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Keynote Speaker David C. Robertson

David C. Robertson: Brick by Brick - Managing Innovation and Change by LEGO

Keynote Speaker David C. Robertson on Innovation

David C. Robertson - Professor at the Wharton School and co-founder of Brick by Brick

Book your keynote speaker David C. Robertson


Professor David C. Robertson of the Wharton School hosts the weekly radio show Innovation Navigation, where he discusses with world leaders about innovation. He is also the writer of the book Brick by Brick, which is a look at the impending death and spectacular rebirth of LEGO. In his talks, he shares his experiences from LEGO and other leaders on the market the lessons learned about how to design and lead innovation.

LEGO & the revolutionary changes
LEGO nearly went bankrupt in the year 2003. The firm failed to adjust to the revolutionary shifts in children’s lives and started to slide into the void. The view of innovation specialists nearly bankrupted the company, and the future looked gloomy for one of the most iconic trademarks in the United States. Why didn’t new products and partnerships – including amusement parks, computer games, electronic toys, and clothing – preserve the company?

Innovation Management
The key lies not only in innovation but also in innovation management. LEGO lacked a whole new system of methods, instruments, roles, and policies that command creative thinking. After the introduction of this system, the company became more efficient, more resilient, and more inventive than ever before. Today, LEGO’s sales have grown by 24% per year over the past five years, and the brand is undergoing a kind of revival, with a 40% annual growth rate. The exceptional LEGO film, released in early 2014, was a huge success, generating approximately $140 million in less than two weeks at the US box office.

David C. Robertson as a professor

David C. Robertson has been a learner, instructor, and practitioner of the art of innovation throughout his successful career. He teaches innovation and also product development in undergraduate, MBA, and executive education programs as a professor of practice at The Wharton School. From 2002 to 2010, Mr. Robertson was the LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology Management at the Swiss Institute for Management Development (IMD), which is placed first in the world in the Financial Times’ list of executive education programs. At IMD, David Robertson was director of IMD’s most extensive program, the Leadership Development Program, and co-director of Making Business Sense of IT, a shared agenda of IMD and MIT Sloan. He is also a business consultant on innovation and technology management.

How can a company learn from an effective LEGO innovation management system?
Leaders come in contact with dozens of theories on how to regulate innovation. All these theories promise growth and gains, but the real effects are less favorable. Based on the LEGO case study, David C. Robertson’s speech explores how to perform innovation in a company.

In 2003, LEGO almost went insolvent. LEGO executives had complied with expert advice – “head for the blue ocean,” “disruptive innovation practice,” “open innovation,” “the full spectrum of innovation development,” – and those pieces of advice almost brought them to ruin. Stimulating their planners to think “out of the box” almost led them to ruin! In one of the most triumphant twists and turns in modern business history, LEGO restructured its innovation management system and saved the business.

Today, LEGO is the most profitable and successful company in the toy market, with annual sales growth of 22% and profit growth of 38% over the last six years. In this presentation, Mr. Robertson shares the secrets of LEGO’s success and lessons to be learned on how to manage and structure innovation. This presentation, which many companies can learn from, outlines the “building blocks” required to develop innovation management systems – methods, tools, roles, and procedures that you can implement in your company to drive the progress of your innovation.

Innovation Around the Box: A Low Risk, High Reward Approach to Innovation
Innovation is often described as inside the box (incremental enhancements to existing products) or outside the box (disruptive products that reform industries). But some of the most influential innovations in history fall into neither of these two classes – many large companies innovate around the box – they involve their core products with a group of complementary innovations that make these core products so compelling.

Apple, CarMax, GoPro, Amazon, Disney, Valve, Makerbot, Red Bull, LEGO, among others, have practiced this third strategy with great achievement. But this approach is not easy to implement – involving your core products with corresponding innovations decreases your risk, but demands significant changes in your in-house processes, construction, bonuses, roles, and policies. In this compelling presentation, David Robertson will show you how this approach works and how the most reputable companies are using it to win in their industries.

BRICK by BRICK | How LEGO has rewritten the rules of innovation and won over the global toy industry (David Robertson with Bill Breen)
Even Wall Street ignored the Denmark-based family business. For most of its nearly eight decades of existence, LEGO was a distant, island society whose idealistic and imaginative way of playing helped it bring out gadgets that seldom found their way into the back of children’s closets.

All this altered in 2003 when LEGO missed to adapt to revolutionary shifts in children’s lives and almost failed. Since that near-death crisis, LEGO has once again become an influential serial innovator who has demonstrated to be as resilient as its immortal bricks and as original as the 10-year-olds who make them live. Brick by Brick will take readers to LEGO that they have never experienced before. The book will recount the dangerous fall and thrilling rise of the iconic toy manufacturer, one of the most extraordinary dramas in recent business history. It will report on the creation of several of LEGO’s most iconic toys and show readers the designers who are creating the next generation of LEGO gaming adventures.

David C. Robertson’s Topics

With Robertson’s unlimited access to every section of the LEGO group, Brick by Brick, will explain the ideas and procedures that have helped the company achieve record-breaking events in recent years. He will reveal LEGO’s unique innovation administration system that empowers managers to direct the company’s creative efforts.

It will highlight a set of business beliefs tested by LEGO to integrate innovation into all aspects of a company’s business – strategy, creativity, productivity, and leadership. And it will feature LEGO-type “bricks” that readers can apply to build their version of the LEGO system for continuous innovation.

Latest videos and talks by David C. Robertson


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