Saturday, April 21, 2012


In the post Instagram world (you should know what it is :), it may seem that dropping out of college to start a company and securing a billion dollars in valuation before you are 25 is par for the course. There could be other ways too.

Recently I happened to see a documentary on the legendary toymaker, and was intrigued by several things. If I were to pick three out they would be - Resilience, Quality, Innovation:

1. LEGO was started by a carpenter in his 40s when his furniture was not selling enough; the original blocks were of wood. The modern LEGO plastic brick came much later. PS: It took 5 years AFTER it was patented to get the just-right polymer material. Its seen lots of up and down. They have ridden continuous assaults including fickleness of kid's choices, low-cost global manufacturing, patent infringements, and quirks of the toy business sales cycle (50% of sales in 6 weeks!)

2. "Clutch Power" - this seductive quality of bricks sticking together reliably and yet coming apart easily - what the LEGO brick is about. Apparently machine tolerances are less than 10 micrometers (I have no idea how small that is) and just 18 in a million bricks are not ok. I think it may have changed now, but for the longest time - to control quality - brick design and production was contained in Billund, Denmark. The LEGO motto is "only the best is good enough".

3. These guys really believe in design, and seem to invest in innovation a lot. I knew about their alliance with MIT Media lab on robotics when I visited in early-2000s. What I did not know is huge investments in amusement parks, gaming, retail, movies, and now education. A lot of these bets go wrong. In fact, they over did all this and by mid 2000s were in deep crisis, over-diversified and attacked by internet and gaming. But now seem to be back on track, profitable, and focussed on the core (

So yes well begun is half done, but its just half. The LEGO story gives some sense of what nature asks of you after you are created - Survive! And the rules for that  seem to be pretty much the same.

1 comment:

  1. So so true, survival is all about resilience even after the claps may have stopped...