In 2011, LEGO opened up its Japanese crowdsourcing platform CUUSOO to global audiences, inviting adults to submit and vote for new LEGO product designs. There are currently 3,787 live projects at LEGO CUUSOO. Three co-created products have been launched to date, and a fourth one is in production.
Ideas that clear an initial review and receive10,000 votes are formally evaluated by a LEGO product team for Brand Fit, Business Case Development (and license agreements), Model Design and Final Review.
As Levent Ozler, editor-in-chief of Dexigner, summarized:
“Ideas that are supported by 10,000 votes have a chance of being selected to become part of the LEGO Group’s product portfolio and sold in LEGO Brand retail stores and the LEGO online shop. Consumers who have their ideas chosen will earn 1% of the total net sales of the product.”
Maxine Horn, advocate of safeguarding intellectual property, commented:
“Lego are certainly an inspiration and what I love about their new move is that, unlike others using their customer base to inspire innovation, they set a challenge and are prepared to share in the revenues of anything they take forward.”
People can submit their own projects and can also collaborate with other members of the LEGO CUUSOO community (Guidelines for Collaborative Projects). People must be 18 to submit ideas and 13 to vote on ideas.
This video explains the LEGO CUUSOO review process.
Fan submitted ideas undergo the same scrutiny as internally developed ideas, and have pushed LEGO to consider new partnerships to bring projects to life. For instance, LEGO partnered with Mojang, creators of the popular video game Minecraft, to produce the Minecraft set.
The LEGO CUUSOO process has also resulted in LEGO standing by brand guidelines and rejecting projects that were not an ideal fit. Ideas have been archived for being inappropriate for young audiences (The Winchester – Shaun of the Dead), for being too costly to produce (Legend of Zelda set of characters) and due to barriers in obtaining the license from original copyright holders (My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic, a property owned by competitor Hasbro).
In a blog post, LEGO stated:
“Opening ourselves to new product suggestions invites popular ideas that don’t always fit our brand. This is the first time we’ve felt that we should turn a LEGO CUUSOO idea down, but we’re grateful for the spirit behind projects like the Winchester and for the opportunity to be challenged. It keeps us sharp and looking toward the future of the LEGO brick.”
With LEGO fans eager to see the products they voted on in stores instantaneously, LEGO has cut down its typical product release cycle from two to three years to as little as six months with the Minecraft project.
Matthew Kronsberg, writer at Fast Company, pointed out:
“The first Cuusoo project–the Shinkai–took 420 days to accumulate enough votes to trigger a review (only 1,000 were needed for the Japan-only project), while Minecraft, with its 20 million registered users, racked up 10,000 votes in just 48 hours.
“Such an outpouring of interest would be squandered though, if that consumer desire was left to wither through a traditional product development cycle. And this is where the second, and possibly more significant piece of the Cuusoo endeavor comes into play: Lego Minecraft will go from concept to release in roughly six months, rather than Lego’s typical two- or three-year process.”
LEGO enthusiasts point out that LEGO’s agility and determination to staying relevant to changing demographics has helped turn the company around and establish a strong fan base.
“At one point a few Years ago Lego almost went bankrupt. Now they are a multimedia empire… Lego is doing a great job staying relevant to a changing demographic who has a constantly expanding field of entertainment opportunities available to them.
“Sure, it is far from an instantaneous process but more and more we expect or entertainments to conform to what we want rather than us to conform to what is available.”
Digital enthusiast Luis Remelli Beerbower noted:
“LEGO has many reasons for crowdsourcing: engaging their customers, accurate estimation, customer needs, spotting trends, and seeing in first hand market potential for each product.”
“What we have created are systems where we build large facilities and large buildings full of the researchers that we think can solve the most important problems. We hire the best in the world to work on those problems, but we all know the fundamental limitation of that kind of system. We couldn’t hire all the smartest people in a given field if we wanted to, we can’t.”
The CUUSOO model also helps individual ideas stand out and enter the spotlight. As Peter Esperson, Lego’s Online Community Lead said:
“If we got all the Lego designers, and probably even all the fans in the same room and discussed what it was we should make, and put it to a vote? It probably would not have been the Shinkai [submarine]. But some guy in Japan decided he wanted to do this, and he tapped into the deepwater marine biology community and then it happened.”
CUUSOO’s 10,000 vote requirement also helps streamline the crowdsourcing process. As the Idea Connection team noted:
“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.”
CUUSOO caters to the adult LEGO fan base, a sizable population of people with a shared passion for and expertise in building things. Participants of CUUSOO include professional designers and engineers.
In the words of Fast Company’s Matthew Kronsberg, AFOLs are “small, all but invisible demographics, but taken in aggregate, colossal.”
AFOLs are connected offline through local Lego User Group chapters, meetups and brick conferences, and through online LEGO platforms like CUUSOO and ReBrick, a social bookmarking site for adults to share and discuss user generated LEGO content.
The passion people show for co-creating and shaping products around them, and the technology to harness their creativity and feedback has lead to the new generation of co-created products we are seeing today, with LEGO CUUSOO and other brand initiatives such as Philips Simply Innovate.
“Socially connected consumers will strengthen communities and shift power away from brands and CRM (customer relationship management) systems; eventually this will result in empowered communities defining the next generation of products.”
“The real revolution here is not in the creation of the technology, but the democratization of the technology. It’s when you basically give it to a huge expanded group of people who come up with new applications, and you harness the ideas and the creativity and the energy of everybody.”
LEGO nurtures the spirit of creation amongst adults and children alike with digital tools such as LEGO Digital Designer and LDraw to create products with a virtual supply of LEGO pieces, and social networks such as LEGO Club and ReBrick that foster knowledge sharing, content sharing and discussion.
Joren de Wachter, an IP strategy consultant, noted:
“The genius of Lego is to embrace and share that creativity, rather than trying to own it.”
* (MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.
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