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During our early years in the toy business, our toy selections were chosen purely on instinct...my instinct to be exact. In my mind there was a very clear distinction between a good toy and a bad toy, and I was unwavering in my determination to stick to these (yet-to-be-defined) principles.
But as we added new team members, they would inevitably have their own opinions about the toys we should carry. Additionally, we'd have customers routinely asking about the hot, trendy toy or the latest collectible - none of which we carried. Some team members felt that it was bad business to fail to deliver on the product wishes of our customers.
So it became apparent that if we were to develop a unique and endearing product selection, I would need to take my vague notions of a good toy and actually define it. So began the difficult task of defining the undefinable!
My first step in this process was to take all those products that I felt were representative of Fat Brain Toys and attempt to identify the traits that made them great. This was not an easy process. After several hours of brainstorming and challenging other team members to do the same, several common themes began to emerge. In the end, we arrived at 14 traits that we confidently felt represented the attributes of a great toy...a Fat Brain Toy. Those 14 traits are as follows:
- Made of heirloom-quality materials
- Adheres to good design principles
- Evokes curiosity
- Draws on nature
- Applies scientific principles
- Promotes composition and spatial acuity
- Fosters problem solving
- Intuitive use
- Has a "simple genius" quality
- Has longevity
- Provides solutions to real world problems
- Encourages group or family participation
- Requires interaction
- Elicits imagination and creativity
Keep in mind that these 14 traits likely only exist in the ideal toy, a utopian toy. But we realized that even if no single toy would ever measure up to these lofty standards, we could use these traits as a scoring tool for our purchasing decisions going forward.
It also occurred to us that we could use these traits as a basis for rating our existing products. We could invite our customers into this evaluation process and have them apply their personal experiences by rating the products they've purchased on each of the 14 traits. In theory, a toy that is rated a five across 14 different traits will make a better toy than one that is rated a three across those same 14 traits.
The final step was to package these raw numbers into useable information for our customers. For that, we overlaid the average scores across the common "intelligence quotient" to develop a sophisticated and reliable "Toy IQ". The Fat Brain Toys Toy IQ can be used as a general gauge to either narrow product choices, validate a selection, or compare one product to another. While a low Toy IQ may not be an immediate indicator of a substandard product, it may warrant additional evaluation to make sure that it's the right item for a given child.
What are some examples of toys with a Toy IQ of over 180 (Highest Genius)?
- Tree Blocks Math Kit
- Lincoln Logs Collectors Edition
- Anchor Stone
- HABA Basic Building Blocks
- LEGO Builders of Tomorrow
- Zome Tool
What's gratifying to me about these selections is that each of these would rank exceptionally high on my own "gut instinct scale". Not only that, but several of these items have been part of our product catalog for over 10 years!
Rest assured, to choose the very best toys, we'll continue to use our gut instinct AND listen to the TRUE experts...our customers. Thank you to our customers for taking the time to share their experiences and help us guide future customers to the very best toys and games.