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on 6 November 2013
This book has been thoroughly researched and contains a lot of interesting info about the Lego group, but it's spoiled by the author's obsession with 'Rules of innovation,' and the idea that by following this set of rules a company can consistently deliver hit products and great innovation, with no consideration given to blind luck, or the fickle nature of creative inspiration.

According to this book, Lego Ninjago and Bionicle were a success becuause they followed the rules, Jack Stone and Galidor were failures because management didn't. The Lego Universe online game was a failure because of poor management, but completely ignores the fact that while Lego Universe was a failure, the same team simultainously developed a highly successful series of Lego themed video games (that barely get a mention, presumably becuase it doesn't fit the plot).

Everyone who has ever worked in a 'hit based,' industry, whether it's toys, music, film, will tell you that nothing guaruantees a hit, becuase so much is down to luck, inspiration and a lot of things going your way.

Big companies such as film studios, toy companies, survive because they produce a large slate of products and the occasional hits generate enough income to pay for the misses. There's no magic formula and the way that the book takes different Lego projects and trys to say, 'this is a success becaause this rule was followed,' or 'this is a failure because they didn't follow rule X,' is absurd.

Ironically, the very interesting back-from-the-brink story that the book tells beneath the management guru hoopla is one that has been written about silmiar companies on dozens of occasions. Lego has a run of duff products in the early 2000s (Like say, Disney recently had a run of duff films...), a new management comes in, fires a third of the workforce, slashes costs and 'returns to basics.' The book ignores the fact that most of this was possible and the Lego group stayed independent because of 30% of cashflow was being generated by Bionicle, a smash hit product concieved and executed by the previous 'flawed,' management.

Once Lego's costs are under control, the company's luck evens out. It produces several hit products (using everything from massive consumer research projects, to a hunch by an American architect) and the authors claim that this is all down to some management miracle and adherance to a set of rigid management principles.

To conclude, buy this book for a really intersting story about the Lego Group, but take the innovation and management lessons with a hefty pinch of salt!
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on 30 March 2015
Disclaimer: this is not really a review of the book itself (the book is OK, I'd buy it again) but rather a thumbs down message to Amazon and/or publisher for two BIG flaws of the Kindle edition:
1. Several (20 or so) insert photos are mentioned in the text, but they are nowhere to be found in the Kindle edition (only some B&W images can be found among the text)! It would be bad enough if the photos (I can only guess they are colour, printed on glossy paper in the paper edition) would be included somewhere but not properly hyper-linked from the text, but they are not included (or at least I was not able to find them) in the Kindle edition at all (not mentioned in TOC, read the whole thing, could not find them). Amazon, I bought the book, I want the photos, please.
2. There is a completely useless Index at the end of the book - again not hyper-linked to appropriate locations and with page numbers from the printed book (the Go-To menu command only accepts location numbers and not printed book page numbers).

Amazon, please make sure the Kindle editions are usable, with all material from printed editions and hyper-linked TOC, Index & other tables.
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on 15 August 2013
I've been a LEGO fan as long as I can remember and I rediscovered building at about the time this book picks up the story of how the LEGO Group completely lost their way, tried everything under the sun all at once and nearly killed a brand many of us have known and loved since childhood.

Robertson gained unprecedented access to the top management in LEGO to retell the story from the inside. The book is in two parts; the first details the decline of the brand at a time when everyone perceived digital toys to be the way forward. Part two then covers the innovative transformational approach to bring them back from near collapse to one of the world's top toy brands who still innovate 'inside the box'. It's a fascinating read, especially for LEGO fans. There are lessons to be learned, perhaps not for everyone but for most. You'd be forgiven for thinking that some of what Robertson describes is common sense (and it is) but that doesn't stop some people and organisations rushing headlong towards failure. Some of what LEGO subsequently did is truly inspirational for a company of its size and heritage. They prove that with the right people driving the right behaviours, leopards can change their spots. It will take time, but it can be done.

Much of the content refers to individual LEGO product lines, so a background knowledge of these definitely helps but is not essential. The book also tends to follow the lifecycle of these product lines rather than be purely chronological so you have to keep your wits about you to keep track of what happened when.

