“Invention is the lifeblood of the industry”: Hasbro’s Jared Wade on why inventors remain crucial to the company’s ongoing success
We caught up with Jared Wade, SVP of Design & Development at Hasbro, to learn more about his start in the industry and why inventors remain crucial to Hasbro’s ongoing success
Hi Jared! It’s great to catch up. So, to kick off, how did you get started in the world of design, and what drew you to Hasbro?
I started at Hasbro after graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in Digital Design. I loved comic books and collected some toys back then, but at the time it was more about finding a summer job to start paying off my school loans! Luckily, I had a roommate who worked at Hasbro through UC’s co-op program and his recommendation got me in the door part-time.
Did you love the industry right from the off?
Yes! Once I was exposed to the craft of toy making, I was hooked! It combined all of the aspects of design that I was drawn too – the spark of invention and tinkering I experienced as a kid messing around with my father’s tools, the art of creating a satisfying user experience which I had fallen in love with in design school, and the creation of beautiful physical designs which is inherently important to me as an artist and illustrator.
On top of that, I got to see my creations in the hands of kids and fans. That is the most gratifying and addictive part of wanting to create toys for a living, but I have to say that it has been the amazing people I’ve had the honour to work with at Hasbro that have kept me here for the last 22 years.
What was your first exposure the inventor community?
In my very first year at Hasbro working on Transformers, I learned about Henry Orenstein and how he helped to inspire the connection between Takara and Hasbro. This was my first lesson in the “business” of toy invention; albeit a very high bar to start with!
“Invention is the lifeblood of the toy and game industry; any company that expects to be successful in the long term needs to embrace and champion ideas that come from outside its own walls.”
As a young designer working with various inventors, I knew about the incredible value of the community, but I don’t think I understood just how critical this community is to the success of any company, big or small, until I moved into our Playskool brands and worked more closely with a broader swath of the inventor community.
Getting to know the inventors, their teams and networks, and seeing the amazing concepts that they brought not only to Hasbro but also to other companies; I’d say that was my real education in just how much the inventor community raises the level of innovation for the entire industry.
Different companies engage with inventors in different ways. What makes this community so vital for Hasbro?
Invention is the lifeblood of the toy and game industry, and any company that expects to be successful in the long term needs to embrace and champion ideas that come from outside its own walls. It’s as simple as walking down the toy aisle or checking the top toy lists – the inventor community brings so much of the greatest innovation to market year after year, and Hasbro wants to be the partner to help bring more of those amazing experiences to life!
Our mission is to create the world’s best play and entertainment experiences, and we wouldn’t be able to achieve that without the inventor community.
You see ideas both from professional inventors as well as amateurs and newcomers; do you think it’s true that a great idea can really come from anywhere?
Absolutely! There’s no doubt that the pros will continue to bring great concepts to the table, but there are truly break-frame play experiences that come from taking the time to support new inventors and that future pipeline.
We’re constantly seeking out new ways to engage with emerging talent and value our partnerships with organisations like Mojo Nation who do so much to support them as well.
That’s kind of you to say! Now, we hear of ‘Not Invented Here’ syndrome being present with some companies, but Hasbro has long established roots in supporting inventors. What is key to ensuring the success of an inventor item, once it moves into the hands of an in-house team?
It sounds simple but I think the single most important aspect of developing stronger relationships with inventors and getting more ideas to market is good communication. Clear, honest and timely communication makes all the difference in making quick decisions, building trust and making sure that together, we capture the magic of what makes a toy great. There are always challenges of juggling so many priorities in this fast-paced industry, but we all share the goal of getting the best possible product into people’s hands.
“The single most important aspect of developing stronger relationships with inventors and getting more ideas to market is good communication.”
You’ve been at Hasbro for over 20 years; what are some of the biggest changes in that time to how you work with inventors?
In many ways, I feel like the biggest change in the way we work has come in the last nine months! We’ve missed the in-person meetings and summits, but I know the whole industry has adapted quickly to use virtual tools. I’m happy to see that it hasn’t slowed down our engagement, and in the process of adapting, we’ve found new ways to work more quickly and more connectedly with our invention partners.
I think these new ways of working can actually increase accessibility to new inventors. Those developments, coupled with rapidly changing technology, new storytelling formats, a strong resurgence of gaming and new ways to engage consumers directly through different business models, make this an extremely exciting time to be a toy and game inventor.
So, for any new inventors reading that now is a great time to be inventing, why should they bring their best ideas to Hasbro?
There are the obvious reasons I could cite about the breadth of our distribution network, our great brands and partner brands, our retail partnerships and our marketing expertise.
But if I put myself in the shoes of a new inventor and the reasons I would want to come to Hasbro, it boils down to the same thing that’s kept me here for more than 20 years – the people. I would want to entrust my ideas to development and manufacturing partners who believe in the integrity of a great idea, will be my champion inside of Hasbro and to the broader community, and most importantly will treat me with respect and honesty.
These are the standards by which I judge our success as Hasbro’s Inventor Relations group.
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