DAVID ROBERTSON - Wharton School Professor and Co-Author of Brick by Brick
Wharton School professor David Robertson is the host of the weekly radio show Innovation Navigation, where he interviews leaders from around the world about innovation. He is also the author of Brick by Brick, an inside look at LEGO’s near death and spectacular rebirth. In his talks, he shares lessons from LEGO and other leading companies on how to structure and lead innovation.
In 2003, LEGO almost went bankrupt. The company had failed to adapt to the revolutionary changes in children’s lives and began sliding into irrelevance. Advice from innovation experts almost led the company to ruin, and the future looked bleak for one of America’s most iconic brands. Why didn’t newly developed products and businesses—including theme parks, computer games, electronic toys, and clothing—save the company? The answer wasn’t just innovation—it was innovation management. LEGO needed an entirely new system of processes, tools, roles, and policies that governed creative thinking. Once that was in place, the company re-emerged more powerful, resilient, and inventive than ever. Today, LEGO’s sales are growing at 24% and profits at 40% per year every year for the past five years, and the brand is experiencing something of a renaissance. The blockbuster film The LEGO Movie, which came out in early 2014, was a massive hit, grossing an estimated $140 million at the U.S. box office in less than two weeks.
David Robertson has been a student, teacher, and practitioner of the art of innovation for his entire career. As a Professor of Practice at Wharton School, he teaches Innovation and Product Development in the undergraduate, MBA, and executive education programs. From 2002 through 2010, Robertson was the LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology Management at Switzerland’s Institute for Management Development (IMD), which received the #1 worldwide ranking by the Financial Times for its executive education programs. At IMD he was Program Director for IMD’s largest program, the Program for Executive Development, and co-Director of the Making Business Sense of IT program, a joint program between IMD and MIT Sloan. Robertson also serves as a consultant to companies on innovation and technology management issues.
How Any Company Can Learn From LEGO’s Successful Innovation Management System
Managers are bombarded with dozens of theories about how to manage innovation. These theories all promise growth and profits, but the actual results are less positive. Using the case study of LEGO, David Robertson’s keynote explores how to manage innovation across a company.
In 2003, LEGO almost went bankrupt. LEGO’s managers had followed the advice of experts—"head for blue ocean," "practice disruptive innovation," "open innovation," "develop the full spectrum of innovation"—and that advice almost led them to ruin. Challenging their designers to think "out of the box" almost put them out of business! In one of the most successful turnarounds in modern business history, LEGO restructured its innovation management system and saved the company.
Today, LEGO is the most profitable and fastest growing company in the toy industry, growing sales at 22% and profits at 38% per year every year for the past six years. In this talk, Robertson reveals the secrets behind LEGO’s success and the lessons to be learned about how to lead and structure innovation. Highly repeatable across a wide range of companies, Robertson shares the "bricks" needed to build innovation management systems—processes, tools, roles, and policies that you can apply in your company to boost your innovation success.
Innovating Around the Box: A Low Risk, High Reward Approach to Innovation
Too often, innovation is characterized as either inside the box (incremental improvement of existing products) or outside the box (disruptive products that revolutionize industries). But some of the most important innovations in history don’t fall into either category—many great companies innovate around the box—they surround their core products with a family of complementary innovations that make those core products irresistible. Disney, Valve, Makerbot, GoPro, Red Bull, Apple, CarMax, Amazon, LEGO, and others have used this third strategy with great success. But this strategy isn’t easy to execute—surrounding your core products with complementary innovations reduces your risk, but it requires big changes to your internal processes, structure, rewards, roles, and systems. In this engaging talk, David Robertson will show you how this strategy works and how the best companies use it to win in their markets.
BRICK by BRICK | How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry Author David Robertson, with Bill Breen
Based in Denmark’s hinterlands, the family-owned, closely-held LEGO Group has been ignored by Wall Street. For much of its nearly eight decades, LEGO was an aloof, insular company whose idealistic, imaginative approach to play helped it conjure toys that rarely retreated to the back of kids’ closets. All of that changed in 2003, when LEGO failed to adapt to the revolutionary changes in children’s lives and very nearly collapsed. Since that near death crisis, LEGO has re-emerged as a powerful, serial innovator that has proven itself to be as resilient as its indestructible bricks and as resourceful as the ten-year olds who bring them to life.
Brick by Brick will bring readers inside the LEGO they’ve never seen. The book will chronicle the iconic toymaker’s perilous fall and spectacular rise—one of the untold dramas in recent business history. It will recount the creation of many of LEGO’s most iconic toys and introduce readers to the designers and developers who are imagining the next generation of LEGO play experiences.
Through Robertson’s unfettered access to every part of the LEGO Group, Brick by Brick will reveal the ideas and techniques that have powered the company to record results in recent years. It will detail LEGO’s unique innovation guidance system that allows managers to channel the company’s creative endeavors.
It will advance a set of LEGO-tested business principles for building innovation into all of a company’s activities—strategy, creativity, productivity, and leadership. And it will present the LEGO-like "bricks" that readers can use to assemble their own version of LEGO’s system for continuous innovation. Brick by Brick will put forth a LEGO-inspired agenda for real world innovation and an action plan for achieving it.