LEGO Case Study
Danish company Lego, the world's sixth largest toy maker, has transformed the processes of its design function in recent years; and these changes have streamlined product development and the processes developed by the in-house design function are now being used as a method to enhance innovation across the entire business (Design Council, 2007). In the clichéd ‘global village' we live in, there is no system that can survive in isolation. Especially when considering a business system, which is integrally dynamic and constantly evolving.
The fundamental concept to become familiar with when managing a business such as Lego, is the idea that the business has a creative personality in its own right. Hence it is important to understand the advantages, disadvantages, and creative implications of such a separate creative personality, as it entails for all the participants both internal and external, a distinct creative position. The simplest form of business enterprises utilized by companies is to trade in their own abilities; for Lego this means consistent development and innovation within its own genre.
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Oliver, et al (2007) elaborate the uniqueness with the Lego development case, by criticizing that intricacy and attention to detail reflects Lego's culture of craftsmanship, but also its disregard for the costs of innovation. The company designers seem to be dreaming up new toys without taking into account the price of materials or the costs of production. This sort of carefree creativity is unsustainable and difficult to uphold in the current global toy market, where cost pressures are a constant concern.
Both national as well as international issues have a very strong bearing on the direction of the operations management in a business. In particular, when considering the work of Multi National Corporations, one cannot stay oblivious of the circumstances that are prevalent globally, as the entire world stands as their domestic customer. Lego has continually evolved its system of bricks and applications ever since its invention, wherein the original system elements have been extended in numerous ways to include, for instance, people and special parts to allow the construction of moving vehicles and working train sets (Design Council, 2007).
Lego has been a step ahead in its endeavour for innovation. As early as 1999, computer scientists claimed that a simple computer-based form of evolution had succeeded in designing Lego structures without any assistance from humans (Science Daily). This became the first successful leap from current day's computer-aided design into the futuristic realm of fully automated design, and the first primal step toward the artificial intelligence community's longstanding dream of evolutionary robotics, where robots might eventually adopt some form of evolution.
Should Lego fall prey to the growing competition at the risk of redundant designs, then this would give rise to issues that would be beyond the controllable limits of the parent company, thereby making the business operations vulnerable to the ever-changing international scenario. Wyetheville (2006) argues on the same lines by elucidating that reflection on the successes, failures, and past experiences of an organization needs to be utilized on an on-going basis to create an ever-renewing organization, which ends up guaranteeing success as well.
The basic element of creative production being at the forefront always, one would go by the notion of innovation. However, wanting to produce novel products, even though a dire need for the product may not be there, yet the demand for it would have to be created. And the crucial word here is ‘customer'. A new Lego product is not something that would have a potential buyer everywhere. This requires a certain niche of buyers, with a certain amount of style and balance in their preferences and likes to accomplish the needful.
For establishment of a new product market for Lego, the first step would be to engage the existing customers of the company. If the buyer has used one product of the company and is seemingly satisfied, there is every probability that he can be allured into another one. In such and event, a database for the current clients can be considered crucial. This is because Lego would want to create and capture new markets, at the same time it would not like to lose on existing brand loyalty. Then, based on the features of the product, a market sample could be acquired as to who can be the future lot with possible interest in the product. That area of the population would then be targeted by means of conventional marketing tools involving print and electronic media. It is important to create the demand, that the necessity and difference of the new product be highlighted to the maximum.
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Perhaps the most important venture would be getting involved in a one-to-one method of communication with the customers. Once the target areas has been established, then the sales and marketing people, using methods of emails, telephones, letters and even workshops, would endeavor to convince the potential customer in a personalized and customized way, making them feel that this product was created in the first place for their convenience. For a more international clientele in the case of Lego, electronic media would obviously be adopted. The moment a client starts to feel special, the product is half sold. This also covers the credibility, reliability and after sales issues for the customer if initially, they are being approached as someone special.
Klassner (2002) purports that based on the sophistication of the projects, the Lego platform has much evolved since its introduction to become a cost-effective platform worthy of consideration as a supplementing programming environment to traditional PC programming. As more work is done in the open source community to address the unaddressed criticisms, the Lego platform's infrastructure viability will only improve. To this end, Lego should work on extending the basic firmware to include support for targeted message passing and to develop a system for distributing computation within a robotic network as well. Only this can possibly ensure the ever-growing status of Lego in an ever-growing market.
Design Council. (2007). Design at Lego. Eleven Lessons: managing designs in eleven global brands.
Klassner, F. (2002). A Case Study of LEGO Mindstorms 'TM Suitability for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Courses at the College Level. National Science Foundation.
Oliver, K. et al. (2007). Rebuilding Lego, Brick by Brick. Strategy + Business.
Science Daily (1999). In First Case Of Fully Automated Design, Computers Shape Lego Bricks Into Various Designs Without Human Input.
Wyetheville, C. (2006). Organization Renewal Through Participatory Involvement.