Meet LEGOs 6 year old chief designer

Have you played with Lego bricks lately? No? You should have for two reasons.

  • It’s important to stay creative as a manager and by playing with the kids toys are good exercise to your brain.
  • It’s crucial to stay innovative by digging into the world of Lego you will discover important learning’s on innovation and value creation.

Meet LEGOs chief designer

Now – meet one of Lego’s chief designers and R&D managers….he is six years old and already an experienced innovator with a long record of novel designs and products. He loves the bricks from Lego and have thousands of them in many forms and colors. Most of them original came in designed sets with a manual how to build them.

The bricks are put together in the way and order Lego describes in the manual and after while the “Lego R&D manager” start to dismantle them again in a search for new ways to use them. Often in combination with other Lego sets, and new products is born.  True innovation and real value is created.

This is why Lego is successful and has a worldwide market share of 7 percent at the total market for toys.

Lego has a gigantic R&D department with hundreds of thousands R&D manager and Chief designers assigned to come up with the next “big thing”. The danish company has an effective and very successful co-creation model – are very innovative – and at the same time they managed to do this without increasing the fixed costs.

In the April issue of MIT Sloan Management Review Lego is the cover story “Collaborating with Customer Communities: Lessons from the Lego Group”.

By tapping into the knowledge and (more important) enthusiasm of thousands of users of Lego products, the company has been able to be very innovative and creating new products and product lines during the last ten years.

Actually Lego did what every company should do. Collaborate with the customers, start a dialogue, listen to them and engage them in co-creation processes. When we take a closer look at how Lego did it is obvious that it is not question of rocket science how to do it. Just do it because you want to lift secure your companys license to operate in the future.

Lego saw the emerging groups of lead users (in 1999 there was 11 known Lego groups and by February 2012 there were more than 150 known user groups), and after a while the company made an important strategic shift. The company changes from being a private and “we don’t accept unsolicited ideas” to an open and collaborating company embrazing it’s lead users.

The company made an important discovery: They produced toys for kids, but a large group of enthusiastic adults were not only playing with the colorful bricks – but they were designing, creating and discussing together with other Lego-nerds , how to use Lego-bricks.

It was time to tap into the customer communities.

What did Lego learn in how to manage an open and collaboration innovation process?

First and foremost important, that it is not a process that needs management. Instead of regarding collaboration as something that needs to be managed exclusively by the company, it is fruitful to think of it as an ongoing dialogue between two allies.

Secondly – when collaboration has worked out most successful Lego management has found, it was outside parties have a particular area of expertise, such as architecture or sensor design and manufacture, that individuals within the company don’t have. They learned the important lesson of creating external network with people or businesses with competencies that Lego don’t have.

Here is the Lego Learnings:

  • Be clear about rules and expectations
  • Ensure a win-win
  • Recognize that outsiders aren’t insiders
  • Don’t expert one size fits all
  • Be as open as possible

The six year old R&d Manager knows this together with the hundreds of thousands lead Lego users around the world. They work hard every day to co-create and they love. They don’t even get paid for it – because that is not what drives them. It is their shared interest in Lego.

Now – ask yourself if you could do like Lego in your company? My answer is yes. For starters you could talk with your customers and begin a dialogue with. Be open and be ready to take new views into your company – It might pay of well in the future.

Leadership in the garden

This is a story about leadership in the garden. We are in the middle of winter and the garden looks more or less dead. The beautiful colors are gone and instead it is “fifty shades of grey” that dominates. The trees are naked and it is hard to imagine that just 3-4 months from now they will bloom again and fresh green leaves will erupt all over the tree followed by the most amazing flowers.

Leadership in the garden

The trees looks dead. But underneath all lot of activities is going according to plans. This is just a normal phase in the seasonal life of the garden and the fruit trees. Everything is preplanned by nature and the garden can take care of itself – if needed. But when a garden doesn’t have a gardener it won’t be long until it transforms from a garden to a wilderness or in the worst case to a jungle. It is no more a garden but just chaos without direction.

