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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

LEGO Gets Help From Japan


Did you know that LEGO - the iconic Danish building block toy manufacturer has been teaming up with Japan? I sort of did.

But this partnership goes beyond the usual "Hey, can you manufacture our parts for us in your country so that we can save on shipping but still charge the same amount of money?" relationship that exists worldwide.

LEGO is now working with Japan's CUUSOO System website, a subsidiary of the Japan-based Elephant Design to use LEGO customer ideas to create LEGO models.

Wow. I used the word LEGO three times in that sentence.

Customers are invited to submit ideas for a LEGO model, and any idea that gains 10,000 supporters could be chosen to become part of the product line.

Sugoi! (Great!) 

Aside from bragging rights of having YOUR idea become a LEGO model, those who have their idea chosen will also earn one per cent (1%) of the total net sales of the product.  

CUUSOO, which means either 'imagination' or 'wish' in Japanese depending on the context is a part of Elephant Design Co., Ltd., headquartered in Tokyo, Japan and was established in 1998. It has worked with open innovation and crowd sourcing for more than 10 years.

Via its CUUSOO website owned by CUUSOO System Co., Ltd., it has worked with the LEGO Group since 2008 on a Japanese website that has attracted hundreds of ideas and seen thousands of votes cast by a 20,000-strong community.

Known as an idea collection system, LEGO has released one model with another out shortly that are or will be sold in LEGO brand retail stores, as well as on the LEGO online shop... though I have to admit that it does vary by country, as I have yet to see it available in Canada - except through E-bay (Ka-ching! It's not cheap!). Personally, I think for the first product released, it was only in Japan.   

The first Japanese LEGO CUUSOO product was the Shinkai 6500 submersible (see photo above) that went on sale in Japan in February of 2011. Click HERE for information on the real sub.

The second Japanese LEGO CUUSOO product is the Hayabusa unmanned spacecraft that will be launched soon in the first quarter of 2012.

Hayabusa unmanned spacecraft

The real Hayabusa spacecraft was developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and actually landed on an asteroid to take samples before returning to Earth in 2010. Awesome! More information HERE.

“Our fans and consumers have proved time after time that they have great ideas that can lead to products,” says Paal Smith-Meyer, head of the LEGO New Business Group.

“We have worked with our consumers in the past and continue to do so, for example in the LEGO Architecture series, which we developed with an architect and LEGO fan. LEGO CUUSOO is an attempt to gather more great ideas while streamlining the way we innovate and become inspired.”

“We see this as an investment in the future rather than for immediate sales gain. We are moving from a local Japanese pilot to see if the model is sustainable. We were pleased with the initial results, but we need to see how it will perform on a global platform with global distribution,” he explains.

So... if you have an idea for a new LEGO model, why not try and get it made? No longer just limited to Japan, the world is now LEGO's oyster.

Visit LEGO CUUSOO and make your dreams a reality.

Andrew Joseph

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