Monday, August 18, 2014

Brick by Brick - adult nonfiction book #review

     I had great intentions to blog regularly over the summer.
     I didn't miss my blogging goal because I was being a slug-about. Rather, it was the contrary. This past summer was a busy whirlwind of writing, travel, conferences and family fun. Some of the fun involved reading new books, so I have mountains of content I can share with you. If I find the time.
     Here's a start. A book of adult nonfiction that combines narrative history and "how-to" observations about a company whose products have mesmerized my family for years.
image provided by Blogging for Books

     TITLE: Brick by Brick: How LEGO rewrote the rules of innovation and conquered the global toy industry (a mouthful!)
     AUTHOR: David C. Robertson with Bill Breen
     PUBLISHER: Crown Business, 2013
     Synopsis: The story of LEGO's turn-around after its disastrous financial decisions in the late 1990's.

     Why I like this book: As a writer, I think of myself as an innovator. I don't want to rehash existing content. People can use the internet to find what's already out there. I try to make something fresh and new. Sometimes this means rearranging existing words or using them in new ways. Sometimes this means inventing a new word.But always, innovating.
     My family is also the proud owner of TUBS (yes, the volume warrants capitalization) of plastic LEGO bricks. Like others around the globe, I have endured the pain of catching the sharp edge in my instep. But the perceived value far outweighed the pain. My kids played with these bricks again, and again, and again.
     To illustrate how nuts we are for this toy, while living in England I polished my college-level French in order to telephone a department store in France and order a set that I couldn't get in the local shops for a birthday gift. Proof that the seemingly oddest parts of your education come in handy! And my husband borrowed cash from a fellow traveler while in Austria in order to get the set that was the boys' holiday wish in a small shop that didn't accept credit cards.
     With insider access to LEGO management (the author was the LEGO professor of innovation and technology management at the International Institute of Management Development from 2002 to 2010) the book details the balance of autonomy and product focus that regained LEGO's market-leading success. As a writer, I connected with the theme of tension between creativity and passion, and market focus. When the author talks about the importance of a team with people from different backgrounds, I thought of my critique group members. In the discussion of focus groups, I envisioned read-alouds. Although the author is talking about a children's toy company, the theories in the book are applicable to any continued endeavor.  Blue sky opportunities are important, but not at the cost of reasoned value.
One bin of the many!
 The book is full of personal quotes that brought the story alive for me. At times, I had to flip back and forth to keep track of the names, but I'm terrible with names in real life too.
As a nerdy-type, I also loved the facts and figures. How much does it cost to make one mold for a standard LEGO piece?
(*answer below!)

While the book's primary target may be to business executives who can learn from LEGO's business practices, I recommend it to any creative business individual - even solo workers like me!

Disclosure: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.
*It costs $50,000 to $80,000 for one standard LEGO mold.