David Robertson’s masterpiece, Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry, gives an in-depth look into the world of LEGO: its founding, financial downfall, and exponential success through mastering the rules of innovation.
Starting with Ole Kirk Christiansen’s founding of LEGO in his garage in 1932, Robertson covers LEGO’s history. Moving chronologically through the heads of the company over time, Robertson analyzes the decisions LEGO made in an attempt to become the strongest brand among children and families — and where they sometimes 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 company’s core values — and precipitating LEGO’s decline. Robertson breaks down each universal truth in terms of how LEGO applied it and the success it brought, leading readers to believe LEGO was on its way to achieving its goal in the same way that company executives believed it 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 had fallen into danger. Robertson’s storytelling technique allows readers to feel the same shock that senior managers did, making the book engaging as well as interesting. He again breaks down the rules of innovation, this time explaining where LEGO went wrong — the core problem being that LEGO’s core 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 changing 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, 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 own company, or for anyone simply interested in LEGO or innovation itself, Brick by Brick is a must-read.
Julia DeKorte is a book reviewer focused on the noteworthy people and manufacturers from the toy and game industry. In addition to Toy Tales, she is a regular contributor at People of Play.