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Interesting, but flawed...
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!