LEGOs Help Business Executives Achieve Three-Dimensional Data Visualization
April 9, 2012
In 2010, LEGO released the first models of its Architecture series, encouraging children (and adults) to look at a pile of plastic bricks and see the Empire State Building, Fallingwater and the John Hancock Center, among other landmarks of high design. The series seemed to bridge a fairly obvious gap, playing with the idea that spatial toys like Legos might promote advanced spatial thinking—which, in turn, could breed a generation of Frank Lloyd Wrights. But few could probably have guessed that a childhood penchant for colored building blocks could inspire sharper business tactics.
Tim Herrick, global chief engineer at General Motors, and Dennis Pastor, executive director of performance excellence for WellStar Health Systems, were frustrated with the limits of two-dimensional data representation. Both executives found that flat line graphs and pie charts seemed ill suited for their respective lines of work: “We came to the conclusion that our processes were three dimensional but our reports were only two dimensional. We needed to see them 3-D,” Pastor told Co.Design. The solution came in the form of a familiar modular toy: LEGOs. Pastor and Herrick created a prototype Lego board, the same board now used to observe problem resolution tracking at GM.
GM uses different colored and different sized blocks to denote the areas of vehicles and the severity of the problems, respectively. The board not only provides a more comprehensive look at the data, but it also promotes transparency within the company, encouraging teams within GM to come together and update the status of the board collectively. As Mark Wilson wrote for Co.Design, “By mapping real world problems to an icon of our youth, each challenge must be approached with an inherent playfulness.” The game-like system might prompt employees to generate strategies to change the shape and color of the board. When results can be as palpable as a set of LEGOs, it’s hard not to feel the possibility of change.
[All images via Co.Design]