Building Lego's social network for kids, brick by brick

Lego Life's senior global director explains how Lego created a digital experience where kids could connect with each other.

Building Lego's social network for kids, brick by brick

Three years ago within the Lego Group we launched a project to create a digital experience where kids could share their Lego creations, be inspired and connect with each other. This platform was intended to provide the building blocks for our future digital experiences.  

While the Lego Group is very good at manufacturing boxes of physical, plastic bricks, with an amazing building experience at their core, there has been a learning curve when it comes to our digital product launches. 

Integrating modern, agile development techniques into a manufacturing company has been challenging. Therefore, we were keen to take a different approach with this initiative that would give us the best chance of success. Here are some of the key measures we took to try to achieve that.

Define your purpose

At the start of our journey we debated whether to create a single hub app to provide this social experience for our Lego kids, or start integrating these elements into some of our existing games and apps. We decided to go with the central hub because it was easier to explain this both to the kids and the rest of the group. It meant making some trade-offs around how quickly we could integrate it into our existing range of digital products.

Propinquity 

My boss introduced me to this term. It refers to achieving togetherness, morale, trust and camaraderie through physical proximity. In the brave new world of Skype, Microsoft Teams and Rally, some believe there is not much value to developers, designers and business-owners all working in the same location. However, when setting up a new project and team, all on the same mission, being able to look each other in the eye when things go well – or badly – is invaluable.  

Get permission to improve

When we make our brick sets, we spend two to three years refining a great idea into an amazing product. With digital development, this approach doesn’t often work; we wanted to spend six to 12 months developing something that probably wouldn’t be very good, but that we could learn how to improve. 

We needed to get very clear permission from our senior stakeholders that our "only the best is good enough" philosophy refers to effort and improvement, rather than the quality of the first app we produced. This buy-in from our chief marketer and leadership team has been key to our success in gradually making Lego Life better over time. 

Prepare to relinquish ‘ownership’

We have zero developers or UI/UX specialists in our team. We use a pool of internal development resources that we have turned into a mission, a goal we all buy in to. This means that more traditional reporting lines aren’t at play here. We have a far more fluid approach that allows us to move resources and focus around when needed. However, for this to work, we needed to build a high degree of trust and a shared vision, which meant a huge effort in bringing the team together regularly, both in a work environment and socially, to invest in shared ownership.  

So, these are some of the key measures we have taken on our Lego Life journey so far, but we are still in the process of introducing new ways of working and developing. I’m sure there will be many more lessons to come.

Rob Lowe is senior global director of Lego Life