As a LEGO fan, it's a must-read. Having lived through this period as an adult LEGO fan and seen this first hand it's great to read the inside story. I for one am glad LEGO are here to stay as my children enjoy this perennial toy as much as I did (and still do). As a entrepreneurial business model, there are plenty of take-aways too. There are things you can start/stop doing straight way - I know I have.
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The family-owned LEGO Group is among several once great companies that deteriorated almost to the point of self-destruction. Then in 2004, led by Jørgen Vig Knudstorp and his leadership team, it was transformed - "brick by brick" - into one of the world's most innovative as well as most profitable and fastest growing toy companies, in ways and to an extent once thought impossible. In this book, written by David Robertson with Bill Breen, the focus is on two processes: the deterioration of the LEGO Group and then its subsequent transformation.

As Robertson explains, "a new leadership team pulled off one of the most successful business transformations in recent memory. One by one, LEGO reinvented those academic prescriptions for innovation, synthesized them into a world-class management system, and reemerged as a powerful, serial innovator. LEGO built the world's first line of buildable action figures, fueled by a riveting story lined that played out over a nine-year span. It launched a line that included an `intelligent brick,' allowing kids (as well as many skilled adults) to build programmable LEGO robots. In another first, LEGO rolled out a series of board games that could be built, broken apart, and rebuilt."

Moreover, "LEGO opened up its development process, enabling legions of fans to go online and post their own customized DIY LEGO sets. And it reimagined its core lines of classic LEGO sets, keeping them real while making them modern enough for twenty-first century kids."

These are among the dozens of business subjects of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Robertson's coverage.

o Transforming LEGO (Pages 5-9)
o First Principle: Values Are Priceless (14-18)
o Second Principle: Relentless Experimentation Begets Breakthrough Innovation (18-21)
o Third Principle: Not a Product but a System (21-24)
o Fourth Principle: Tighter Focus Leads to More Profitable Innovation (24-26)
o Fifth Principle: Make It Authentic (26-28)
o Sixth Principle: First the Stores, Then the Kids (28-37)
o Seven Truths of Innovation (46-62)
o The Scattered Remains of Runaway Innovation (63-71)
o Real-World Answers to Three Tough Questions (98-102)
o Face-to-Face with Customers (130-134)
o Four New and Better Innovation Initiatives (165-176)
o Exploiting the Wisdom of the Clique (185-200)
o Three Lessons in Crowdsourcing, Sourced from LEGO (211-214)
o An Innovation That Might Well Disrupt LEGO (232-237)
o The Rebirth of a New Brand (281-286)

There are valuable lessons to be learned from the two processes of deterioration and transformation through which the LEGO Group proceeded and these lessons are relevant to almost any organization, whatever their size and nature may be. They include: hire slowly and select only diverse and creative people; seek or create and then dominate "blue-ocean" markets in which there is less competition; be customer-driven; practice disruptive innovation; foster open innovation - heed the wisdom of various "crowds" of constituents; explore the full spectrum of innovation, such as a portfolio of complementary products with new pricing plans; and build and then sustain an innovation culture.

It seems appropriate to conclude this brief commentary with remarks David Robertson selected when concluding Brick by Brick: "Although there's much to take from the LEGO Group's resurgence, there'd also much to avoid. We've met many executives who want to emulate the company's success but fail to consider the trauma that forced the turnaround. Our advice to them is always the same: don't wait for a crisis to spur a drive for deep, systemic change. While hurtling through bankruptcy, as LEGO did in 2003, focuses the mind, it's not necessary and it's certainly not desirable. Continuous innovation must be a product of an organization's capacity to learn and adapt."
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on 11 August 2013
I really enjoyed this book. Whilst its been written from a management consultant perspective don't let this put you off. For anyone, such as myself, who has been enthralled by Lego from a young age, the details behind the scenes of this well loved company prove fascinating. Heartily recommended.
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on 15 November 2013
Great review of the business history of Lego, their culture and how the were able to transform themselves to rebuild the brand. Highly recommended, very dynamic reading. I really enjoyed it.
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on 21 December 2013
I would have loved to learn more about the ethnographic studies. Otherwise the book is a great read. Highly recommended!
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on 16 July 2013
i got this book to help me with my dissertation, all the information is reputably sourced, its all accurate and after 3 months of studying the Lego group this book has offered me with a whole plethora of new information i would have otherwise not found, 5/5 an amazing read for any adult interested in Lego or business student
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on 29 August 2013
If you like LEGO then this book is definitively for you - and still it contains lots of good tips for your practical business...
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