An intriguing article in Wired on how the Lego product line has adapted with the times and prospered.
Lego built a global empire out of little plastic blocks, then conquered the wired world with a robot kit called Mindstorms. So when the time came for an upgrade, they turned to their obsessed fans – and rewrote the rules of the innovation game.
A fact that warms the cockles of my Lego-loving, technology-geek heart: 70% of customers for their current line of programmable robotics are adults. It’s amazing what kind devices these hobbyists make (e.g., a working soda vending machine).
The Wired article also provided a fascinating illustration of the promise of Open Source business models. Lego has benefited handsomely from relaxing its enforcement of Intellectual Property rights and unleashing the creativity of hobbyists around the world. Their free labor has greatly improved Lego’s product line.
I got a kick out of the point where the journalist complains about the "bland Danish food" he encountered in the hotel near Lego’s headquarters in Jutland. This lamentable fact of Danish culinary life is foreshadowed in that classic of world cinema, "Babette’s Feast" (in Danish, "Babettes gæstebud" ) . (It’s also the only movie I know of where I can practice both Danish and French.)
For you movie buffs, the article linked to for the movie makes a very interesting observation that I’d never thought of: "Babette’s Feast" started a new genre of sumptuous food-related flicks.
This Academy Award-winner for Best Foreign Language Film was a big art house hit, spawning a whole international subgenre, "foodie" (films about the liberating effects of good food).
But back to Legos.
For you bored engineers (You listening, Shahed?) yearning for a creative outlet, there appears to be a new career path: The Lego Certified Professional. I kid you not. Yet another reason to revisit my childhood love.