Like the garden so the organization. An organization needs a gardener to thrive and to grow. In this case the gardener is the leader. If there is no gardener – there will be no leadership and hence the organization will grow wild and turn into a mess.

What does a good gardener (leader) do? Let me take you on a trip in my garden back home in Denmark. It is an old garden established more than 100 years ago. It has been redone and reorganized several times over the years in order to keep healthy and beautiful. I’ve done it several times – but the last time is more than five years ago.

In the garden there is apple, pears and cherry trees. There are flowers in all colors, lots of grass, herbs, strawberries and a greenhouse with tomatoes and cucumbers. And of course lots of weeds in various forms. But – it is all in all a nice garden fulfilling its purpose:  Looking good, supplying my family with fruit, berries and vegetables – and of course space for recreation during the nice and warm summer days.

I take care of the garden. I mow the lawn, I cut the trees down if too old or wrong, I prune the apple trees and I plant new flowers and I water the tomatoes and cucumbers. It’s relaxing to do stuff like that. It’s creative to get an idea, plant the seed and watch it grow.

But the weed….hmmmmm I hate to do that.

What I hate even more is the brutality and cynicism that is an integrated part of the job if you want to be a good gardener. Take the apple trees. Even though I have been pruning them every year in order to make them look better, to grow better and to produce more fruit – it is no way enough. It’s even wrong, because I have been doing it so gently that it actually made it worse.

Leadership in the garden

I really haven’t had the courage to prune the trees properly and make space for the winners.  Why not? I have been afraid of doing it wrong and maybe accidently kill one of the trees. That is why I just done a little pruning and keeping myself in the illusion of being an effective gardener.

Like in leadership: Sometimes you have to be very brutal and remove a product, person or even a business in order to make the business grow better or make place for new ideas and products. When you prune a tree the result in the short term doesn’t look good and often you think you went too far with the saw and actually killed the tree.

Like when you as a leader take the hard decision to close a department or to fire a manager. It leaves a big hole in the organization and it is hard to see how life can go on unaffected.

And now we are at the point of what I’m trying to say: Pruning your trees (organization) is a necessity to create new life. When you deliberately create “holes” by pruning your organization the light gets in where it couldn’t before and creates new life. Air circulates better and new growth appears.  The foundation for new life is created and most important it has created a stronger foundation for the future.

Back in my garden the trees looks wild and un-managed. Well – I admit last year they didn’t provide as much fruit as they used to do. First I thought that it could be global climate change – then local climate (we had some cold days in spring when the trees were blooming) then I was thinking of the wet summer and also at the lack of honey bees to pollinate the apple flowers.

They are all external factors to blame. Like in business when it start to go bad.

Last year my neighbor went berserk and did a heavy pruning of his apple trees. They were almost cut back to nothing but the log and three branches. My first thought was that he was mad and that was the end of those beautiful trees. In my mind the literally closed that part of his “business”. Almost nothing was left and no fruit that year.

But something interesting happened during spring, summer and autumn. The trees began to grow and new leaves and branches emerged. And the end of the season all the “killed” trees were standing back sound and so much alive. In the forthcoming season so ready to produce the best fruit ever.

Where am I heading with all this gardening and leadership babble?

To keep an organization or a group sound and capable of constant growth and innovation you as the top leader have to keep on “pruning” the trees all the time. Cut away the old ideas to make room for new ideas – cut away managers to let others get the light he or she was withholding and creating shade instead.

This constant gardening with scissors, saw and sometimes the chainsaw must be an integrated part of the tools in leadership in every organization.


Udvikling af dit lederskab

Lederskab – hvad er det? Udvikling af dit lederskab er vigtigere end nogensinde før.

Hvordan kan jeg blive en bedre leder? Hvordan udvikler jeg min organisation til at blive mere fleksibel, forandringsparat eller bare mere dygtig?

