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LEGO System: A tool to think with

 

LEGO play, I have learned, is one of the most powerful ways to unlock curiosity, imagination, creativity and learning. It draws strength from a system whereby you don’t need to know each individual brick, to intuitively know how you can fit them together. Moreover, the bricks can be put together and taken apart by someone as young as 2 years old. Without being shown how to.

While there are many different creative pursuits in the world, not many are so easy to pick up and possess such power to express almost anything you can imagine – simple or complex. The more I see of fans young and old making creations out of LEGO bricks, the more impressed I am with the sheer power of imagination when given a tool inherent in its simplicity, but powered by a system enabling endless ideas. Rebrick.lego.com is probably one of the easiest one-stop shops to visit for a glimpse of this kind of inspiration.

Some four years ago I got the task of heading up the LEGO Learning Institute and to define how the LEGO Group should expand its academic collaboration in pursuit of continuing its mission to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow in its products, services and experiences. This work led me to a close collaboration with academic experts from different fields, to define just what is the kind of creativity that LEGO play encourages, how this systematic creativity is taking shape in an increasingly digital world, what the future of play is and this year, we will be launching the report looking into the future of learning. Each report is a combination of a thorough review of the latest research in these fields, as well as with an in-depth analysis of what the future holds and how it relates to the LEGO system and play.

In the process of all this work, I have seen how the rate of discovery in these areas has begun to accelerate powered by a series of break-throughs in fields as different as motivational psychology and neuroscience, not to mention much more research inspired by the increasingly social spaces online, which add context, connectivity and meaning around individual contributions and creations. While online communities have grown exponentially and add fuel to the creative pursuit, the power of hands-on play and its ability to capture the imagination and focus of the mind has not diminished.

The LEGO Group is turning 80 years old this year, thriving due to our fundamental human need to make things with our hands, create from our imagination, communicate and share our ideas. While LEGO is often seen as a child’s toy, increasingly adults have discovered its power as a tool to visualise everything from metaphors for company strategy, architectural prototypes, levels in computer games or indeed search engine and software architecture. Progressive and innovative teachers use it in schools to teach science, technology, engineering and maths and others have discovered that it is a great tool for team building.

Learning about all this has convinced me of the importance of supporting creativity and learning in all walks of life as it can be such a source of personal growth, development, life satisfaction and not to mention source of company growth and adaptation. While harnessing creativity and learning may very well begin with playing with LEGO bricks, this type of creative play is something way more powerful than messing around with a simple toy. The LEGO system is a creative medium, a tool for thinking and a language of communication in an increasingly digital age, where amidst all connectivity and technology we still crave human contact and the pleasure of making things with our own hands.

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