Igniting Innovation: Tips, Sparks and Ideas for Acting on Innovation

What Will You Innovate & Build?

Posted by David Lafkas on Dec 13, 2016 10:12:22 AM

In 1947, Ole Kirk Christiansen purchased a plastic injection-molding machine.  Some questioned why he did so, because for the previous 17 years he had been a carpenter and made primarily wooden toys, including traditional stackable wooden blocks.

By 1951, more than half of the outputs from Christiansen’s toy company were plastic.  This despite his native country’s trade magazine, Toy-Times, believing that plastic would never be able to replace traditional wooden toys.

The plastic toys that Christiansen’s toy company became known for wereLego and Innovation interlocking bricks, which we all know of as the familiar Lego bricks.

Those simple interlocking plastic bricks have developed into a subculture, six theme parks, video and board games, movies, and clothing.  By July 2015, it is estimated that 600 billion Lego parts have been produced, and Lego was named one of the world’s most powerful brands.

But how does a simple idea like making a plastic toy brick develop into such a powerful and successful brand?

It is unlikely that Christiansen started developing his plastic bricks with the knowledge that it would develop into what it did.  Rather, he had a motto for the Lego Group that translates roughly to “the best is never too good.”  From that, he took pride in what he was developing and opened himself up to pivot with his company while also remaining true to the very simple interlocking brick.  (A Lego brick today can interlock with some of those first Lego bricks made back in the ‘40s.)

As the bricks were pieced together by amateurs and professionals alike, the company continued to pivot - creating new bricks, new colors, and entering into new fields like education and robotics.  And then making licensing deals for brands such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, DC and Marvel Superheroes, that toy makers around the world would be jealous of.

And there were missteps.  Who remembers the Lego toy metal cars from the 1960s? 

The organization stayed true to their simple motto of never settling for less than the best when it came to its very simple interlocking brick, and opened itself up to new opportunities as they developed.  It is likely that not each opportunity was as successful as Lego may have hoped, but it seems that they learned and continued to learn, pivot, and grow to be a massive brand. 

You may have a concept that seems small, and no idea yet how it can be built into something bigger.  How can you stay true to the concept and pivot and learn as you move forward?

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Topics: Create, leadership, passion, decisions

David Lafkas

Written by David Lafkas

David is Eureka! Ranch’s legal eagle, or more traditionally our patent and trademark authority, not only serving as in-house counsel at Eureka! Ranch, but also evangelizing on the importance of patents in today’s world of innovation to stay ahead of your competition. As an Innovation Engineering Black Belt, David has helped numerous companies develop patentable new products and services. Most recently, he’s supported High Liner Foods in Canada and the US on their comprehensive journey to achieve a culture of innovation as they not only create breakthrough seafood ideas, but also broadly educate employees and implement systems driven innovation across the corporation. David received a biomedical engineering degree from the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology and his juris doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, the 4th oldest law school in the country. He lives in Cincinnati with his rescue dog, Chauncey.

Welcome to the first blog from the Eureka! Ranch and Innovation Engineering Institute team.  Here you will find a diverse group of innovators dedicated to changing the world by transforming innovation from a random gamble to a reliable system that delivers increased innovation speed and decreased risk.


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