Authentic road trip with Lego’s Jørgen Vig Knudstorp

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During the past three weeks I’ve been on a roadtrip with Lego. A mental and historical of the kind with Lego company and a literal one with CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp.

During the past year I’ve been studying a number of different companies in order to further define my conception of organizational authenticity and to find examples and practical implications of how you as a leader can help your company become more authentic. This time around, I was trying to find out how Legos identity has been rediscovered through the past four years and the outcome of the toy company has been turned from massive losses to impressive revenues.

Three weeks ago Jørgen invited me to join him as he was going to a Lego Fan event in Skærbæk in Southern Denmark. I rode my motorcycle to Jørgens place and joined him and three of his kids on what would most certainly have appeared as a family trip including the odd uncle.

I have heard about Adult Fans of Lego before, mostly from my friend Majken Schultz and her former PhD-student Yun Mi Antorini who wrote her thesis on brand communities with the adult Lego fans as the case in study. But I had never experienced the ’real’ Lego fans myself. Arriving in Skærbæk I was lucky to talk to a bunch of hardcore Lego fans who spans from babies to 80-year olds and on that particular day represented 12 nations who had all come to Denmark to participate in the Lego Fest.

What’s interesting to me is the fact that the Lego fans have been active in getting Lego back on track. As one Danish fan told me, ’Lego had forgotten what Lego was all about. You could buy a helicopter and the tail was in one piece. So you could do nothing other than build a helicopter with it. The very idea of Lego was disappearing and we tried to tell Lego.’ Luckily, they did listen and things changed. A number of employees were discussing the authentic strengths of Lego and the Lego experience with then newly-appointed CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp and they found out that the creative play within the building system of Lego was the most valuable authentic strength of the company. The focus on the construction process as the most precious part of the Lego brand was reestablished as was a number of initiatives, like fan communities, the possibility to order customized boxes of Lego and the revitalization of the initial founders’ credo ’Nothing’s too good for children’ (I don’t think I’m using the right translation here, but along those lines…). A value that was born by the founder and has more relevance now than ever. Simple as it may sound when I mention it in brief, the change has been enormous. Not least the economic impact. For three consecutive years the Lego Company has been presenting it’s best results since it was founded.

Img_0572Yesterday I was interviewing Jørgen again. This time I flew to the Billund headquarters where we mapped the authenticity of Lego before heading off on another roadtrip including another late afternoon with the kids. I’ll leave the details. Let’s just say I suspect Jørgen of an attempt to turn my book into a sequel on parenthood. The title would be ’Authentic Parenting – How to Multitask Kids, Bricks and Business Authors’. During the next weeks I will be going through the talks as I leave part one of my book and start working on the next.

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