How LEGO, the closely held, family-owned Danish toymaker, rose to world leadership in its business class, flirted with bankruptcy collapse and recovered to stake its claim to global leadership once again.
Wharton School professor Robertson (co-author: Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, 2006) and Fast Company founding member Breen (co-author: The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win, 2010, etc.) map the history of the company in relation to the principles that currently underlie business thinking about how to organize innovation successfully for the long haul. Founded in 1932 by master carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen in Billund—where its world headquarters and manufacturing facilities are still located—he company's name is a play on the Danish leg godt, which means “play well.” Christiansen's son, Godtfred, bought their first plastic-injection molding machine in 1947 and developed an “Automatic Binding Brick” by 1951. It was not until 1958, however, after years of experimentation, that they hit on the small hollow brick and its distinctive “clutch power” when the bricks are snapped together, that the company was propelled to world success. The authors show how chasing short-term popular trends in the 1990s alienated the customer base and sapped revenues, but LEGO recovered stronger than before, as their now-grown-up customer base stepped forward and helped transform the company's world position with the volunteered designs and criticisms that went into successful products like the LEGO Mindstorms NXT robot. Turning back to their traditional base with things like Henrik Andersen's 2004 design for a LEGO fire truck and products like LEGO Architect, also helped.
A lively account of a company whose products will be familiar to most readers.