have it and I don’t.

So if I’m struggling with colors on a model, of course I’m going to go to the person who’s really good at color and ask for their perspective and their input. And I think it’s that whole teamwork, it sounds cliche, but it’s the teamwork part of it. I’m bringing everyone’s knowledge into this one model that I’m designing, and that’s helping me overcome the struggles that I’m having with that particular model.

And I think it’s the same for everybody in our team. We are really good at working as a team and collaborating and not, you know, having like, this is my model. Nobody’s allowed to see it, let alone touch it. It’s like, we want to make a really good toy for kids. So of course we want to use the knowledge that we have around us to make that toy as good as it can be.

Claire: Yeah, I can see that by working with those around you, especially those with specific expertise and unique skills, you’re really able to work through and overcome failure. 

So you spoke to that a little bit. You’re empowered as individuals, as part of teamwork, and you use each other’s strengths to really make the toy the best it can be. Renee, how have you seen it come to life in your experience? 

Renee: There’s definitely no one right way to do things, and you have to make mistakes and learn from them. So I think it’s more of experimentation versus failure. And I think we talk about it too when you’re even building with LEGO bricks is sometimes it’s more about the journey than it is the destination.

So yes, at the end you can have a great model, but did you have fun while you were building it? Because that’s really what it’s about. So same thing is true when you’re developing marketing programs is it is the journey, getting you to where you want to be. And if not, then you move in a different direction and you kind of go from there. So definitely don’t want to look at failure as a bad thing. 

Claire: How do you actually celebrate failure? How do you do that? 

Renee: I mean, I could share one example. One of my colleagues from Canada, in a large conference we have every year, stood up on a stage and actually gave a case study of a campaign that did not work.

They kind of misread the cultural moment and the timing and the general public gave them feedback on that. And she said, “We made a mistake. We didn’t do enough research on this, and we learned from it and we course corrected,” and then they sort of adjusted for the following year and then it became a success.

But she was really brave in sharing that with basically a lot of our America’s organization in front of everyone, including our president and our leadership team, and really just owned it and said, “Hey, we tried something new. We made a mistake. It didn’t work, but we learned from it. And now we have this new campaign to show for it.” So I think it takes a certain amount of bravery but also an openness from the people that you work with and the leadership to make it okay to make a mistake. We’re just people trying to do our best and as long as they think your intentions are good, that’s what matters. 

Claire: Yeah, and what’s really incredible about that story is the bravery it takes because sometimes it does take bravery to own up to a failure, especially in front of an audience like that, and share, “Here’s what I learned, here’s what I’m going to do differently,” but it takes a moment of bravery to be able to do that, definitely, and I think that’s beautiful that that’s celebrated at the company.

From a designer’s point of view, if you take your LEGO sets to the kids and you unveil them like you were talking about and you just get silence or like, “Oh, where are the toilets?” You know, something like that. How do you process your work through that as a team when maybe one of your sets that you loved and thought was going to be awesome flops?

Ellen: Yeah, I mean that happens all the time, and it’s like fully something that you come to expect when taking a model to test, like we can only research as much as we can, we can only foresee what the kids will want as much as we can, but when we show it to them, they don’t like it, then that’s fine. It’s not a big deal to us in the team, because we are confident in like our full assortment of models. Like we’re not ever taking just one model. We’re taking a whole range of them, and we’re essentially asking the kids to choose what they like out of that. And maybe they don’t like the full model, but okay, what aspects of that model do you like? So what can we take away from that that we can put into another one? And vice versa, like, okay, you really like this model, but what don’t you like from it? 

And so it’s more fluid than if we were to take a whole assortment and they just hated everything. Like, I really hope that doesn’t happen. So far, so good. Touch wood. It’s never happened. But we have had times where we’ve taken, like, a cluster of models that are all within the same theme and it’s flopped, essentially, like the kids, they don’t get it. They don’t want to play with it. They’re not interested. So we come back as a team and we work through that and we sit with marketing and we look at more research and more data and [say] okay, what do the kids want? And we’ve also asked them in the test, “Okay, what would you like instead of this?”

And then we go and we create new models with that and we take it back to test. So it’s a constant flow of trying different things, seeing if it works, seeing if it doesn’t. Like a… I guess a normal design process, like when I was at university, you’re also testing products and showing your lecturers and seeing if it works, seeing if they like it.

Something that now Renee was talking in about, yeah, like celebrating your struggles or your failures, something that one of my colleagues always says, and it’s when you get really in the zone, like you’re really, you know, frustrated and stressed out, like, this model is not working, like, I can’t get it to function. No one can really solve it for me. And he’s like, very simply just goes, “Guys, guys, it’s a toy.” And you’re like, “Yeah, okay.” So you like, take a minute to like, sit back and like, recheck yourself and refresh. And then you come to it with fresh eyes again, and it really works every time. It’s a toy so we can all calm down a bit and it’s a very fun and relaxing environment to work in. So I think you never really feel that pressure of, I’ve really messed up. It’s yeah, celebrated in a way. 

