Review: Brick by Brick
Brick by Brick, How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry is not, as you can probably tell from the title, like any other LEGO book in the bookstore. I've been sent a copy by the publishers to review.
It's written by David C. Robertson who's a professor at a Swiss business school, who was named the 'LEGO Professor' in 2008 and as such had access to LEGO management, partners and customers, and Bill Breen who's written several other books on business management.
The book's target audience is senior executives and entrepreneurs who, David believes, can learn a lot from the the company's past mistakes and successes, particularly how it turned itself around from its first loss in 1998 to become the largest toy company in the world today by thinking and innovating 'inside the box' rather than out of it.
The book is in two parts. In the first part, David explains how after the losses of 1998, Poul Ploughmann (formerly of B&O) was brought in to run the company and sought to innovate in new areas to stimulate growth using the 'seven truths of innovation'. Chapter 2 explains what was done, which on the face of it, all seemed reasonable. Then chapter three explains why it all went horribly wrong, leading the company into further decline and near bankruptcy in the early 2000s.
Part two documents the turnaround, which started when Yorgen Vig Knudstorp replaced Poul as CEO in 2004 and how, once the company was on a stable footing once more, it could again look to innovate, but in a different way.
Further chapters cover how Bionicle not only saved the company financially but also how the processes used to continually churn out new products every six months were adopted throughout the company; how LEGO Mindstorms opened the way for working with, and embracing, the LEGO community; why LEGO Universe failed; the birth of LEGO Games and how Ninjago came into being.
This book is very thorough, well researched and full of interesting insights about both the events themselves and how LEGO as a company operates. There are a lot of quotes from the people involved, except unsurprisingly, Ploughmann, who had left long before the author became involved with the company.
It is therefore a fascinating read, particularly if, like me, you experienced and saw for yourself much of what is written about at the time it happened.
As I'm not a senior executive or entrepreneur I can't really judge whether the book succeeds in its aim of providing lessons that can be taken away and applied within other organisations, but I do think that executives, or anyone else for that matter -- particularly those who have an interest in LEGO or the LEGO company -- will find it very interesting and thought-provoking.
The book is published by Random House and has a different cover (right) in the USA.
It can be purchased from Amazon: