Q&A: Meet Kim Vandenbroucke, Toy Designer and Innovator

Kim Vandenbroucke will be at American History March 5 from 4-5 PM. Photo courtesy of Vanderbroucke

Kim Vandenbroucke is one brainy chick. And she's made quite a career out of it, creating and developing innovative gaming ideas for some of the biggest names in the business, including: Mattel, Hasbro, Cranium and Pressman Toy. Vandenbroucke, who will share her story this Saturday, March 5 at the American History Museum, in an interactive presentation as part of the Lemelson Center's Innovative Lives series, spoke with ATM's own Madeline Andre.

So you develop toys and games, are you just a big kid?

Ha ha!  Actually I’m not.  In fact, more often I’ve been accused of acting “more grown up” than I really am—not so much now that I’m in my early 30s, but in my 20s I got that all the time.  I am, however, a very competitive but fun-loving person, which definitely helps.  I think to be a good inventor and developer of toys and games you need to be able to see the humor in a wide variety of things but you also need to have a realistic filter to make sure your ideas are creative but strategic concepts.

What does it take to think of something entirely new and different?

An open mind.  Too often people shoot down ideas before they even have a chance.  I like using “bad ideas” as a jumping off point to think other ideas.  Sometimes it may take you to uncomfortable places or areas that are even more absurd, but in reality it’s never your first idea that’s your best.  Your brain needs time to explore before it’s going to find an idea with merit.

I've read that you have a mind that is always "on the go." What makes you tick?

Coffee.  I’m kidding.  I really don’t know what makes me tick.  I think I’ve trained part of my brain to always be looking for things that provide a spark—or an initial seed of an idea.  Back when I started in the invention business a co-worker of mine suggested I always carry around a little notebook in case an idea popped into my head.  It’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given because you never know when or where inspiration is going to strike.  Just remember to bring a pen.

You got any tips for future inventors and innovators?

Don’t give up.  You need really thick skin to be an inventor because there will always be people who are quick to shoot down your ideas and it hurts because they are YOUR ideas.  Don’t let the negative criticism get to you; ask for constructive feedback to improve your idea.  Sometimes they might be right and it is a dud. So let it go and move on to your next great idea.  Trust me, if you have one great idea in you then you definitely have two great ideas, so keep going.

Innovative Lives: Kim Vandenbroucke takes place Saturday, March 5  from 4-5 PM. Free, but first come, first serve. Spark!Lab, 1st floor, National Museum of American History.

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