Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Answer To Our Prayers

Old inventors never die, they just reinvent themselves. This thought could not be more true than in the case of Charlie and Maria Girsch who ventured into new careers away from where they were originally ordained. As creators of new toys and games, they decided to seek the favors of the Toy Gods rather than offer blessings to the followers of the Church. Yes, it's true. Charlie, the ex-priest, and Maria an ex-nun, decided to apply their collective wit and wisdom to new playthings rather than spread the Word of the Almighty.

The Girsches came into the toy industry in the early 70's through a contact with Reynolds Guyer, who hired Charlie to help sell his ideas after Guyer's mega-successes with the Twister and Nerf concepts. In the 80's, Charlie and Maria took over Guyer's unsold ideas so that he could pursue other artistic interests. They soon hit with two breakthrough products: a playset for the bathtub called Tub Town and a wrist carrying case and launch pad for miniature cars called Wrist Racer.

One of their game creations won Germany's Children's Game of the Year in the 90's. It was during this time that I visited them regularly during Hasbro Games "inventor swings" to the Twin Cities where Charlie and Maria were cornerstones in the nineteen member creative community known as Elvenbasch. They did not crack into the Hasbro Game lineup with a new entry, but I gave them high marks for several memorable and unique game features like: being able to win a "trivia type" game without knowing anything; putting games on a never-before and yet-to-be-used popular medium; and designing a cool and very humorous spin on the classic shell game.

Continuing to use their creativity, Charlie and Maria did a slight change of course and went on to write a book about inventive thinking called, Fanning the Creative Spirit. That lead to the launch into the keynote speaking circuit, creativity workshop, and brainstorming business called Creativity Central. This venture took them down pathways a bit off new toy and game creation. Their workshops focused on training personnel in the art of finding inventive solutions at workplaces like Target, General Mills, 3M, Kraft Foods, and the YMCA.
Today, the Girsches are back in the play, learn, and activity world with a first-of-its-kind family networking application called FamZoom which will soon be available in Apple iTunes stores. FamZoom's tagline, "Invented by Grandparents," says it all: warm and fuzzy, safe and secure, fun and easy! Once again, the Girsches are channeling their creativity a bit away from just creation of new toys and games.

A new toy or game needs a mix of factors to be successful today. Coincidentally, those factors seem to start with the letter "P" as in Product features, Play value, Pricing, Packaging, Personality, Promotions, and PR. Knowing from whence the Girsches started their career journey, they could easily add another P as in Prayer.