A Business Lesson From LEGO; Don’t Follow the Instructions

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This weekend I, along with a billion other families, saw “The LEGO Movie”. In the movie Emmett, an ordinary piece of plastic, teams up with familiar LEGO characters to battle Lord Business, a tyrant who wants to glue the LEGO universe together. It’s a struggle between a world that follows instructions and accepts the status quo, and a world of MasterBuilders who see all the creative potential in the universe. You leave the movie understanding that the greatest opportunities in life result from throwing out the instruction manual and harnessing the creative potential that resides in all of us.

It’s a very relatable story. As kids we loved to dump a thousand LEGOs onto the floor and build a universe of imagination. I watch my kids play with LEGOs and marvel. As adults we see the thousands of tiny pieces that we sometimes step on. We see a project that needs to be completed. Right now I have pieces of a WWE Santino Marella LEGO steel cage set sitting on my kitchen counter. It’s driving me crazy to see the partially completed product. We also tend to default to the instruction manual that comes with each kit. We get some satisfaction out of building what we see on the box.


Throughout the movie the parallels with business operations are evident. As we’ve learned, the most famous words of a dying company are “That’s the way we’ve always done it”. We naturally gravitate towards what we know. What’s familiar. From the moment we apply for a job, through onboarding, and during the duration of our career we follow instructions. Even the most popular blog posts contain “5 steps to …” or “How to …”. And now, even innovation comes with an instruction manual. There are a multitude of books, blog posts, and podcasts about how to become more innovative.

But the truth is, there are no step-by-step instructions or magic formulas for innovation. If companies want to grow, if they want to change, they need to throw out the instruction manual. Organizations need to feel uncomfortable. They need to accept and try strange ideas, like a double-decker couch (see the movie). It may be those irrelevant ideas that one day save the day. As LEGO has taught us, sometimes it’s best to throw away the instructions.


Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.

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