The adidas LEGO® Partnership: Building the Creative Identity of Future Athletes
On the eve of the new adidas LEGO® partnership, adidas’ Aimee Arana talks to creativity expert Ronald A. Beghetto about nurturing a creative identity in both children and adults through sport and play.
Before Ronald A. Beghetto, creativity researcher, professor at Arizona State University and editor of the Journal of Creative Behavior, opens his mouth, I know our Zoom chat is going to be fun and playful. His choice of a multicolored, three-dimensional, block background to brighten up his office is in stark contrast to my neutral, beige walls.
He puts me at ease by not judging my lack of creative background and instead explains that ‘creativity thrives in difference, not sameness.’
Ron is a creativity advisor for the LEGO Foundation and is just as excited as I am about the creative possibilities of the adidas LEGO partnership for our future athletes and builders.
I wanted to delve into what feeds the creative expression of both kids and adults and get his insights into how parents, educators, and team leaders can fuel creativity, no matter their age.
Ron, it’s clear that a sea of sameness would not have turned adidas and LEGO Group into the two iconic brands they have become. How do you see the meeting of these two Creative Greats from the worlds of sport and toys?
Bringing together two entities with clearly defined values can unleash new possibilities that are unpredictable, powerful, and creative. This is what we call creative emergence. Anytime you do these kinds of mash-ups, the difference between the two parts you bring together is what fuels creativity. You see it in music, in art, in everyday life (take whipping up a dish of leftovers from the fridge), and obviously, you see it in business. It disrupts the binary and creates something completely new that you cannot anticipate.
Playful and inclusive learning with the adidas LEGO partnership
Our first collaboration on the A-ZX trainer was a real wow moment for adidas Originals and LEGO fans alike while the adidas LEGO kids products we’re dropping in December are literally nonbinary. We’ve created the apparel for all gender identities. Just how important is it that we build a more playful and inclusive world?
Creativity comes from different perspectives, possibilities, and ideas. Whenever we encounter difference, it creates an opportunity for us to think and act in new ways, which is creativity.
There are specific markers of the creative experience. One way to define it is trying to make the familiar unfamiliar, and the unfamiliar familiar. Which, again, requires difference.
In schools, at home, and even business meetings, people almost play a game of intellectual hide and seek. Even though the teacher says all ideas are welcome, savvy students know they have to guess what the teacher wants to hear and how they want to hear it. This privileges sameness. Even if a kid says something correctly, but says it differently than expected, they get shut down with an ‘oh, why don’t you think about some more…’ I call it killing ideas softly.
We have to let people – whether kids or team members – take what I call beautiful risks, even if it makes us uncomfortable at first. Because in the process, we all learn from each other.
What are beautiful risks?
We take risks every day. A good risk is if the benefits in a given situation outweigh the potential hazard. A bad risk is when the hazards outweigh the benefits. A beautiful risk goes beyond the self. It’s when you do something that may not work, but it has the potential to benefit the learning and lives of others. To know whether to take beautiful risks, you always have to ask ‘why?’ The purpose behind that risk has to be strong.
Play is in the adidas DNA. We support athletes to shine in their chosen sport and give them the tools to let their creativity take over. Just how important is play both physically and mentally to us all?
Play opens up new possibilities and introduces uncertainty.
A lot of our lives are over-planned and over-structured. This engineers uncertainty out of the way. But with that, it engineers creativity out of the way, too.
Play is different. Even when you are playing games that have rules, there is still a lot of uncertainty. This brings more opportunities for creative expression.
That said, play or sport can sometimes be a struggle, too. But there’s still positive emotion when you push through that. Taking it to the next level or passing a personal best – as your confidence goes up, so do your positive emotions – those emotions are important for creativity.
“It’s true. I grew up playing a lot of sport and I always found that when things got competitive and challenging it actually helped me learn better.”Aimee Arana, GM of the Training business unit at adidas
How to cultivate a creative identity
Ron, you have a daughter, you work with parents and educators, how do you advise them to nourish a creative mindset?
Having a creative mindset means cultivating a creative identity. To build that identity, you need a few things.
- Creative confidence. Engaging with uncertainty and saying, ‘I don’t know what to do. We haven’t practiced this before, but I am confident I can come up with a new way of thinking or acting to solve what I’m facing right now.’
- Value the act of being creative.
- Develop a creative mindset. You are not born with one teaspoon of creativity to use the rest of your life. Believe that creativity can grow, you can get better at being creative in different domains.
- Be willing to take the risk.
All those things together build your creative identity.
“To cultivate a creative identity, be confident, value creativity, believe you can become better, and be willing to take the risk.”Ronald A. Beghetto, creative researcher
The most important takeaway for educators, parents and coaches is to create a safe space for young people to take creative risks. I call this ‘structured uncertainty’ and sport does that well.
The only way we develop is through experiences – setbacks, successes, and failures. The more experiences kids have, the more they develop a creative identity that is resilient enough to make them become the authors of their own creative lives.
Provide the space to fail and creativity will bloom
Fast forward 10 years and those kids are becoming the strategists of our brands. Do these steps also apply to adults?
Yes, especially providing safe spaces to fail. The nice thing about play and sport is it does provide a context to rethink failure.
“Failing is part of play, it’s part of sport and it’s absolutely part of creativity.”Ronald A. Beghetto, creative researcher
We have this project called ‘The My Favorite Failure’ project.
We invite everyone to tell the story of their favorite failure. We’re intentionally calling it ‘favorite’ to disrupt how we think about failing. We often hear slogans like ‘fail forward’, but nobody talks about how painful it is to fail. When we are honest that failure can be painful, then we can learn and grow from it.
Even a small setback can be a powerful learning. Talking about it is important, because storytelling is a powerful vehicle for play, creativity, and sport.
And that’s where I have to leave my creativity conversation with Ronald. I end our call feeling excited about how the adidas LEGO partnership will thrive on the differences of all our athletes and builders, both young and old, and support them in building their own creative identity every day.
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Very interesting read and an inspirational partnership that got me energized!
The recognisable shape of a pair of trainers triggered me to build this special one. Being a LEGO and adidas fan from childhood and always playing sports (wearing adidas of course;-)) and building with LEGO, I was thrilled to hear the release of the LEGO adidas ZX 8000!
Actually the recent news of LEGO Group and adidas announcing an extensive partnership was the right moment to post my idea of the LEGO sneaker to the wider community. The opportunity via LEGO Ideas seems a good fit for the fun aspect of a sneaker in the 'Sports and Play' range that was never available before.
The combination of both brands was a dream come true for many LEGO and adidas fans. However, there are a lot of fans that did not get hold of a pair given its popularity and sold out quickly.
My motto: "If you couldn't buy them, you can now build'm!"
I'm hoping for those fans that seek a unique sneaker coming to live in LEGO bricks and bring back those nostalgic childhood memories of sports and play!