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› Find signed collectible books: 'Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry'
Q&A with David Robertson
Q. How did you come to be involved with LEGO?
A. I study the management of innovation and was writing a book on my framework for innovation governance. It was going to be a typical business book, where each chapter was a piece of the framework illustrated with a case study or two from a different company. I had done cases on CarMax, McDonalds, Best Buy, Mattson, ING DIRECT, and a few other very good companies. But then I visited LEGO and saw not only a company with the most sophisticated innovation management system Id ever seen, but also a company that had been through an amazing roller coaster ride over the past decade, from near ruin to tremendous success, all because of the way they managed innovation.
Q. At what point did you realize you had uncovered a big story?
A. It was 2008 when I realized that I was onto something. Two things happened at the same time. First, when I taught the case study about the LEGO turnaround in IMD in 2008, I was surprised by the enthusiasm for the brand and the simple joy that the memories evoked. Talking about LEGO for a few hours put the executives I taught into a wonderful mood and at the same time taught them some valuable lessons about innovation management. It was also 2008 when the effects of the companys changes started to show up in their financial returns. From 2004 to 2007, their financial performance was good, but they were still working out problems in the supply chain and production system. After 2007, their performance began to skyrocket, as they introduced hit toy after hit toy. Those two things together convinced me there was a book to be written about what I was seeing.
Q. What does LEGOs journey teach business leaders about innovation perhaps even better than other company examples like Apple and Google?
A. What I like about LEGO is how inside the box they are. Too much of the literature on innovation is about the big, industry-changing innovations or about charismatic leaders who drive their companies to new heights. One of LEGOs managers, Per Hjuler, said to me: Im continually humbled by the power of the little idea. LEGO is successful because they are continually innovating on many different dimensions, but theyre doing it within a fairly traditional business system.
Q. You call Bionicle the toy that saved LEGO, both in terms of financial impact and the lessons the company learned from it about innovation. Can you explain?
A. Bionicle was the toy that saved LEGO, even though its always been a controversial toy within the company. There are those in LEGO who still believe its not an appropriate toy to carry the LEGO brand. But without the revenues from Bionicle to carry them through the crisis years of 2003 and 2004, the company would not have survived.
But Bionicle also taught LEGO some lessons about how to work with external partners, how to interact with passionate customers, and how to manage an intellectual property. LEGO had seen from its partnership with Star Wars how a rich story can captivate kids and drive sales of toys. But making toys around someone elses story is a different challenge than creating your own story and characters, and building toys around it. Bionicle boys loved the toy, and loved the T-shirts, books, comics, backpacks, sneakers, and everything else that had a Bionicle image on it. LEGO had to learn how to not only develop a toy with a rich story, but also work with a group of outside partners and bring them along as the story progressed. And by interacting with the fans online, Greg Farshtey, the guy in LEGO responsible for story and character development, could understand where the story was confusing or unclear and fix the issue in the next release.
Q. Another toy that taught LEGO a major lesson was Mindstorms, the programmable robots. What did LEGO learn from this?
A. LEGO took a unique approach when they developed the next generation of Mindstorms NXT the robotics kit they released in 2006. They opened up their innovation process, but they used the wisdom of the clique not the wisdom of the crowd. They started with a small group of sophisticated fans and brought them into the development process. As development progressed, they expanded the group steadily. When they had most of the major development decisions completed they opened up the process more, and used a crowd of one hundred fans to help them do the final development and testing. Theres a lot written about the wisdom of the crowd and how powerful it can be, and I completely agree that if used well it can be a very powerful source of ideas. But early in the development process, when there are lots of constraints and tradeoffs, it helps to keep the team small and decision-making structures clear. LEGO learned some valuable lessons from Mindstorms about how to do that well.
Q. In just ten years, LEGO has gone from the brink of bankruptcy to the most valuable toy company in the world. What, in your opinion, was the most dramatic shift from the old LEGO to new?
A. The Companys brush with bankruptcy gave it a dose of humility that it sorely needed. In the years between 1999 and 2002, the companys manager made decisions about which toys to launch and which to kill. They proved remarkably bad at that. Mads Nipper, who runs all of product development and marketing, says there are only two totally honest groups of people in the world: kids and drunks. Now, when LEGO is looking to develop a toy, they show different concepts to groups of kids, then they do rough mockups of the toys, then more finished versions, and so on until theyre sure theyve got the toy right. Managements role has changed from making decisions about which toys to bring to market, to making sure their teams have tested the toys thoroughly.
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Essential Mathematics Gold 10: The CSF 11 Course offers a flexible mix of mathematical concepts and applications. This mix prepares students for the VCE courses of General Mathematics and Foundation Mathematics. The innovative coordinated system of worked examples and exercises ensures success and generates confidence. A focus on maintaining key skills and understanding fundamental mathematical terms are features of this book.
