Just hearing the word LEGO®, the toy building set comes to most people’s minds. Can it be said that your work is a game?
I think so, I keep learning something new and I always enjoy it. I find it crucial to believe in what we do, and that our products and toys not only provide entertainment, but they also contribute to the development of children. This is what makes me happy in the LEGO® company and I love the way we do business.
You have been working for LEGO® for eleven years. What is your current mission – what are you creating, preparing, what are you up to?
I work in the regional team – maybe not everybody knows it, but not only do we have a factory in the Czech Republic, but also an office with the regional directorate for over 100 countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Specifically, I head up the business analytics team, where some of my colleagues are here in the Prague office, and the other part of the team is spread out over individual markets.
Is it challenging for you to work in such a large region?
It’s actually a lot of fun. It does come with its pitfalls, but for that, it is more interesting working with people from different countries and cultures.
Holding a managerial position with such a broad scope, cultural differences between people from the most diverse parts of the world and diversity of projects...all of this must certainly be highly demanding. What does this give you and what does it take from you?
It brings me satisfaction when our work brings results, and we succeed in supplying what we said we would at the start. I enjoy contributing to the prosperity of our company, which is thriving, and I am perhaps most energized when I see team members developing professionally. However, it does take up a lot of my time. (laughs)
What is your work philosophy?
I will tell you what is important for me at work and what reflects the core values of the LEGO® Group – creativity, learning, quality, care and entertainment. It is to manage a team with success and harmony, to achieve results, and to overcome barriers while making sure we enjoy the job.
Is it easy to put this philosophy into practice in LEGO®? Can the company create such conditions and provide the tools to facilitate this?
Our corporate culture is very open and non-hierarchical - in the sense of a team-oriented company, which helps us to talk openly with each other, communicate in general and achieve our respective and common goals. So, it certainly bolsters our mutual cooperation.
Tell me more about that.
Reaching consensus is the key, so that everybody in the company feels good. Of course, this also applies to our office, where 110 people work. They represent around fifteen nationalities, people with different backgrounds, cultural and linguistic origins. The key is to respect everyone, period. Diversity helps us propel the company forward. Meanwhile, our work environment is very inclusive, where everyone can be themselves, and thanks to this, our employees feel comfortable at work.
You mentioned that hierarchy isn’t so important for the company, and you can operate without putting up such barriers between people. Despite this, it simply must be vital for LEGO® to have capable leaders in its ranks.
It is completely normal that key debates on business topics involve people whose seniority differs. But yes, it’s essential to have a leader. This is the person who determines the direction, pulls the team, who can inspire, motivate, develop and provide support. It need not be linked to a company having to be hierarchical - I feel the institution of a leader is absolutely crucial anywhere.
What type of leader are you?
A demanding one, while I provide great freedom in how results are achieved. I try to approach proposals for resolving certain problems hand in hand with the team, so that together we can come up with a way of getting the job done. I also care a great deal about the personal development of each individual.
The LEGO brand is a toy icon for most of us, we have known it from childhood and adulthood. What is it like to work in a company that just celebrated 90 years of existence last year?
Working at LEGO® is my dream job. For me, the sense of why we are here is essential. Entertainment, the development of children, creativity, fantasy – thus products that we produce and how we produce them. LEGO® embodies lots of respect, whether towards employees, business partners or even towards the planet.
You find the team extremely important. How do you select new colleagues? What value do you place on the individuality of the personalities who come to work at LEGO®?
We recruit, of course, if possible, the best experts in the field, in whom we see potential, but every leader always makes the selection so colleagues would all congregate gracefully and share the values of the LEGO® community. As far as I’m concerned, I try to have a team that is as diversified as possible, be it men or women, nationality or other attributes. I find both sides of a personality essential – the “what” and the “how”. I will not hire an expert into our team whom I suspect will not be able to work well with the others. We also provide opportunities to students who work here during their studies and some of whom stay on, as well as to people just embarking in their respective areas.
Most of all, because the LEGO® building set was beloved by so many, we keep it still today or give it to kids and we buy another... A simply broad range of people know how to build with it. Who is your primary target group?
