Lessons from Lego: Confessions of an enterprise collaboration addict and toddler mom

As first-time parents, my husband and I try to be wise in our toy purchases. (Experienced parents: please stop laughing.) But it’s become clear that most toys aren’t designed with both parents and toddlers in mind; most seem to fall into one of several categories. As I began to define the different categories of toys in my head after cleaning up a particularly rowdy play session, I realized they looked surprisingly similar to the enterprise collaboration and communication marketplace (but more on that soon):

  • Best of Breed – This toy does one thing well, but that’s it. You can’t expand or increase the toy’s value by combining it with others. It sits forgotten while the toys that work together endure. The little car that is slightly wider than standard and fits only on its own track (which doesn’t combine with other tracks) just takes up space.
  • Where’s the Manual? – This toy is great, conceptually, like the educational “Alphabet Apple” received as a gift. But, the bewildering array of settings, buttons with letters and colors, prompted our son to move on after two minutes. I lasted for five. Toys for two-year-olds should be intuitive enough for the intended audience. (Not to mention parents!)
  • All for Looks – This toy’s design makes it irresistible. But it’s quirky, and you can’t rely on it to perform as intended each time. The blue hippo that counts when you squeeze its tummy is adorable … until it stops counting and starts burping. Children who can’t count past four without burping are not adorable.
  • Some Assembly Required – I have to build something? I can’t just start playing? No “out-of-the-box” functionality here. At least two adults and as many hours are usually required to get this toy going. The racetrack looks incredible … until you open the box to find about 50 pieces of plastic and a diagram that requires an engineering degree to decipher.

Then there are Legos – the ultimate toy platform. Legos are infinitely creative; you can use them to tell any story, to facilitate math or art or socialization. You can start with a few pieces and keep adding until you create a whole world. Legos interoperate: my old collection works with what’s flying off the shelves today. They appeal to kids of every age from 2 to 62. (Just ask Nana.) Kids come back to Legos again and again with new ideas, new friends, and new skills. And adding more friends to collaborate doesn’t exceed Legos’ capacity; it actually makes them better!


To get your knowledge workers to adopt a collaboration tool, you’ll need one that meets the needs of the business, and still delivers right the experience for the audience. With all the collaboration solutions, it pays to do your research.

  • Best of Breed – This tool does one thing really, really well, but that’s it. You want your workers to have the best. But without all the tools they need or easy integration with systems you use today, this tool is a burden. The cool features won’t overcome the wasted time and effort spent switching between multiple applications: one for chat, one for CRM, one for documents, one for video…
  • Where’s the Manual? – We are all influenced by technology we consume on our smartphones and tablets. We’re conditioned to expect the same type of instantly intuitive experience in our work lives as we typically get in our personal lives. If a business application doesn’t offer the experience we expect, chances are we simply won’t use it. We might even download our preferred (but totally unsanctioned) tool, just to get work done.
  • All for Looks – Intuitive isn’t everything. Some collaboration tools are designed with the user experience in mind, but little thought to the enterprise-grade elements modern organizations require. A great user experience adds no value if a collaboration tool can’t deliver the reliability, scalability and security your business demands.
  • Some Assembly Required – Wait, we have to build something? We can’t just start collaborating? Many collaboration tools do offer both the great user experience employees expect and the functionality the business needs … if there are resources available to build integrations to third parties to provide the required security or other critical “missing parts.”

Is it time to clean out your collaboration toy box?

– Gina

Gina Clarkin

Gina joined Interactive Intelligence in 2006. As Senior Manager, Solutions Marketing she leads the team responsible for product marketing for the company's collaboration, communications and customer engagement solutions. With nearly twenty years of experience in software and advanced technologies, her background includes roles in product marketing, product management, program consulting, and business development. Gina holds a Bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and an MBA from The Lally School of Management & Technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time with family, playing golf, or taking power walks with her German shepherd.