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A completely new text in the Essential Mathematics Series for students needing additional support. This is a mainstream text covering all of the concepts, skills and applications of the CSF II at Year 9. The innovative coordinated system of worked examples and exercises ensures success and generates confidence. A focus on maintaining key skills and understanding fundamental mathematical terms are features of this book. A pivotal alternative mainstream text that allows students to progress to VCE Mathematics courses via Essential Mathematics 10: The CSF 11 Course or Essential Mathematics Gold 10: The CSF 11 Course.
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Essential Mathematics Gold for VELS 10 has been written specifically for the Victorian Essential Learning Standards Mathematics course, that is, all the dimensions within the mathematics discipline have been addressed. Furthermore, the authors have actively sought to highlight links both within and outside of mathematics as prescribed in VELS. Thus, Essential Mathematics for VELS is a complete course of study which reflects the needs of teachers of mathematics in Victoria and builds on longstanding successful classroom teaching practices. The material has been extensively trialled in schools. This, together with the exciting full-colour and creative design, makes this series a new step in the creation of maths resources for Victorian schools.
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This job-counselling guide is designed to equip and empower job-seekers to take charge of their lives and careers by taking the mystery out of job searching and helping individuals to unlock their potential. Through a series of interactive exercises and worksheets, it helps people to firstly create a focus for their careers, then carefully target organizational environments and working relationships in which they will flourish. The book devotes special attention to the the emotional and psychological needs of job-seekers in a way which is designed to help them face the reality of finding another, more satisfying position. Each section of the book details one of 12 steps for effective career changing. The book contains many personal examples from the authors' outplacement clientele.
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This book concentrates on the arguments the Lords use in justifying their decisions, and is concerned as much with the legal methodology as with the substance of their decisions. Although close attention is paid to the different approaches and styles of judicial argument, the book is not restricted to this traditional analytic approach. One chapter applies the statistical techniques Americans call "jurimetrics" and have successfully used on the US Supreme Court.
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The eighty-five famous essays by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay--known collectively as the Federalist Papers--comprise the lens through which we typically view the ideas behind the U.S. Constitution. But we are wrong to do so, writes David Brian Robertson, if we really want to know what the Founders were thinking.
In this provocative new account of the framing of the Constitution, Robertson observes that the Federalist Papers represented only one side in a fierce argument that was settled by compromise--in fact, multiple compromises. Drawing on numerous primary sources, Robertson unravels the highly political dynamics that shaped the document. Hamilton and Madison, who hailed from two of the larger states, pursued an ambitious vision of a robust government with broad power. Leaders from smaller states envisioned only a few added powers, sufficient to correct the disastrous weakness of the Articles of Confederation, but not so strong as to threaten the governing systems within their own states. The two sides battled for three arduous months; the Constitution emerged piece by piece, the product of an evolving web of agreements. Robertson examines each contentious debate, including arguments over the balance between the federal government and the states, slavery, war and peace, and much more. In nearly every case, a fractious, piecemeal, and very political process prevailed. In this way, the convention produced a government of separate institutions, each with the will and ability to defend its independence. Majorities would rule, but the Constitution made it very difficult to assemble majorities large enough to let the government act.
Brilliantly argued and deeply researched, this book will change the way we think of "original intent." With a bracing willingness to challenge old pieties, Robertson rescues the political realities that created the government we know today.
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Before there was Elvis, there was W.C. Handy, the man who made the blues. Here is the first major biography in decades of the man who gave us such iconic songs as St. Louis Blues, The Memphis Blues, and Beale Street Blues, and who was responsible, more than any other musician, for bringing the blues into the American mainstream.
David Robertson charts W.C. Handys rise from a rural Alabama childhood in the last decades of the nineteenth century to become one of the most celebrated songwriters of the twentieth. The child of former slaves, Handy was first inspired by spirituals and folk songs, and his passion for music pushed him to leave home as a teenager, despite opposition from his preacher father. He soon found his way to St. Louis, where he spent a winter sleeping on cobblestone docks before lucking into a job with an Indiana brass band. It was in a minstrel show, playing to racially mixed audiences across the country, that he got his first real exposure as a professional musician, but it was in Memphis, where he settled in 1905, that he hit his full stride as a composer. There, Handy frequented the famous saloons and music halls of Beale Street and composed his legendary songs. By the time of his death in 1958, at the age of eighty-five, he had become a major influence on pop culture, his music recorded by countless musicians, from Bessie Smith to Django Reinhardt.
Robertson weaves a rich tapestry of the worlds Handy inhabited: the post-Reconstruction South; the ministrel shows in all their racial ambiguity; the mysterious, forbidding Mississippi Delta; Memphis, with its jumping music scene; and New Yorks Tin Pan Alley. At once a testament to the power of song and a chronicle of race and black music in America, W.C. Handys life story is in many ways the story of the birth of our country's indigenous cultureand a riveting must-read for anyone interested in the history of American music.
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