Sunday, August 28, 2016

Getting Larry Some Gold

Robert Laura wrote an article in Forbes about the "gold watch" as a gratuitous symbol of 30 or 40 years employment with the same employer. He noted the time piece gift tradition originated "in the 1940s with Pepsi Company when gold was $34 an ounce versus today's market price hovering around $1350." Laura also pointed out that in those bygone days, people stayed with a company "three or four decades as opposed to current employment longevity which averages a mere four to five years.

One profession where the gold watch standard should remain in vogue is the professional toy and game inventing business. A surprising number of the legendary inventors certainly meet the criterion of sustained dedication to their job of creating new playthings. One example is Larry Jones, founder and driving force behind Westlake Village, CA based Cal R&D Center. Jones is nearing five decades in the business since he opened a studio in the 70s using his industrial design talents to license new toys to industry marketers.

Says Jones, "I founded the Center on the premise that kid's toys should challenge their curiosity as they provide entertainment while creating smiles and laughter. I liked the idea that my working with toys was all about play which meant to create them, we could play 99 percent of the time. At Cal R&D, I have followed the words of Mark Twain who once said, "in all of his vast experience, he had never seen one shred of evidence anywhere that supports the notion that life is serious." " I've woven that thinking of not always being serious into my business of inventing new playthings."

The state of California has always been a hotbed for toy invention and Cal R&D has been a key stop for knowledgeable toy marketers in search of the next mega-hit. That relationship between Cal R&D and toy industry marketers has resulted in an avalanche of new playthings. Jones estimates that he has licensed some 350 products and been granted well over 80 patents. Among his successes were Cricket, the Animated Doll, Micronauts, which lived in the world of action figures, Data Race mini-auto racers, Microvision, the first interchangeable game cartridge system for hand held games , and Bucky the Wonder Horse, a long time favorite of preschoolers.

Jones remains actively searching for the next fad toy whether the result of his own "out of the box" thinking or in partnership with other inventors. He has adjusted to the many changes in the industry over his five decades in toys, games, and start-ups. He has also branched out into other industries that are welcoming to inventors and has found success particularly with confection marketers. Jones offers much advice in three books he has published on the topic of invention. His quick tip to inventors hoping to find success today is..."Everyday you wake up, you may get advice that is different! But the simple truth is that you must be very active and learn all you can about the industry and its people. Keep learning! The more you learn, the more times you will hit the target's bulls-eye with your ideas."

In an industry that touts "product is king", independent inventors have long been kingmakers as they originated all those new products. Those toiling using the strengths of their creativity for three, four, and in Jones' case nearly five decades deserve a little gold be it a watch or some other special trinket. Perhaps the Toy Industry Association should reinstitute the old tradition of the Pepsi Company and recognize the longevity of a special group of toy inventors. The industry would have been a much less dynamic business without them.


  1. "The industry would have been a much less dynamic business without them." WELL SAID!

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