Innovation Lessons from LEGO … The LEGO Movie, That Is!

I am a sucker for a good kid’s movie, and especially one that appeals to adults as Lego Moviewell with subliminal messages and jokes about life and work. Last week, my son and I (and 30 of his closest friends) saw The LEGO Movie. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it!

LEGOs are synonymous with creative expression and turning ideas into working, functional objects or prototypes. But who hasn’t stared into a box of LEGO pieces and thought, “What in the heck can I make out of all of THAT?”

Without spoiling the movie for you (I hope), I loved the way the writers poked fun at the conflict between LEGO’s encouragement and support for innovation, while acknowledging that some people prefer more structure to bring their ideas to life. Could that be why LEGO sets now come with instructions?

Regardless of whether you prefer LEGOs with instructions or without, The LEGO Movie provides some great lessons about building a culture that nurtures and cultivates innovation.

  • Minifigs, and people, come up with better solutions when they are free to be themselves. The LEGO Movie is chock-full of examples where making assumptions about someone’s skills and abilities leads to overlooking how their ideas might save the day. Yes, you need master builders who can create the next amazing thing out of a pile of molded plastic pieces, but you also need planners and executers who understand what it takes to put those great ideas in to use. When you are battling President Business – and who amongst us hasn’t battled the evil side of business before! – you need ideas AND execution.
  • Innovation also means looking at old systems in a new way. One of the best ideas in The LEGO Movie involves infiltrating President Business’s empire through his existing, rigid and impersonal structure. While you are looking for the next big innovative idea, don’t forego assessing what is already available that can be tweaked or utilized in a new and different way.
  • You never know where your next big idea will come from (in other words, don’t believe the prophesy). In the movie, the hero Emmet goes through his day in a quiet and unassuming way, until he gets pulled in to the battle against President Business. And even though he is only a City construction working, and not a master builder along the lines of Morgan Freeman, Emmet ends up saving the day (it is a kid’s movie … you expected that ending, right?). As you think about where your business is headed, and what you need to get you there, there is a good chance your hero will also come from a background you do not expect.

If you have the chance, check out The LEGO Movie to see how minifigs, master builders and everyday construction workers like Emmet find innovative ways to defeat President Business. And don’t worry, because I didn’t give away some of the best parts of the plot!

Image Credit: The LEGO Movie

Heather Nelson is a partner with PeopleResults. She prefers her LEGOs with instructions. You can reach her at or on Twitter at @HeatherGNelson1. Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at Current.