Analytics

Big Data for the Child’s Room

28 April 2016

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Big Data for the Child’s Room

Digitisation lurks everywhere. The destructive power of disruptive ideas doesn’t even spare monopolists such as LEGO. Many a concept in the big data category is so simple that it arises even in the child’s room.

This happens in my home. Every week, it’s the same. My son Matteo upends his entire LEGO collection. His goal? He searches for one (!) specific block for a self-designed rocket blueprint. For this purpose, he spreads out thousands of LEGO blocks on the floor of his room.

No easy task. LEGO has developed more than 2,000 different foundation blocks so far. Searching completely unaided is almost hopeless. This time, Matteo gives up the search after an hour, with tears in his eyes. We can only salvage the situation by making a bold resolution: “We’re programming an app!”.

Big data is easy

Apps are like magic to him. They can simply do everything. With a few movements of the finger, children’s newscasts, schedules, and football results are conjured up within seconds on Dad’s smartphone. His LEGO chaos could also be organised in this way, he reasons, and he also understands that an app alone will not suffice. “We’re building a machine!” he adds to the resolution we have just made. “I tip all of the blocks into the machine. Then I type in the app what I want to build. The app suggests a few building sets to me, and when I click on them, the box simply spits out all of the blocks down below.”

A new look at data creates unique customer benefits

I am speechless. Matteo’s idea – a kind of digital Thermomix for plastic blocks – is astoundingly simple. Only, no one has implemented it yet. Worldwide, there are countless LEGO recycling programs, but none of them is sufficiently digitised. Every year, several million pieces transported throughout the world are sorted according to size, colour and condition, compiled according to the wishes of the customers, and shipped once again. Everything is done manually. This is surprising, because digitisation of this recycling business model not only saves time, but also allows a specialisation in rare product series. By means of processing the huge amount of data (big data) in connection with LEGO blocks, new, individualised blueprints could be developed. Companies will thus have the opportunity to have a much more individualised customer experience through a more efficient and more customer-friendly consideration of the consumer’s wishes.

Digital invaders in attack mode

This approach certainly deserves the attribute “disruptive”. It has the potential to fundamentally change the global business of the colourful blocks. Digital invaders such as “Uber” and “AirBnB” have already for quite some time deftly latched onto the analogue value chain of established companies, with completely unpredictable consequences. For this, you don’t even need the high-tech processing power that banks do with their high-frequency trading, in which milliseconds decide profit and loss.

Reason enough for corporate officers to come to grips with the “Uberisation” of their own business model. The destructive power of smart ideas doesn’t even spare monopolists. With regard to this matter, that means: LEGO must prepare itself. A digitisation of the used-block business – i.e. the analysis and synthesis of existing building plans and materials – offers plenty of fantasy for new business models for products from the Danish toy giant, despite or even because of a constantly changing product line.

By the way: I promised to give Matteo a prototype of the first digital LEGO recycling box for his next birthday. I am much too late, and still somewhat lacking direction…

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