Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry Paperback – 6 Mar 2014
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"The raw material he deals with is every bit as durable and gripping as Lego bricks. . .Robertson’s take on Lego’s success holds plenty of lessons for companies pondering how to remain innovative in a fast-changing world." (Financial Times)
"A nuanced and readable case study." (Wall Street Journal)
The story of LEGO's extraordinary rise, fall and rise again.See all Product description
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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.
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!
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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