- IMD Business School
News Stories · Leadership

LEGO® and IMD keep building the blocks of a colorful future for research

A cutting-edge management and innovation research initiative is the culmination IMD’s long relationship with the LEGO Brand Group.
September 2020

The Center for Future Readiness will produce the LEAP Readiness Index, which measures how prepared industry incumbents are for coming challenges. Backed by a multi-million-dollar grant from the LEGO Brand Group, the center will be led by IMD’s Professor Howard Yu, who has held the LEGO® Professorship of Management and Innovation post for two years.

Professor Yu said: “I would like to express my gratitude to The LEGO brand for this recent financial top-up into our endowment. It comes with no preconditions and thus allows us to freely and independently shape our research agenda, and to be more aggressive in doing so.”

Professor Yu is author of LEAP, an award-winning business and strategy book on how pioneering companies can endure and prosper in a world of constant change and inevitable copycats. It fits, then, that the purpose of the center is partly to develop original approaches to helping companies to overcome adversity, spur innovation and thrive amid uncertainty.

Today, more than ever, access to research is a major crutch for companies trying to work out how to stay relevant as they leap into the unknown.

“For carmakers, for instance, it’s the leap from mechanical engineering to electric vehicles and self-driving capabilities based on software algorithms. Using the method behind the Leap Readiness Index, the objective measure will allow companies across different sectors to benchmark with others in their readiness for the future, and to draw on lessons learnt when leaders want to effect changes,” Professor Yu explained.

The center will disseminate its research results to the general public through case writing, articles, seminars and industry consortiums. It will also develop related pedagogical tools including diagnostic dashboards and online simulations, so that other business schools may weave outcomes of interest into their curriculums.

Thanks to the close connection between the LEGO Brand Group and IMD and their aligned ideas, the center will ensure that research outcomes always bear high relevance to practicing managers.

Professor Yu’s area of special interest is management’s interaction with innovation. He looks at questions such as how large organisations sustain their growth by developing new business models; specifically, how they confront disruption when time is on their side.

The rise of affluent consumers across the world requires brands – The LEGO brand among them – to go beyond their traditional geographic market and explore other models, to capitalise market opportunities. Recent social distancing measures have made e-commerce and virtual engagements with end consumers more urgent than ever. Such are the seismic shifts that companies are experiencing – The LEGO brand and IMD included.

The LEGO Group was founded by the Kirk Kristiansen family in 1932. Executive Chairman of LEGO Brand Group, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, reminded Professor Yu of the importance of anchoring an organizational identity in anticipation of the winds of change in a dialogue in December 2019. He said: “For a brand like The LEGO brand, you have to dig deep into the essence of the brand.

“The LEGO brand is about every human being’s urge to express themselves through creativity […] it’s emotionally stimulating. Yes, there are disruptions […] the ways of playing have changed but the deep essence of play to make things and learn through play remains the same.”

Third-generation owner of Lego Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, who is also former president and CEO of the Group (1979–2004), holds an MBA from IMD (1972).

The Endowed Chair that Professor Yu holds is a corporate gift from the family-owned holding- and investment company, KIRKBI, and is one way by which The LEGO brand expresses its commitment towards the contribution to the field of management thinking.