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Brick by Brick
David Robertson with Bill Breen
Random House Business
320 pages; Average reading time 4 hours 32 min
This bookbhook summary will take not more than 10 minutes
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How LEGO came about?
In the aftermath of the Great Depression, Ole Kirk Christiansen founded LEGO by combining two initial letters of the Danish words ‘leg godt’ (play well), in the small town of Billund in Denmark. The company’s motto ‘Only the best is good enough’ emerged when Godtfred, Ole Kirk’s son, told his father that he had used two coats of varnish instead of the regular three, while making wooden toy ducks. This angered Ole Kirk so much that he ordered his son to go back to the train station and repaint the wooden ducks. The lesson inspired Godtfred to immortalize his father’s values by carving the motto onto a wooden plaque and since then it has been the signpost of the company.
In 1950, the father-son duo mutated the ‘Self-locking Building Bricks’ into an ‘Automatic Binding Brick’. LEGO had now moved from wood to plastic but this change failed to provide solidity to the LEGO bricks. They persevered and it was not until 1958, when Godtfred came up with the stud-and-tube coupling model, which had tight tolerances, enabling the studs to retain connectivity through friction. LEGO bricks as we know it, were born. Over the years, LEGO has maintained a relentless focus on its values and its ability to innovate via experimentation. In doing so, LEGO has seen success and failure, learning some important lessons in innovation management, on the way.
Is there something like ‘too much innovation’?
In 1997, in an attempt to keep up with the license-driven US merchandise market, Peter Eio, Chief of LEGO (USA), decided to collaborate with Lucas Film Ltd and came up with the concept of LEGO Star Wars toys. The sceptical Billund executives however, felt that the venture would violate the core values set by Ole Kirk: ‘to never let war seem like child’s play.’ Eio persevered, and armed with a customer survey that asked parents if they would welcome the LEGO-Star Wars tie-up, succeeded in rolling out the now extremely popular Star Wars LEGO merchandise. LEGO realised that the world was moving fast from free-play building blocks to franchise driven innovation.
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