GoldieBlox: Engineering toys for girls


GoldieBlox is an engineering toy developed for girls by Debbie Sterling. Kept in “girlish” colors and materials, it comes with a storybook telling of heroine Goldie and her friends, and how Goldie gets them through their adventures by engineering solutions. The story is accompanied by a platform where the children can reconstruct her building designs.  Debbie Sterling explains her motives in developing this toy on www.goldieblox.com:

“Engineers are solving some of the biggest challenges our society faces. They are critical to the world economy, earn higher salaries and have greater job security. And they are 89% male. We believe engineers can’t responsibly build our world’s future without the female perspective. GoldieBlox is here to bring the female voice into engineering.”

She has raised the necessary capital to take this toy into production through a funding platform called Kickstarter http://www.kickstarter.com/, which since its launch in 2009 has funded over 30,000 creative projects. Her highly successful pitch? “Our girls need Goldie“. And the great marketing videos starring her “development team” (average age about 5) show that she is just the type of role model a modern girl needs, and really understands her target market. The first of a series of GoldieBlox sets is currently in the pipeline, with several others now lined up to follow.

Here, for reference, is Debbie Sterling’s blurb on Kickstarter:

Debbie is the creative force behind GoldieBlox. She studied engineering at Stanford (Product Design, ’05) and has made it her mission in life to tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math.
Debbie writes and illustrates Goldie’s stories, taking inspiration from her grandmother, one of the first female cartoonists and creator of “Mr. Magoo”.
Prior to founding GoldieBlox, Debbie served as the Marketing Director of Lori Bonn, a national jewelry company. There, she learned the ins and outs of bringing a product to market: from overseas manufacturing to sales/marketing to product fulfillment.
For the past 7 years, Debbie has also served as a brand strategy consultant for a wide variety of organizations including Microsoft, T-Mobile, Organic Valley and the New York Knicks. She gets the power of branding, every step of the way.
Debbie got her first taste of social impact work in 2008, when she spent 6 months volunteering at a grassroots nonprofit in rural India. This experience helped pave the way to finding her true passion: inspiring the next generation of female engineers.
goldieblox.com

Toy dealers here in Germany should sit up and notice. Germany prides itself as the land of engineers and toy design, but not since Playmobil in the 70s has anyone come up with anything with this kind of potential. And even Playmobil doesn’t require much in the way of building skills or imagination. Lego is still the king of building tools, but most of their toys relating to engineering seem to be made for boys. There is nothing really creative in their current product line to excite a girl.

GoldieBlox should be great for children, boys or girls, who want to learn English. The combination of listening to a story being read out and then being able to work hands-on is ideal. I’ve ordered a few sets, but of course ordering individual sets is not economical.

Debbie Sterling’s pitch at SOCAP12 is an excellent model for elevator pitches, by the way! (Link to video)

Teacher colleague Gabrielle Jones has just started up a blog and shared a lesson on Social Commerce.

I’m considering using the GoldieBlox story in the Business English book I’m working on for Cornelsen, but don’t know whether the creative start-up angle is relevant for the Deutsche Mittelstand we’re producing the book for.

GoldieBlox is a play on words, Goldie Locks being the main character in the English fairytale, The Story of the Three Bears, which is relatively unknown in Germany.

Ha-Joon Chang

Ha-Joon Chang, Professor of Political Economy of Development at the University of Cambridge, explains economics very clearly and simply. In his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, he argues these 23 tenets:

  1. There is really no such thing as a free market.
  2. Companies should not be run in the interest of their owners.
  3. Most people in rich countries get paid more than they should.
  4. The washing machine has changed the world more than the internet.
  5. Assume the worst about people, and you get the worst.
  6. Greater macroeconomic stability has not made the world economy more stable.
  7. Free-market policies rarely make poor countries richer.
  8. Capital has a nationality.
  9. We do not live in a post-industrial age.
  10. The US does not have the highest living standard in the world.
  11. Africa is not destined for under-development.
  12. Government can pick winners.
  13. Making rich people richer doesn’t make the rest of us richer.
  14. US managers are over-priced.
  15. People in poor countries are more entrepreneurial than people in rich countries.
  16. We are not smart enough to leave things to the market.
  17. More education in itself is not going to make a country richer.
  18. What is good for General Motors is not necessarily good for the US.
  19. Despite the fall of Communism, we are still living in planned economies.
  20. Equality of opportunities is unequal.
  21. Big government makes people more, not less, open to changes.
  22. Financial markets need to become less, not more, efficient.
  23. Good economic policy does not require good economists.

My key takeaway:

Maximizing shareholder value is the root of the problem of western style capitalism: with dispersed ownership, individual shareholders don’t have the incentive to commit to the long-term success of the company. Floating shareholders are running companies in the name of shareholder maximization. There is no investment in R&D and training and machinery, because results in 5 or 10 years are not interesting. Today, over 60% of corporate profit are given out as dividends, as compared to 35 to 45 percent in the 1970s. Companies have less cash to invest, and that is not being used for appropriate long-term development.


Anita Roddick: Commerce with a Conscience

“Start with quality and truth”. Dame Anita Roddick (1942 – 2007), founder of The Body Shop, was an activist and a businesswoman. Her cosmetics company helped establish ethical consumerism, being one of the first to prohibit the use of animals and to promote fair trade. She gave this talk (just under 50 minutes) at the British Library Business & IP Centre as the keynote speaker of Enterprise Week 2006 (15 November 2006).





If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

Naderev Saño, the Philippines’ lead negotiator, gives a brilliant, emotional 3 minute speech at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Doha, on 6 November 2012. It is enormously difficult to keep your chin up as a negotiator in such a slow and tedious process. But do you always have to keep your chin up? Can’t a show of emotion move people to action and sway decisions?


Originally posted by Adam Mordecai in Upworthy.

The Boston Globe Big Picture features pictures of the typhoon known internationally as Bopha that Saño refers to.

If you know anyone who doubts the reality of anthropogenic climate change, send him or her to listen to the great presentation by Rob Dunbar (TED).

In his talk showing and explaining oceanic evidence of climate change, Dunbar said: “I was in Copenhagen in December (2009), like a number of you in this room. And I think we all found it, simultaneously, an eye-opening and a very frustrating experience. I sat in this large negotiation hall, at one point, for three or four hours, without hearing the word “oceans” one time. It really wasn’t on the radar screen. The nations that brought it up when we had the speeches of the national leaders — it tended to be the leaders of the small island states, the low-lying island states. And by this weird quirk of alphabetical order of the nations, a lot of the low-lying states, like Kiribati and Nauru, they were seated at the very end of these immensely long rows. You know, they were marginalized in the negotiation room.”

Presenting science to your peers

I gave a morning workshop yesterday on scientific presentations to students of Geoscience and updated my approach a little. It now includes the concept of creating storytelling cycles of tension and resolution (situation, complication, resolution, example), as explained by presentation guru Andrew Abela, whose book, Advanced Presentations by Design, I have just ordered. Also see his excellent Extreme Presentation Method website, which showcases his thought-provoking, well-structured approach.