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Innovation Answered

Feb 14, 2022

LEGO is one of the world’s most famous and admired brands. The company’s colorful plastic bricks are the literal building blocks of an empire that spans a $5 billion annual toy business, hundreds of retail stores, 10 theme parks, and a series of hit movies. But what LEGO actually sells isn’t just the bricks, it’s a whole system of play: an endlessly expandable way for children (and adults) to combine hand, eye, and imagination.

It was when product developers drifted away from that system in the 1990s and early 2000s—introducing a blizzard of toy lines that didn’t use the bricks at all—that LEGO stumbled into serious trouble. The company had a close brush with bankruptcy in 2003, then grappled its way back to profitability by refocusing on its core customers and their passion for building things.

For this third episode of our Persistent Innovators miniseries, guest host and producer Wade Roush sought out LEGO experts like journalist Bill Breen—co-author of the authoritative LEGO history Brick by Brick—as well as former LEGO executives Robert Rasmussen (developer of the LEGO Serious Play method) and David Gram (founder of the consulting firm Diplomatic Rebels). They explain what went wrong at LEGO, how the company rediscovered the spirit of play that make its toys so beloved, and what it does today to make sure that innovation doesn’t stray too far outside the brick.

The Persistent Innovators is sponsored by Patsnap (, the Connected Innovation Intelligence company, and by Patsnap’s online courseware site Innovation Academy (