Jeg arbejder ofte sammen med den anerkendte finske konsulentfirma LearningMiles, og vi har sammen udviklet og gennemført store udviklingsprojekter i mediehuse. Alt sammen med fokus på udvikling af den enkelte leder og medarbejder.

I dette arbejder bruger vi meget de sociale medier for at skabe en konstant dialog og deling i organisationen af ideer og tanker. Resultaterne er interessante, da projekter der før var forbeholdt de få udvalgte nu – uden at omkostningerne eksploderer – kan bredes ud og involvere en stor kreds af virksomhedens medarbejdere.

Udvikling af dit lederskab gennem storytelling

Video, storytelling og special designede websites bruges aktivt og er en integreret del af projekterne.

Læs mere om hvad Knudsen Kommunikation tilbyder her

Her er et klip fra en video, som jeg har produceret i forbindelse med et stort udviklingsprojekt i en svensk medievirksomhed.

The power of Why

Questions or answers? Which do you prefer? This is the story of The power of Why.

Life is a quest of finding the right answers. Or is it? What if the meaning of life is the search for “the question”, which can change your way of thinking or doing things?

What if?

I have been working as a manager at an executive level for 10+ years and for many years I thought it was my primary function to deliver all the answers to the people in the company. Small and big – relevant or irrelevant – important or unimportant: I was the man to give all the answers.

And I did – give all the answers because, I was driven by the conviction that this is what a manager do. But slowly I began to doubt. At the same time I began to run out of good and meaningful answers – a nagging and irritating thought keeps coming back: “Why”?

“Why do I do this? Is this the right way of leading the people and the company?”

I ran out of good answers because no one in the company had any good questions.

The power of Why

I then realized that it was my job to be the one with all the questions. The transformation from management to leadership had begun and the “power of why” was emerging within me and in the company.

  • Why?
  • Why are we here?
  • Why are we doing business?
  • Why am I in this company?

At that time when I began to ask and seek answers in the organization something interesting happened. The people started to change because they felt involved in the company’s present life and future. They was actually more comfortable (most of the time) with a leader asking questions and trying to make the people find the answers them self.

Can you run a company be questions?  Yes you can – but not all the time. Sometimes your leadership requires clear and unquestionably answers. It is necessary to navigate between the two roles all the time and create a trustworthy balance in the “why-leadership” – and the key to success is

The “Why-leadership” is very effective but at the same time very difficult to perform because of the risk of being perceived as a “leader in doubt” or a weak leader.

The power of Why

It is important to keep working with the “power of why” every day. Be ready to raise questions to the assumptions that your company or business is built on. Be the first to question your own successful decisions after some time: Are we doing the right thing?

The first question to ask to all the people in the company – to the board – to the owner(s) and to yourself: Why are we in business? What is the purpose of what we do?

The purpose of the company – why are we in business? It is a tough question but very important to get a convincing answer to. If you can’t answer it something is worryingly wrong. You might as well shut your business down.

Without a purpose and without the ability to answer the “why-question” how can you then perform a meaningful leadership and ask the right questions to the people in your organization?

My answer is: You can’t – you’re fucked.


Forstå fremtiden eller dø

Forstå fremtiden eller dø. Det lyder barsk, men er en sandhed som alle der arbejder med ledelse og innovation må acceptere som et grundvilkår.

Det er vigtigere end aldrig før at kunne forstå fremtiden. Kunsten at kunne læse de små signaler og tolke de store forandring bliver en nødvendig kompetence hos alle ledere i fremtiden.

Men hvordan gør man?

Hvad skal vi se efter?

Hvordan skal vi tolke de signaler vi læser i de forandringer, som sker?

Professor Anthony Elliott

Professor Anthony Elliott

En af verdens førende sociologer er professor Anthony Elliott fra Hawke Institute på University of Adelaide. Han giver her sit bud på hvilke trends, der vil skabe størst forandring i 2016.