Claire: I think that’s so fascinating that both of you highlighted things around failure that are similar and that is when you experience failure, what are the pieces that worked well? What didn’t work? And then how can you learn from those and apply that to future projects or things that you’re working on?

And that’s a really great piece of advice for anyone who’s going out there and trying to innovate. We’ve been talking with Renee and Ellen from LEGO about how good ideas can come from anywhere. We’ve also heard how their teams process through setbacks and how they really view failure as experimentation and a learning opportunity that’s key to their culture.

I love talking with both of you about failure and learning from it. We’ll be right back. 

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Claire: Welcome back, everyone. Team LEGO is really inspiring me to have more fun and play and fail at work. I hope you’re feeling that, too. We’re back with our guests. I want to talk about the Play Unstoppable campaign. I love the name, but can you tell me a little bit more about it? 

Renee: Yeah, absolutely. So Play Unstoppable was developed to really celebrate the endless potential of girls when they’re given opportunities to play without limits.

So it’s a platform to sort of challenge some stereotypes around play and creative building and encouraging girls especially to unlock their freedom to play without boundaries. We had done some research. We had commissioned with the Geena Davis Institute back in 2021 that found that girls are actually super confident to engage in all types of play and creative activities and they feel like they can do anything, but they actually still are held back a little bit by ingrained societal stereotypes.

And so what we wanted to do is just present girls with a lot of different opportunities and give them those opportunities to play and help them see that there’s no one right way to play or one right thing to play with as a girl. We want them to explore their interests no matter what those can be and open them up to new interests so that they can figure out who they are and what they love because that’s how kids grow and develop is through play.

Claire: Absolutely. Now, I know that both of you are on different teams in different countries but working toward a common goal with this campaign. So can you tell me how the pieces came together when you work in such different ways in different places? 

Renee: It’s interesting because it’s a huge effort, any kind of a campaign like this.

So there’s product, there’s marketing, an experiential component, charitable giving, partnerships, retail. So there really is so many different things that go into it. And I think getting together the core group of folks, Ellen, as a designer, has such a great breath of experience in creating play opportunities for kids, and especially girls, that it was wonderful to be able to help bring her in to talk about how play can inspire all kids, but inspire girls to try new things and how they can see themselves represented in our toys. So it’s definitely quite a team effort there. 

Claire: I love that. Ellen, tell me a little bit more about your role in the campaign.

Ellen: So yeah, I’m super glad that Renee jumped in and answered that one because I came into the campaign quite late and I was brought in more for the panel discussion where we could meet Megan Rapinoe and Elaine Welteroth and be on this panel with myself and Renee as well and talk about inspiring girls and inspiring kids to play how they want to play and be who they want to be and I think that links and ties so well into my day job of like what we’re aiming for in The LEGO Group and what we’re really hoping to achieve.

So being brought in to talk about something like this was just awesome, and I was surrounded by these amazing women with all of this knowledge and all of their own personal experiences and stories and, yeah, we got to talk to some really cool people. 

Claire: Yeah, that’s insanely inspiring. I wish I could have been on a panel. Think of me next time. Just kidding. That sounds like an incredible time. Renee, I know this campaign was pretty personal to you as well because you have daughters. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? 

Renee: Yeah, I have two daughters. My oldest is almost 15, and my youngest is 11. I think I’ve seen sort of firsthand, A, how different they are. They couldn’t be more different if they tried, but I’ve seen the power of giving kids opportunity and as a parent or as a caregiver, supporting them no matter what they want. I remember when my oldest daughter was probably around seven or eight years old and she went to summer camp, it was the kind of camp where you could sign them up for different activities throughout the day. And so you committed to the activity for a week. And when we were going through, she wanted to do flag football. So I was like, okay, cool. So we signed her up for flag football and she came home the first day and she was like, “I’m the only girl. I don’t want to do it anymore. There’s no other girls.” And I said to her, I was like, well, but you wanted to do it. And do you think it’s fun? And she goes, well yeah, it was fun, but I’m the only girl. And I was like, well, that’s okay. And I said, it’s only a week. Stick it out. See what you think. And by the end of the week, she’s telling me about how she scored a touchdown and how she was faster than the boys and how much fun it was.

And if I had said, “Okay, let’s move you to something different,” she never would have had that experience, right? She would never have been able to see that she could do it if she tried and that she could keep up with the boys. Because I as a parent would have been telling her that isn’t her space and she needs to do something else.

And so I reflected on that when we did the campaign because it was such a real example of letting your child lead and letting them go where they want to go, right? On the other hand, my younger daughter is probably as girly as you can get. And I said to her, I have to tell her not to wear makeup to summer camp.

