From guest blogger Krishnan Srirangam, Senior Designer at Lund and Company for over 15 years
Children over the age of 5 are buying fewer toys. Toys based on apps are foundering. It’s all about branding. Overall spending on toys is down 4%. Blah, Blah, Blah.
As we listen closely to the pulse of the any industry, there is an endless barrage of information – mostly true and based on strong statistical evidence, all in need of digesting if we want to be proficient in our field. If we don’t pay attention to consumer trends and market realities - so goes the popular cliché - we will suffer the same fate as the buggy whip business.
As a toy inventor, I feel it is sometimes good to stop listening to this chatter and follow my instinct. Had Alexander Graham Bell first put forth his idea for focus groups and savvy market analysts to consider, someone else would have invented the telephone.
True innovations often come not from compliance and conformity, but from ignorance and a little bull-headedness. If Beethoven’s 9th had to be approved by “senior management” and had to pass “testing”, it would not be on anybody’s iPod Shuffle - another superb innovation borne out of someone not paying close attention to reality.
Guest Blogger Cesar Ramirez, Electronics Engineer and Designer at Lund and Company Invention, L.L.C.
After her initial appearance in Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, the super-computer VIKI has taken up residence here at Lund and Company.
VIKI (Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence) is an evil computer that wants to enslave all humans to protect them from their own inevitable self-destruction. However, here at Lund and Company we've reprogrammed her to forget how self-destructive we are.
We assign her a very important task - to run the building and everything in it. VIKI turns on the lights in the morning and turns them off when we leave at night. She open the outdoor umbrella when we go outside to take a break, and she knows to open the secret doors and passageways at just the right moment. She also informs us about the weather each morning and sings us "Happy Birthday" on our birthdays.
VIKI is now a very busy and benevolent computer here at Lund and Company, and we are glad to have her here. It's too bad that she is sometimes shy and untalkative, but that may just be a bug in the program. We just hope that one day she doesn’t send killing robots after us.
From guest blogger Michael Starrick, Senior Design Engineer at Lund and Company Invention, L.L.C.
in*ven*tion (n-vnshn) n.
1. The act or process of inventing: used a technique of her own invention
2. A new device, method, or process developed from study and experimentation
The above definition, while good, is lacking in a fundamental truth that we all need to reinvent ourselves to remain relevant in an ever-changing world.
In my 25 years in the toy industry I have had the privilege to work with many people that have exercised this principle. These people have been influenced by moving from one company to another, or the shrinking toy market, or the changes in consumer demand to reinvent who they are and how they participate in the invention process.
We can each bemoan our changing circumstances, or we can embrace the new challenge set before us.
The outcome of our efforts may not be clear cut in the present moment, but our response to this moment can reflect our true inventive nature.
It turns out, the struggling Sears store was located in a bad neighborhood and the workers didn’t want to go out for meals, but the in-house cafeteria had been shuttered long ago and was now a huge, filthy space after years of abandonment.
My friend proposed that if the employees could find someone to run the cafeteria and provide good, reasonably-priced meals, then he would pay to have it restored to working condition. They found a local Italian restauranteur to run the cafeteria, had a grand opening, and the rest is history.
Business boomed. The workers were happy and my friend was named Store Manager of the Year. He was a turn-around artist, indeed.
"Listen to the people. Respect the people," was his secret. The once-struggling, now thriving Sears store began to have parties and other events to make it fun to be a part of the team. Genius, simple straight-from-the-heart genius.
I was talking with a friend recently and he related the story of taking over a struggling Sears retail store in Brooklyn in the early 90’s. The store had been scheduled for closing due to falling sales, but he turned it around and was named Store Manager of the year the very next year, with sales at that location skyrocketing over 25% during his first year on the job.
How do you do that, whether it be for a Sears retail store or some other business enterprise? He asked the people in the community and the workers at the store what they wanted. And what did they want?
A rising tide floats all boats and, not surprisingly, just the opposite is true. When a category is down for one of the major manufacturers, for whatever reason, it represents opportunity for smaller competitors, but it also results in a loss of sales across the board in the entire category.
A good example of this is happening in the game aisle, as one toy exec reported to me recently. Where Hasbro Games is failing to create product to draw attention to the category, the entire category feels the slump in sales due to inattention on the part of the consumer. That causes a lot of pain for a lot of companies, including ours.
What is the solution?
No one is asking my opinion, of course. However, here at Lund we create a lot of games - games such as Doggie Doo which ‘doo’ create excitement and draw attention to the game category. We have the concepts, we have the technologies, and we can help!