An Interview with Milan Balogh, Hasbro
WHAT IS IT THAT YOU DO AT HASBRO?
I’m a Design Technologist based in London and I’m part of a team called Global Product Acquisition (GPA) within Hasbro. The team is responsible for looking at inventions and innovations across toy, game, and technology. I work with toy and game inventors in Europe but my focus is on scouting for new technologies that can be used to create new toy and game experiences for our consumers.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE TOY AND GAME INDUSTRY?
I was born in Hungary and have lived in London for the past 6 years where I pursued a degree in industrial design engineering. I got into the toy and game industry when I joined Hasbro 4 years ago and have been working in the Product Acquisition group ever since. In that time the team has undergone some changes, and I’m happy to have been able to work with industry icons like Mike Gray and Wayne Luther.
WHAT TRENDS DO YOU SEE IN TECHNOLOGY?
It is the million dollar question isn’t it? I think we’re getting used to the technology boom where we’re used to having new and newer technology every month, which gets seamlessly integrated into our lives. I think soon everyone will realize that such rapid technology adoption can’t be avoided, and new technology actually can make things better and easier to use with more intuitive user experiences. That’s when you’ll say: “Ok, that wasn’t too hard. In fact I like it”
As for toys I think technology will continue to bring enormous change. We’ll get the mini version of the future real world; I’m hoping for autonomous swarms of drones and finally some toys with true Artificial Intelligence.
WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE INVENTORS PRESENTING IDEAS TO YOU?
Most of the professional inventors that I meet with have a lot of experience and heritage in the industry, and they don’t need much advice from me. The main challenge we have with inventor submissions is finding a fit with our brands, so the main advice would be to consider where an invention might fit before presenting it to Hasbro.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE TOY OR GAME AS A CHILD?
Besides paper, scissors and glue I’d say Meccano or what we called it “Fémépítő”
WHAT MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS AND MUSIC DO YOU PLAY?
Guitar and Saxophone, both self-taught.
WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
I always start and usually end with reading news, mostly tech news. What started as just being part of my job has become an addiction. I browse through about 2,000-4,000 articles a week; it is important to know everything that’s happening in the tech scene. In the middle, there are always interesting and things to do: meeting tech companies, inventors, coming up with ideas for new concepts for toys & games, sometimes even CAD work and rendering.
WHAT IS THE WORST JOB YOU EVER HAD AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?
Many years ago at a previous employer, I had a boss who thought he knew best when it came to everything. AS a result, the company made some strategic mistakes. Every second I knew that what we were doing was doomed to failure, and that it wasn’t a good way to work. What I learned is that you should listen to other people who might know better, who might have more experience and who might have the area of expertise you need. It’s difficult to rely on others, but you can’t be the best in everything. Sadly.
WHAT IS ONE MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?
Not buying Bitcoins when in fact I was fascinated with the idea. Sometimes it’s worth just taking the risk or investing in the uncertain.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND HOW DID THAT INFLUENCE WHO YOU ARE TODAY?
I spent long summers with my grandparents in the countryside. Grandpa let me use all the tools in his shed even though I was way too young to do so. I think my good understanding of mechanisms and general engineering comes from that, and ever since those I’ve loved making things. From my mother I inherited good attention to detail and my affinity to design. Later came my first PC, and then the internet, and since then I’ve been hooked on tech. I spend too much time in front of many screens of different sizes.
WHAT DO YOU READ EVERY DAY, AND WHY?
I read tons of tech literature, but I also read some medical journals because that’s the other interesting field I like to be up to date with.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GADGET, APP OR PIECE OF SOFTWARE THAT HELPS YOU EVERY DAY?
My favorite software ever is MS Excel - it is just so powerful if you know how to use it (not for making flyers though). Lately “Trello” helps me a great deal to keep track of my projects.
WHAT SINGLE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU SHARE WITH INVENTORS WHO ARE NEW TO THE INDUSTRY?
I’d rather not try to transform them to our way of thinking. What they have is valuable which is being fresh and out of the box. I love those concepts the most, when they’re genuinely new and I don’t get the feeling “I’ve seen this before”.
One piece of advice is to come up with 6 ideas instead of 2 and 15 instead of just 5.
WHEN IS THE LAST TIME YOU LAUGHED OUT LOUD? WHAT CAUSED IT?
I really like stand-up comedy. Because of the internet I can watch the old classics and the new ones too. And when we (me and my wife) get the chance, and luckily in London we do, we watch it live. Humor is I think an important element of life, certainly is for me.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU AREN'T WORKING ON TOYS AND GAMES?
I still play some computer games, mostly online strategy games. I like the feeling when you know you outsmarted some actual people somewhere.
I also like spending some time in the garden. I’ve recently completed an Arduino powered automated watering system, and I’d love to work on a weed digger robot but haven’t started yet. How difficult could it be to identify the leaf shape with a camera and then find the roots and dig it out?
HOW DO YOU JUMPSTART YOUR CREATIVITY WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF STALLED ON A PROJECT?
I always have a good selection of sources of inspiration at my fingertips. Being inspired is usually not a problem; it’s the way you are able to translate that into actual work. What helps me is letting it cool down and I’ll know when I’m ready to put it down on paper.
I work in a very good and efficient team on some really interesting projects. On the personal side however I hope I’ll see some increase in numbers within the family. Exciting times…
Thank you, Milan, for taking time to thoughtfully and entertainingly answer our questions!