We don't watch a lot of television in our home. Sure, we watch our favorite college teams play basketball or football, and we love movie night, but it's not often we find ourselves sitting on the couch watching an actual television show. We don't even have cable. With four children, there's always something else happening, which means we just don't have time.
Occasionally, however, there's a show we just can't wait to watch. Fox's new Lego Masters, hosted by Will Arnett, is that kind of show. Of course, full disclosure, we actually have a 'Lego room' in our house, so that could have something to do with the fact that we really enjoy this particular show. But even if you don't have young kids who play with Lego bricks, there are still a few great lessons you can learn by watching.
In the show, teams of two compete to build various challenges using Legos. This week, for example, the teams had 15 hours to build a theme park scene, which had to include a ride that moved. Their creations are then judged by Amy Corbett, a Lego senior design manager, and Jamie Berard, head of the Lego Creator Expert and Lego Architecture lines.
The losing team gets sent home. The winning team is given the golden brick, which can be used to stay safe in the event they are later the bottom team.
There are plenty of interesting competitors, and they clearly have some serious Lego-building chops. In case you plan to watch (and you should), I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that these teams know what they're doing. That makes the show particularly fun--to see what happens when you put creative and talented people in a room with what seems like an endless supply of every type of Lego brick imaginable.
Which brings me to the reason you should be watching. Look, it doesn't hurt that Arnett, who voiced Lego Batman in The Lego Batman Movie, delivers the right mix of competitiveness and play, and that no one takes themselves too seriously.
But, more important, the show is a reminder of how creativity actually works, and how you can harness it for your team. So often, creativity is considered a specialization. We think about some people as creative, and other people as analytical. It's true, not everyone is an artist or a musician, but that misses the point. Your job as a leader is to design a process and a structure that fosters creativity among a range of different types of team members.
Creativity thrives on having a challenge or a purpose. Give your team a clear understanding of the problem or challenge you want them to solve, and allow them to find their way to that end. In the TV competition, the challenge is clear, as in this week's show, for example: Start with this scene and build a theme park with a ride that moves. There was no requirement of how it had to move, or what type of ride they had to build, but the basic framework of the challenge was there. That's your job as a leader.
I've already mentioned that endless supply of Lego bricks, which made my children jealous. The good news is that creative work doesn't require infinite resources. In fact, often the more limited the resources, the more creative a solution you are forced to find.
As a leader, however, your main job is to make sure your team members have tools they can use to build whatever it is you've asked them to create. Whether that's Lego bricks, crayons, an iPad Pro, or paper and pencil, creativity thrives on having the right resources to meet the challenge.
The teams on Lego Masters had 15 hours this week. That seems like a long time, but it turns out that the length of time is often not nearly as important as the fact that there was a structure and a deadline. Creativity, especially in a collaborative process, requires structure.
Setting deadlines, even tight deadlines, forces people to focus their creative energy and actually create. This is because creativity isn't about thinking, it's about building. Thinking is about planning, which is obviously important, but it's not the same thing as creativity, which is literally about creating. You can always adjust your time frame later if you have to, but start by creating the structure that will help your team focus on building instead of thinking.
By the way, as a final note, it's worth mentioning that Lego is one of the most brilliant brand-building companies--period. Never mind the flagship stores, the licensing deals that include sets featuring characters from the Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Jurassic Park movies (among many others), and the Lego movies. Now there's a television reality show.
And it's all based on the most commoditized and popular toy ever manufactured. There have been more than 400 billion Lego bricks produced since 1958, and there are more Lego people on earth than there are actual people.