Why the world of work should be more like child’s play

Last year the runaway success of Johanna Basford’s adult colouring book, Secret Garden put childlike pastimes on our radar. And although this movement isn’t new, it feels so right for right now. We used to be obsessed with being “grown-up” and now we’re all craving a return to our more childlike and juvenile nature.

But why? It’s simple really, but also a little complicated, like life. We’ve entered the age of information overload where numbers and KPIs (key performance indicators) have become our intrinsic value at work and the new corporate religion. Inevitably this economic tone spills over into how we think and feel about ourselves. This leads to stress, fatigue, overthinking and an Office Space-like moment where we realise the zest and flavour of life is starting to feel stale. So instead a playful rebellion is afoot, we want to return to the alluring confidence and flow of our adolescent minds.

For fashion businesses what does this mean? As margins continue to erode for the industry and consumer priorities continue sway with the wind, could a counter-intuitive approach, to make work play, be that much needed design juju that has us gleefully spending our money again on those deliciously divine, entirely useless must-haves? In a short word, yes.

Commercial messages aside, fashion has always been and always will be about capturing and pushing that ever ephemeral zeitgeist in and at the right moment.

But how can you get in touch with that elusively, intuitive feel of fashion through play? One solution we recently tried at a Shanghai based start-up is the Lego serious play method. Yes, you read that correctly. Developed in 1996 by professors Johan Roos and Bart Victor, a company is lead through a series of questions designed to stimulate innovative problem solving by physically visualising problems, challenges, all in the explorative safety of those iconically, familiar blocks. By removing the barrier known as mistake paralysis, this might just be that much needed remedy for creating delightful serendipity for the customer.

For China in particular as the country’s consumers and retail businesses mature, innovative designs that offer more than a product trend will be crucial for driving consumer spend. Increasingly lifestyle has become the new priority for shopping which means the old formula of relying on what sells is a sure-fire way to work your way to redundancy. And as those Lego blocks become familiar in the country, it’ll be an interesting colour story to follow. 

From Ai Wei Wei’s subversive Lego artwork, to a factory that is set to open in 2017, who knows what those nostalgic hues will come to symbolise as the toy’s popularity grows with the next generation?

For more global insight and brand analysis, join WGSN.


Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.

WGSN Insider Bulletin

Experience the leading provider of consumer foresight.

Related Stories

Retail Futures: Browns Fashion heads to Berlin

How to avoid brand blunders in China

WGSN + Coloro: Key Colours A/W 21/22