The world of Lego

by DAVE WILSON, MANAGING EDITOR DESIGN ENGINEERING

My son has joined the Lego Club. As part of the deal, he has been given a unique customer identification number on a small plastic card that provides him with the ability to receive 10% off all Lego stuff. Recently, he saw some new Lego products that he wished to purchase in the Lego catalogue. But, because of his age, he was unable to work out how much money he would `save’ on the list price when he flashed his card at the unwitting sales person.

The product itself wasn’t all that expensive: just £1.99, in fact. But rather than simply tell him that he would save almost 20p, I decided that it would be orders of magnitude more responsible to provide him with the methodology behind the calculation. But the whole thing backfired. After a couple of minutes, his little eyes glazed over. I could tell he was getting more than just a little upset. `Look’, he said. `I don’t want to know all that stuff. I just want to know the answer.’

There are lessons for us all, especially in today’s fast paced business environment. Consider the case of the Very Big Electronics Company that was faced with the development of a new leading edge product. Because Mark, their senior engineer, had only basic experience with the new technology that was to be used, the senior management decided to farm the project out to a team of consultants. While the product did reach the marketplace very fast, and was a phenomenal success for the company, poor Mark no longer felt part of the team. He felt more like the King of Marvin Gardens. After six months, he left the company.

How different things could have been had the management recognised his existing skills and decided to educate him a little, to send him on a course where he could learn the basics of the new technology, perhaps to a level where he could have become competent enough to at least manage the development of the new project. Then, they would have delivered both a successful product and had a happy employee to boot. Instead, they dealt with the problem the same way that my son dealt with his. They didn’t want to deal with all that stuff. They just wanted the results.