Simplify and repeat

1. May 2012

Date: 30-04-2012
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

The best way to deal with growing complexity may be to keep things simple

IN 1932, as the global economy collapsed, a Danish carpenter called Ole Kirk Kristiansen started to supplement his income by selling wooden toys. Eventually he hit on the idea of making toy bricks. He and his son and grandson steadily perfected these bricks. They shifted from wood to plastic. And they made their idea global: today there are 75 bits of Lego for every person on the planet.

In the mid-1990s Lego expanded too feverishly into what business theorists call “adjacencies”: theme parks, television programmes, clothes, watches and learning labs. The firm hit a wall made of bricks, not plastic. After years of dismal results, a new boss in 2004 took Lego back to its roots. The company has not lost its appetite for innovation: you can now design a house or castle online and order the bricks you need to build it. But Lego’s focus is firmly back where it was in its heyday—on little interlocking blocks that turn children of all ages into master builders (and hurt like jagged rocks when you tread on them in your socks). Read the rest of this entry »