Legos and Startups: Undo Them

LegosOne of the things I love most about air travel is it affords me the opportunity to disconnect from the all-consuming Interwebs. Even when in-flight Wi-Fi is an option, I choose to take advantage of the down time to read, relax and let my mind wander freely.

On a recent Southwest flight while perusing their Spirit magazine, I came across an interesting article about Lego. The author, Melinda Mahaffey Icden, talks about the soaring popularity of Legos, especially among the nostalgic adult generation. The enduring fascination with Legos has spawned adult fans of Legos (AFOLs) to emerge from all corners of the globe, connect via social media and play like kids again. In turn, this is pushing the toy originally made for children to new heights.

But even more interesting to me was the forward for the story by Spirit Magazine’s editorial director, Jay Heinrichs.

“Legos show us how to build a vibrant future: brick by brick.”
Jay Heinrichs

He paints a wonderful picture about one of the most glorious features of Lego: the ability to undo. This got me to thinking about startups and entrepreneurship.

Unlike larger, more established companies, startups find themselves in the unique position of being able to ideate and create very quickly. But perhaps more importantly, startups can deconstruct what they produce just as swiftly. Like kids (or AFOLs) do with Legos, startups can analyze and learn from what they build, undo it if necessary, and start again from scratch (especially if they practice The Lean Startup Methodology).

Jay says it best:

“The real genius of Legos, I would argue, is not in the snapping together but in the pulling apart. Unlike model airplanes, finger painting, education, or even life itself, Legos let you undo. As any writer will tell you, the skill in many a good work lies not just in creation but in redemption. Legos may help teach children that the true glory lies in the redo. Go ahead, snap those words and ideas and experiments together, kids. Then unsnap them, and see if you can do better.”

It’s true. There is something mentally and emotionally powerful in breaking things apart. It allows us to erase the old, start anew and create from the ground up. Our minds are free to engage in the important act of rework. We learn from the results (which are often riddled with mistakes) and try again. This is what entrepreneurs do, and Legos are a great reminder that undoing is an important aspect of building a company.

So the next time you find yourself in the presence of Legos, sit down, gather yourself a pile, build something cool and then … undo and redo.

Suggestion > Buy a bunch of Legos and create a Lego Construction/Destruction Zone at your startup space. A better option than Xbox or Playstation for your co-workers, IMO.

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