Lego Cuusoo: Innovating with the Crowd
Lego’s online open innovation platform that lets members of the public submit product ideas which if they come to market will net them a percentage of the sales royalties.
Lego is an open innovation pioneer, one of the first companies to develop practices and platforms to engage external contributors to innovation processes. Being open to the ideas of others has helped to transform the company’s fortunes.
In the 1990s and early 2000s as children turned away from the plastic bricks in favor of video games and computers Lego sailed close to bankruptcy. But it has been revitalized and re-energized by the crowd and is now going from strength the strength and posting healthy profits.
Turning the Public’s Ideas into Products
One of its most successful initiatives is Cuusoo, an online platform that was launched in 2008 and allows members of the public to post their ideas for potential Lego products. Users can create a page outlining their new concept and then share it with others to see what they think.
Once the project has received 10,000 supporters it is reviewed by the Lego Cuusoo team to see if it meets the company’s standards for playability and safety and that it supports the Lego brand.
If the idea is given the thumbs up it will be turned into a Lego product. That could potentially lead to big pay days for the person who originally came up with the idea because they will receive 1% of the product’s net sales.
One of the first fan-based ideas to hit the shelves was the Hayabusa 369-piece building set, a model of the world’s first mission probe to collect samples from the surface of an asteroid and return them to Earth.
The model of the Japanese spacecraft was made by Daisuke Okubo and it included replicas of many of the probe’s original features including the ion engine that thrust it through space and the sampler horn which guided asteroid particles into the body of the probe.
Before its commercial release the model was refined by a Lego designer. The toy retails for $49 and is on sale in numerous countries.
"I was interested in the asteroid explorer Hayabusa first from a technological perspective but then also by the fact that Japan had achieved a world first with this mission," Okubo wrote in a note included with the model's building instructions. "I hope the Hayabusa story will reach an even greater number of people now."
Open Innovation Success
Other products that originated with fans are Lego Minecraft, a set based on the video game Minecraft, and Shinkai 6500, a model based on a real submarine.
At any one time on the Cuusoo platform there are details of projects seeking the public’s support as well as those that have achieved 10,000 votes and are under review by the Lego team.
For both Lego and its fans this open innovation platform has clear advantages. Lego receives original ideas but is not weighed down by too many which can be costly and time consuming to examine. And fan support can provide some kind of indication of the potential popularity of a concept.
For individuals, Cuusoo provides an easy and simple way to get ideas seen by the people who make the decisions (provided concepts receive at least 10,000 votes), and the potential for significant financial rewards if the toys are commercialized.
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