The primary target group consists of children, at the same time, of course, we know that adults also like to build, and we have entire product lines designed for them - we see great potential in them. Each of us has a passion or interest in a certain area, be it cars, movies, architecture or flowers. We believe that we have something for everyone in our portfolio - for example, sets inspired by the movies Ghostbusters, Star Wars, the TV series Friends or The Office, others dedicated to architecture, for example the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramid of Giza or city skylines such as New York, Singapore and London. From LEGO® blocks, you can even put together designer pieces for your apartment in the form of flowers and paintings.
As a child, you probably played with LEGO® blocks, and your fate eventually dared to work with them...
I sure did, and when I was a kid, LEGO® sets were so hard to come by, so I was elated when my parents did find me one. I guarded it with my life, and I built with it till I dropped.
If you had to think about what your LEGO® building sets have taught you in the past, or what our readers and their children could learn, what would it be?
Improving motor skills, developing spatial skills, endurance and patience, problem solving, planning and teamwork while playing with others. The toy also helps develop creativity and can be a great mediator for dialogs within the family. What I like about LEGO® is that you can build by yourself or with another or others, you can share in the fun.
What led to the design of your offices today over an area of 1,600 m2 in DOCK IN THREE, of which you were the main leader?
We had several priorities. One of them was to be grouped on one floor, breaking down barriers to cooperation by doing so. Our goal was to have as much space as possible for meetings both formal and informal, and we invested in the most pleasant spaces for people to meet together - common rooms, kitchens, canteens... In terms of design, we tried not only to make it in the spirit and style of LEGO®, but also to have as much greenery as possible here, working where we could with natural materials, and we absolutely emphasized choosing solely Czech companies as our contractors.
And did it work out?
Indeed, it did. The design itself is by one London-based architectural studio, but the vast majority of the facilities and fit-outs come from Czech suppliers, which we selected and “tested” together with colleagues. We held each piece of material in our hands, sat in every chair, tested the sound insulation of partitions, the telephone booths, simply everything.
How did you try out the soundproofing? (laughs)
They made loud calls and played loud music, we ended up installing the most expensive phone booths, which turned out to also be the best. And for example, we tested the partitions at Czech Technical University in Prague for every decibel that came through. (laughs)
I can imagine that you have a personal connection to the space thanks to this...
Definitely, it’s my “baby”.
If you had to name the three best things that people praise and where you really succeeded, which ones would they be?
I think that it is the comfort of our common kitchen, and such gadgetry as the modern showers, because many of us are athletes, and the overall quality of the materials. And of course, the location itself. We chose from a large group that boiled down to two favorites, and ultimately agreed on DOCK by an overwhelming majority. The locale is truly amazing, just considering transport accessibility – for instance, a couple weeks ago one colleague came to work by boat... (laughs), but many colleagues have also started to go for walks after lunch, there are myriad opportunities to eat, go to the gym, where we have private training sessions... These are all the things that we enjoy here.
Was the interconnection of offices with nature as DOCK provides an important criterion when choosing the location?
It was absolutely essential, one of the main criteria.
How do you compensate for your surely intense workload? Are you maintaining a work-life balance? How do you relax?
I work more than I’d like, but I also do the best I can to be with my family, which I enjoy to the extreme. We have two little girls who are a ton of fun, I do a lot of sports, and we travel as a family. This charges my batteries as it were.
So, you “chase” after a little rest?
I wouldn’t call it a chase because I plan my personal program well in advance. I have travel and my sports schedule for each weekend planned five months in advance. Of course, this means less flexibility, but I also know ahead of time that lots of wonderful experiences await us to which we can look forward.
No wonder you’re succeeding... (laughs) Would you be able to characterize just wherein lies your personal resilience, which you certainly must have to work in your position?
For me, the source of resilience is the certainty that I need, my family – when I look forward to going home and spending time together.
LEGO® building sets are a product that inspires children all over the world equally. What inspires you?
I am inspired by smart and interesting people, I am happy in their company, and not only about business, but also about art and so on. Travel also has a decidedly positive influence on me.
If you could spend 24 hours in a different job, what would it be, what is it you’d like to try?
I have a natural tendency to think about something that I’d really get a kick out of, doing something I've yet to try. For example, I would like spending one day organizing the Burning Man festival in the USA.
And one last question: Would you recommend to me any book that you have recently read and been influenced by?
The last book that really caught my attention was The Power of Geography in the 21st Century by Tim Marshall. It is an imaginative and very readable way of looking at the regions that will shape geopolitics in the coming era. Everything is described in a historical, and especially geographical, context. I can only recommend it.
Thanks for the interview.