LEGO Bricks: Toys for Kids, Lessons for Adults

LEGO Bricks and I go a long way back.

As a boy growing up in the mid-60’s, LEGO play sets were a treat at our church. After we completed our Sunday School lesson, and if we had any free time, and if the weather wouldn’t allow outside play, our teachers would bring out a big box of LEGO Bricks and let us have at it.

Lego Bricks - pile

When I became a parent in the early 80’s, it wasn’t long before the first of dozens of LEGO sets appeared. Over the years, our four children (now 35, 31, 27, and 23) were the recipients of LEGO play sets with themes like Castles, Undersea Adventures, Cities, and of course, Star Wars. For some reason, our second son was captivated by the Star Wars universe, especially LEGO sets with a Star Wars theme. Even at age 31 and in the Air Force, he still manages to acquire a new LEGO set every Christmas (my wife and I – guilty as charged!).

With 4 grandchildren now part of our extended family, the LEGO fascination has been passed on to a new generation of Adams kids. It started with Duplos for Jack, but at age 8 he has rapidly progressed to creating masterpieces with traditional LEGO sets. Lucy, age 5, is enjoys regular LEGOs but always eyes her dad’s Star Wars collection. Lola, 3 years old, left Duplos quickly after eying her brother’s LEGOs. Leia, almost 3, doesn’t have a chance! Between her Star Wars dad and sister, she will probably pass us all in LEGO abilities!

LEGO Bricks are not just for kids. The LEGO Group – reluctantly at first, but now all in – regularly connects with AFOL (Adult Fans of LEGO) groups. There are user groups like LUGNET (LEGO User Group Network) and dozens of conventions, competitions, and the like all over the world.

The full-scale replica of a Star Wars X-Wing Fighter astounds me: It’s 43 feet long with a 44-foot wingspan, weighs over 22 tons, and was built with over 5 million LEGO bricks. A crew of 32 builders took over 4 months to construct it.

Amazing.

All from a plastic toy brick which only has value when it’s connected to another brick.

Authors Ron Hunter and Michael Waddell recognized this, and included the LEGO Brick in their book Toy Box Leadership. Here’s how they saw the value of LEGO Bricks when talking about leadership:

LEGO Bricks provide the essence of the leadership lesson on Relationships: Building begins with connecting.

LEGO Leaders recognize connectional value

  • Connecting builds a strong foundation
  •  Connecting unleashes the power of synergy
  • Connecting utilizes the strength of unity

LEGO Leaders recognize connectional ability

  • LEGO bricks are reliable
  • LEGO bricks are reusable
  • LEGO Leaders recognize connectional failure

LEGO Leaders recognize connectional failure

  • Misplaced bricks
  • Forced bricks
  • Isolated bricks
  • Unorganized bricks

 

Leaders often get so caught up in the programs that they forget about the people – the building blocks of any organization. There may be tremendous value in plans, but the strength of any organization is in its relationships.

In LEGOS – and in organizations – building always begins with the clicking sound of connections.

 

Toy Box LeadershipToy Box Leadership

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Consider the LEGO Brick…

It’s the ubiquitous toy.

Lego red brick

Lego pieces of all varieties constitute 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 and adults.

It’s been named the Toy of the Year, Decade, and Century.

Who hasn’t been mesmerized for hours, building things, tearing them down, and starting over? It’s been a part of children’s lives since 1949 – but before that, LEGO meant wooden toys.

Speaking of meaning, the word LEGO in Danish means “play well.”

That applies to adults, too. LEGO bricks may have been designed with children in mind, but it didn’t take long for adults to get into the act.

A global Lego subculture has developed, supporting movies, games, competitions, and themed amusement parks. All for the kids, right?

 Right.

Each Lego piece must be manufactured to an exacting degree of precision. When two pieces are engaged they must fit firmly, yet be easily disassembled. The machines that make Lego bricks have tolerances as small as 10 micrometers.

The Lego Group estimates that in the course of five decades it has produced some 400 billion Lego blocks. Annual production of Lego bricks averages approximately 36 billion per year, or about 1140 elements per second.

And yet with all this, remember these two complementary facts about LEGOs:

  • The unique and singular purpose of a LEGO brick is to connect with another brick.

  • A single LEGO brick is worth, well, practically nothing.

What will you learn from LEGO today?