Persistence pays off: 80 years of the LEGO Group Part 2


By Christopher McLeod

In Persistence pays off: 80 years of the LEGO Group Part 1 A Flat Major.com explored the Lego Group timeline. We looked at some high points for the company. We also explored more testing times for the company. Join us for part 2 to gain some invaluable insights into persistence in the face of adversity.

The LEGO Group faced bankruptcy. The story of the company is one of success and perseverance under difficult circumstances. It is the tale of persistence and a never say die attitude. As author and business coach John Maxwell puts it: “The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.”

In order to stay in the game, the Lego Group had to set some goals and strategies. These strategies included Ole Kirk Christiansen giving birth to the vision of the Lego Group. The second was was the idea of System im Spiel, or system in play. This strategy was thought up during the 1950s by the founder’s son Godfred Kirk Christiansen. And the third strategy Aflatmajor.com will be looking at is the Ten product characteristics. These defining attributes for the LEGO product and brand were also planned out by Godfred Kirk Christiansen.

“The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever.” John Maxwell

Giving birth to a dream or vision requires courage on the part of the person or party crafting it. According to former British Prime minister Winston Churchill, “The empires of the future are empires of the mind.” Further explained: this means that any venture requires a seed. That original seed then needs watering and nurturing. A significant amount of effort is required for the vision to grow.

A musician setting out on the long road to a career in the industry will spend many hours developing their talent. This will include practice, performance, and failure. Failure is paramount in both music and business. It gives individuals the opportunity to learn and grow. Being able to reflectively analyse what has worked and what has not is an important part of the process. Ernest Stringer in his book Action Research in Education describes the process of practitioner based reflection. He describes the requirement of any successful teacher to reflect on how they can improve.

Fear of failure is another big obstacle to vision and dreaming. According to a recent article published by Tony Featherstone on the Sydney Morning Herald website: “Australian entrepreneurs had the second-highest fear of failure, just behind the Republic Of Korea.” We would not have the LEGO brick if Ole Kirk Christiansen had not had the courage to work through his fears and failures.

“The empires of the future are empires of the mind.” Winston Churchill

An expansion of the original LEGO Group vision was the System im spiel, or System in play as it is known in English. The invention of the system in play also known as the LEGO town-plan series was the child of Godfred Kirk Christianson, son of the LEGO Group founder. Psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Jung described creativity as necessary:”Without the playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”

The ability to build upon a vision is important. No creative idea is ever complete. A good example of this is the iPad by Apple. The iPad didn’t just appear out of thin air. It took many generations of technological evolution to reach the point where technology allowed for touch interaction.

Ideas are constantly evolving. This is also the case with musical technique. It takes time for results to appear. It is the process of sowing and reaping. Of practice and results on stage. But the evolution of a dream is not the only important factor.

Setting product characteristics set the LEGO Group apart. The idea of Godfred Kirk Christiansen to set ten product characteristics gave the company a guiding light, a set of principles to work with. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie described this in the following manner: “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.”

Setting daily goals is an important step in practicing any craft or skill. As a musician this is important because it allows an individual to target specific areas of their technique or approach to playing that may require further improvement. This may be as simple as setting the goal of practicing ten minutes every day. Whilst ten minutes a day doesn’t sound like much it will add up long term. Lacking any defining direction or defined characteristics can cause a venture to flounder or lack clear direction.

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts.” Andrew Carnegie

The LEGO group announced a huge deficit in January, 2004. They appointed Jørgen Vig Knudstorp to the role of CEO. It was his vision and leadership that lead the company from the brink of financial disaster to an economic recovery and success story. It was this type of financial liberation and inspiration of hope that Andrew Carnegie was illustrating in his quote. It was the ability of Knudstorp to direct the company towards a more profitable point that saved it.

80 years of the LEGO Group have demonstrated that persistence pays off. It began with the vision of found Ole Kirk Christiansen. The vision was continued by his son Godfred Kirk Christiansen. And was finally handed to Jorgen Vig Knudstorp. The company had the grit to survive fires, downturns and near economic disaster. The little carpentry business has become the third largest toy manufacturer in the world. As Winston Churchill once said: “Never give in!” And that, is the LEGO story.

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