“I strongly believe that behind each frustration, stands a potentially great solution.” This statement by founder and CEO Michael Lahyani may seem rather simplistic, but the premise it puts forward….
The Founder of Lego
The founder of Lego, Ole Kirk Kristiansen, was born on April 7, 1891. Ole Kirk Kristiansen first worked on a farm and later got an apprenticeship with a carpenter that he completed in 1911. He lived in Denmark and served in the military at the Citadel of Copenhagen. At the age of 24 Ole Kirk bough the Billund Joinery Factory they manufactured doors, windows, kitchen cabinets, cupboards, coffins, chests of drawers, tools for digging peat, and bodywork for carts. He was a christian man who went about his life thankful for the things god had granted him and tried to achieve excellence within everything.
When a global crisis hit Ole Kirk business was hit to. Many Danish farmers lost money and business because of US and Uk restrictions on imports. This created a problem for Ole Kirk because farmers and smallholders were his number one customers. Because no one was buying Ole Kirk had no jobs to do and was forced to make toys for Jens W. Oleson, which started his famous toy making.
Ole Kirk became part of the National Association for Danish Enterprise. They promoted his manufacturing efforts during the crisis and put him in a magazine to give advice and promote his goods. Then 2 years after Ole Kirk started making toys(1932) he showed off legos in a trade fair.Lego initial started as a company name that made wooden toys. The Association for Danish Enterprise supported Ole Kirk and gave him a free spot in the trade fair.
The beginning of the Lego Group was marked by Ole Kirk’s manufacture of toys such as cars, planes, and yo-yos. Ole Kirk needed money to secure his business’s future, so he asked his family for a 3,000 DKK loan. When Ole Kirk decided to completely make the switch to toys he held a contest to find a new name for the company the prize being a bottle of homemade wine. The winner of the contest was Ole Kirk himself with the name “Lego.”He got the name by combining the danish words “Leg Godt” which meant “play well.” Within a few years Ole Kirk laid the foundation of one of the world’s leading toy manufacturers.
Ole Kirk always promised quality with his work and wanted children to play with his toys for many years. He always Produced his wooden toys to his standard and made his kids do the same. Ole Kirk went as far as to make the company’s motto “Only the best is good enough,” which still applies to the company today. As Ole Kirk’s company grew he stuck to his roots and never got lazy with his work.
With company growth also came innovations of tools and machines for Ole Kirk to use. When Ole Kirk bought his first milling machine it was a huge investment, especially because it was worth one third of company profits. Although Ole Kirk saw the massive investment as worth it for the quality and quickness it would help achieve. The mill made it possible for him to hire 15 people but, their jobs were in jeopardy when a fire burned down the factory. Ole Kirk was given a loan to rebuild which made any thought of not rebuilding go away. By the end of that year production was sailing and he was able to hire 40 people.
The next big thing that happened to the company was the age of plastic. Ole Kirk invested in a plastic injection molding machine. The first plastic product that The Lego Group makes is a a plastic fish baby rattle. Although Ole Kirk’s family didn’t like the idea of plastic and even tried to switch him back to wood, he persisted though and started making the Legos we know today. They first started out as “Automatic Binding Blocks” until in 1951 when the name was officially changed to Lego Bricks. The change was because Godtfred Kirk wanted the Lego name to be better recognized throughout the world. Eventually Lego was sculpted into every brick made.
It turned out that Ole Kirk was right and the plastic toys lead to expansion across Norway, Sweden, Germany, and other parts of Europe. The company was booming with success and continued to grow and grow. The Lego Brick is continually innovated until January 28, 1958 when the almost perfect brick was designed and patented. The Lego Group and Godtfred Kirk wanted a more dynamic toy and added new pieces like the wheel. This creates more demand for the product and furthers the growth of the company.
In 1964 the first building instructions appeared and now specific things could be built. After instructions the main focus was packaging. The packaging told what could be built and drew you in to buying the product. In 1962 Dagny Holm, Godtfred Kirk’s cousin joins the company and revolutionized building forever. This brought many visitors to the factory and it became overcrowded. The solution was to build the first ever Legoland. This place displayed many intricate lego models for many people to come and see.
Wanting to expand the companies range of products further lead to the development of the lego figure. High demand and increasing sells lead to more time and effort being put into the figures and eventually they became what is known as Lego Minifigures. They were genderless and had no specific ethnicity. This was so that all the deciding could be in the child’s imagination and creativity. Since their release over four billion Lego Minifigures have been produced.
The Lego vision became one of idea, exuberance, and values. Lego want people to use their own imagination to realize anything was possible and keep their values in mind. Lego never lost its passion for its toys or their quality. The business was able to grow because they never forgot where they came from and how they got where they were. By 2005 they wanted to be the leading toy brand for families with children, this was part of the strategic platform to let employees know where the company was headed. Lego became not only a brand but something that had meaning and value attached to it through not only children but the company too.
As time continued more innovations came and soon Lego was in the digital game. A man by the name Dandi brought videos of 3-D Legos which prompted investigation of the possibilities of Legos in a computer based system. Eventually this created ideas such as Lego Mindstorms and Lego computer games. The first game, Lego Island, launched in 1977 was the first addition of Legos on a computer the public had seen. Also the following year the Intelligent Lego Brick was created to be built as a model and can be programmed.
The Lego group went from a furniture manufacturer to a wooden toy manufacturer to a plastic brick called the Lego manufacturer. As the company innovates its products it never lost sight of its goals and values and was able to build off of a small wood company. Today Lego creates anything from Lego sets to movies and continues to deliver with quality. Many kids today love Legos and the rest of their products as they are still one of the top toys in the world. Lego is an inspiration for many businesses because of their story and how they became one of the biggest businesses worldwide. Legos success is marked by the fact that Ole Kirk’s dreams for his company were achieved and exceeded even his plans for an amazing manufacturing business.