David Robertson’s masterpiece, Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry gives an intensive, in-depth look into the world of LEGO: its founding, financial downfall, and exponential success through its attempts to master the rules of innovation.
Beginning with Ole Kirk Christiansen’s founding of LEGO in his garage in 1932, Robertson covers LEGO’s history since before plastic bricks were even an idea. Moving chronologically through the heads of the company, Robertson analyzes the decisions LEGO made in an attempt to become the strongest brand among children and families, and where they went wrong.
In what became known as the Poul Plougmann era, LEGO began chasing innovation without truly knowing what that meant to the company. Plougmann hastily applied the seven universal truths of innovation to LEGO, setting the concept of innovation on a pedestal higher than the core values of LEGO, which began LEGO’s decline. Robertson breaks down each universal truth in terms of how LEGO applied them and the success they brought, leading readers to believe LEGO was on its way to achieving its goal in the same way that company executives were at the time.
In the next chapter, Jørgen Vig Knudstrop and Jesper Ovesen are introduced as new hires to figure out why LEGO’s fiscal health was in danger if these rules of innovation had just been implemented. Robertson allows readers to feel the same shock that senior managers did with this storytelling technique, making the book engaging as well as interesting. He then breaks down the rules of innovation again, this time explaining how LEGO went wrong, the core problem being that the true LEGO values had been set aside.
In Part Two, readers hear the story of LEGO’s rebirth. With the Plougmann era at a close, Knudstrop and Ovesen were tasked with creating a new plan for survival and long-term growth. In this longer section of the book, Robertson walks readers through how the pair rewrote the rules of innovation by applying them to LEGO in a way that supported LEGO’s identity, rather than changed it.
Robertson fully immerses readers in the rise, fall, and rebirth of LEGO, creating an engaging and fascinating story that is hard to put down. Complete with quotes, graphs and charts, and pictures that serve as a visual timeline, every moment of the life of LEGO is covered. For anyone looking to apply the rules of innovation to their company, or is merely interested in LEGO or innovation itself, Brick by Brick is a must read.
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