Wednesday, July 23

Brick by Brick by David C. Robertson with Bill Breen

It started with DUPLO. I was just a little tyke, bumbling around the house and talking in only semi-understandable words. I loved those big plastic blocks. Then, when I was a few years older, I was able to graduate to ‘big boy’ blocks: LEGO blocks! I remember going to the toy store with my dad and being shown a couple of sets I could pick from. In the end it was between a space set and a pirate set. Though I’m sure both of them would’ve occupied my imagination for hours upon hours, it was the pirate set that won out. It’s the first LEGO set I remember getting, and my collection only grew.

As a teenager I held on to my LEGO sets, but they got temporarily pushed to the side, only occasionally being pulled out. Recently, however, I’ve found myself being drawn back to LEGO.  I’m sorting through my old sets and acquiring new ones.

Despite my love of LEGO, I never really knew much about the company. David C. Robertson’s Brick by Brick changed that, opening my eyes to the fascinating story about LEGO. Writing with Bill Breen, the story first looks at LEGO’s history and how it came to make plastic blocks. The rest of the book looks at different periods in LEGO’s recent history. The goal of the book is to show how LEGO faced huge obstacles in its operation and how it overcame them, and how the lessons LEGO learned could apply to other businesses. But don’t let the business side of it scare you away, there’s more than enough here to tide over LEGO fans.

Robertson breaks down failed LEGO products, such as Galidor or Jack Stone, to see why they didn’t perform well. As a child, I remember seeing ads for many of these failed toys but had forgotten about them until reading this book. I found it incredible how much these failed products hurt LEGO. One of the most astounding things I found was that, because so many failed products released at close to the same time, that they caused LEGO to fall on verge of bankruptcy.

What went wrong? How could a company that is so loved by consumers have fallen so far?  I found the story to be fascinating, and then the story of how they climbed out of the hole and then rocketed to new heights made this even more incredible.

While occasionally repetitive, Robertson makes LEGO’s story clear. He is unashamedly a fan of LEGO’s, but isn’t afraid to take a look at bad choices the company made. A selection of color reference photos is in the middle of the book, with black and white photos inserted into various chapters as need. While I don’t care for having the color photos separated from their corresponding chapters, and I wish more of the black and white photos were in color, they still strongly support their respective sections.

Given the 2013 copyright date, there is no mentioned of The LEGO Movie. I can only hope that in a few years this books is re-released and Robertson can show us what when on behind the scenes at LEGO during the creation process.

While I enjoyed this book as a LEGO fan, the business lessons that Robertson pulls out of LEGO’s history seem solid, and the examples he pulls are strong.

4/5 Stars

I received this book free from Random House as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

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