Persistence pays off: 80 years of the LEGO Group Part 1

By Christopher McLeod

Our story of persistence and triumph over adversity begins in the small town of Billund, Denmark. It is here where The LEGO Group has its humble beginnings. The company’s founder: Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter by trade established himself in Billund in 1916.

Christiansen began producing wooden toys in 1932. By 1934 he had established the LEGO brand as a name for the wooden toys he created. In 1949 the company released its first plastic bricks. And by 1958 the now famous interlocking brick with hollow tubes was patented.

First LEGO productline 1932
First LEGO productline 1932. Used with permission from All rights reserved The LEGO Group 2012

The LEGO group continued to grow from that point until its near demise from bankruptcy in 2003. From here the company was forced to rethink its sales and marketing strategies.

“Ole was determined to rebuild his factory.”

The history of the company is filled with moments of hardship and perseverance. delves into some of those moments.

1942 The LEGO factory burns to the ground

During the second world war, Denmark was an occupied country. The company under Ole Kirk Chrisiansen’s guidance continued to perform well. On a stormy night in 1942, the factory burned to the ground. Ole was determined to rebuild his factory.

1960 The wooden toy warehouse burns to the ground

In 1960, the LEGO group suffered a second fire. This time it was in the wooden toy warehouse section of the factory. The then CEO of the company and son of the founder, Godfred Kirk Christiansen, makes a decision to purely focus on the production of plastic toys. From this point in time production of wooden toys was discontinued.

1961 Billund airport is established

Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, the LEGO factory at Billund was connected to the railway at Grinnell. A recession in the 1950s meant the discontinuation of the railway to the area. In response to this Godfred Kirk Christiansen builds a small airfield .

Granulate Red
Plastic Granulate (ABS) is used to produce LEGO elements. Use with permission from All rights reserved The LEGO Group 2012.

1963 Ten product characteristics

In 1963 Godfred Kirk Christiansen introduced the company to the following ten product characteristics:

  1. Unlimited play potential
  2. For girls and for boys
  3. Fun for every age
  4. Year-round play
  5. Healthy, quiet play
  6. Long hours of play
  7. Development, imagination, creativity
  8. The more LEGO, the greater the value
  9. Extra sets available
  10. Quality in every detail

1968 LEGOLAND Billund opens

The LEGOLAND park opens in Billund in 1968. It attracts over 620,00 visitors in its first year of operation.

1978 LEGOLAND mini figures released

1978 is a landmark year for the LEGO Group. The first mini figures with moveable arms and legs are introduced. Throughout the following decades there have been many variants on the original figures.

LEGO minifigure 1978
LEGO minifigure 1978. Used with permission from All rights reserved The LEGO Group 2012.

1989 LEGO Pirates introduced

The 1989 Pirates sub-theme is released. Though not the first sub-theme to be released by the company, it is one of the most influential at the time. Its release spawned many new accessories and brick elements.

1996 The LEGO website is launched

1996 marks the beginning of LEGO on the world wide web. The introduction of gives users a glimpse into the future direction of the company.

2004 Massive deficit announced

The LEGO group announces a huge deficit in January, 2004. They appoint Jørgen Vig Knudstorp to the role of CEO. More of how LEGO recovered from the deficit can be found here.

2011 Third largest toy manufacturer

In 2011, the company announces that it is the third largest toy manufacturer of children’s toys (in terms of sales) in the world. They are ranked behind Mattel (First place) and Hasbro (Second place).

“Our story of persistence and triumph over adversity begins in the small town of Billund, Denmark.”

Wondering where all of this fits into the model of Persistence? Stay tuned to for Part 2 when we’ll delve into how persistence pays off.

2 thoughts on “Persistence pays off: 80 years of the LEGO Group Part 1 warmly welcomes your comments.

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