The World of Legos

by Don Meyer, Ph,D. | Mar 03, 2012
“Only the best is good enough.”
Ole Kirk Kristiansen, the inventor of Legos

Within a period of about one week I had two separate encounters with the world of Legos.  The first one was on a trip to New York City just after Christmas.  The Meyer family celebrated a Pennsylvania Christmas and, along with playing Monopoly at our dining room table and taking in a play at The People’s Light and Theater, we drove to Trenton, NJ and took the train into New York City.  Noah, our eight year old grandson, loves the train.

We arrived at Penn Station and hopped a cab to Rockefeller Center where we climbed out to all of the sights and sounds and smells of The Big Apple.  After a wonderful lunch at The Rock Café with the ice skaters just outside our window, we joined holiday shoppers from all over the world soaking in the holiday spirit.  One of the first places we visited was The Lego Store with wall to wall people. Noah was ecstatic.  The look on his face said it all.

My second recent encounter with Legos was a few days later during our mid-year administrator retreat.  One of our officers, Rick Dunham, surprised us when he handed each of us a small bag of Legos with the instruction to build something (anything) with them.  As he shared principles on leadership, we created our unusual looking masterpieces.  He then instructed us to combine them in the center of the table, illustrating the collective synergy of working together.

The LEGO Group was founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen.  The name LEGO is an abbreviation of two Danish words “leg godt” meaning “play well.”  The word “lego” can also be interpreted to mean “I gather together” in Latin, and “I connect” in Italian.

The company has come a long way over the past almost 80 years from a small carpenter’s workshop to a modern global enterprise that is now, in terms of sales, the world’s fourth-largest manufacturer of toys.  With the head office in Billund, Denmark, there are subsidiaries and branches with LEGO products being sold in more than 130 countries.

Lego pieces of all varieties comprise a universal system.  Despite variation in the design and purpose of individual pieces over the years, each remains compatible in some way with existing pieces.  Lego bricks from 1958 still interlock with those made in the current time, and Lego sets for young children are compatible with those made for teenagers.  Each Lego piece must be made to an exacting degree of precision.

Thousands of Lego themes have been released including from town and city to space robots and from pirates to the wild west.  One of the largest Lego sets ever commercially produced was the Star Wars Millennium Falcon which was released in 2007 with 5,195 pieces, later surpassed by the 5,922 piece Taj Mahal in 2008.

Over the years, Lego has licensed themes from cartoon and film franchises including Lord of the Rings,Thomas the Tank Engine and Toy Story.  There are even robotic Legos which are built for entry in robotics competitions.

From video games to children’s toys and from theme parks to “Lego Serious Play” leadership training, the world of Legos is familiar to almost everyone.  That crowded Lego store in New York City was a living reminder of the way those little interlocking pieces in just about any color have connected us all.  

I love the motto of the company’s founder when Ole Kirk Kristiansen, “Only the best is good enough.”  That motto and that standard have motivated the company to make an impact on such things as our environment, anti-corruption, charity and many other philanthropic activities.

The world’s children spend 5 billion hours a year playing with Lego bricks.  Next time Noah asks “Help me build something, Poppy” or Rick asks us to create something (anything), I will again step into this amazing Lego world.  

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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