I’m like, “You’re 11. You don’t need mascara when you’re going to swim all day long.: But that’s just who she is. But to me, supporting her is also dance classes and things like that, where my older tried dance classes and she was like, “Yeah, this is not for me.” So you just really have to let them experiment and try different things, and maybe they fail, maybe they succeed where they never thought they would.

But as an adult, we really want to let the kids lead and support them no matter what it is that they think they want to do. And so this campaign really was all about actually doing that and helping parents see that kids, as we say, they’re our role models, but letting your kid show you what they’re interested in. And then as a parent, your job is just to support them and help them get where they need to go. 

Claire: Yeah, I love that concept of letting kids lead and I think from an outside perspective, it’s super easy to be like, “Oh yeah, we could do this.” Or if you haven’t had kids, it’s like, “Oh yeah, absolutely.” But when you’re in it, it’s a lot harder. Have you experienced what it’s like for kids to work with LEGO and try out new things and fail and work as a team?

Ellen: So what I love about seeing kids’ designs and kids’ builds when they build with LEGO bricks is they have this imagination right that we as adults have maybe lost a little bit. And they will see things the way that we don’t see them.

So you might see the model that the child has made and they’re presenting to you, it’s like, “What on earth is that? I don’t understand it.” Uh, and maybe see it as a failure. But for that kid, that blobby green-brown thing they’ve made is like an apple or something like this, and they can clearly see that in their head.

And I just love kids’ creativity in that way because they see it clearly as what they’re imagining. And the way that they’re telling the stories, you know, it can be a very plain model with just bricks and a few characters, but they’re telling this incredible story about what’s going on with these characters and their world that they’re in.

And I think it’s just amazing to see, and for me that’s a big inspiration for my job as well, like, also keep things simple and keep things readable and decodable for the children. You’re asking about failure and I think when I see kids designing and building with LEGO, I’m not necessarily seeing the failure in it. I’m seeing like that is that kid’s vision, and they have accomplished that in their head—so like, that’s wicked. 

Claire: That’s just them. That’s just their expression. It’s about that individualization and understanding that there are no bounds for how you play. There is no right or wrong way to play and whatever you’re interested in is what you’re interested in. And I think that’s really beautiful. 

Ellen, I have a slightly different question for you as a designer. We know that a LEGO set can have thousands of pieces and that said, every piece has a purpose. One piece can’t really be overlooked, as you probably know better than anyone in this room. So how does that relate to teamwork?

Ellen: Yeah, teamwork is the main part of my job. I work in a massive team of, yeah, over 300 designers but then also in a smaller team of like 20 or 30 of us. As I was talking about before, it’s not one person’s LEGO set they’re building, or it’s not one person’s campaign, as Renee was saying. It’s a whole team effort that comes together to create this awesome thing.

If I sat here designing LEGO Technic cars, let’s say, [they’d be] terrible, like they wouldn’t sell, no one would want to buy one. But the fact that we have a team of people that are really good at doing that and they all work together, they’re all good at mechanics and engineering, then they’re making awesome products.

The same in LEGO Friends, which is where I work. I have an amazing team of designers around me. So we have element designers, graphic designers, packaging designers, model designers, like the list goes on and on, and I’m sorry if I missed anyone out, but we are all collaborating together all the time creating these sets. So I will be working on the model, let’s say, and then I’ll have someone helping me on color or someone helping me on function. 

At the same time, we found an area where we maybe need a new element, so a new brick. So we have an element designer working on that. It’s working like together with us at the same time someone from the graphics team is designing the characters that are going to go in this set that tells a massive part of the story and they’re also doing the stickers or any decorations that are going on it. At the same time, we have packaging designers working on the packaging and the way it’s going to look and building instructions designers creating this book that kids have got to be able to understand at the age of six and all of these people coming together creating these sets is what make them work and make them together. Like accessible for kids again and again, and they can get inspired and rebuild them how they want or just put them nicely on display on the shelf. And so I think that’s the main part of my job is teamwork. So it’s definitely something that we should celebrate. 

Claire: Oh, I love that. It’s been so fun and fascinating talking with both of you.

My top takeaways from this episode are play is key, especially the way we play. Resilience comes from building things and then tearing them apart, and it’s more about experimentation than failure. 

Diverse perspectives add to the success of teamwork. 

Good ideas can come from anywhere. I appreciate the culture that you’re expected to contribute when invited to a meeting.

You fully expect feedback and that every product won’t be a success, but you can learn from it. 

And there are no bounds for play. All of this leads me to believe that everything really is awesome for teams at LEGO. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you. 

Both guests: Thank you. 

Claire: And thanks to all of you for listening to the LEGO episode of The Power of Teamwork.

Let’s team up again soon.

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