Godtfred Kirk Christiansen
“We know our idea is a good one. We want only the best … we must make better bricks from even better material on even better machinery. We must get the best people that money can buy for our company.”
My eminent person this year is Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, a danish toymaker and businessman who was the second owner of the Lego Group. This quote illustrates his drive for quality and dedication to his work.
Even though his father created the company and is more covered by media, Godtfred was the one to make drastic moves to create the Lego we know today. This can be seen in two important endeavors of his as the owner of Lego. Firstly, Godtfred played a crucial role in designing Lego bricks’ locking mechanism. He developed and patented the Lego brick with a number of tubes on the underside based on the length of the brick to offer more clutch power, giving Lego creations improved stability. He was also responsible for bringing Lego bricks to the forefront of Lego’s focus with the Lego system in play. While visiting a British toy museum, Godtfred struck up a conversation with the British toymaker Troels Peterson. Peterson complained that there was no system, no rhyme or reason to unify the toy market. This captured Godtfred’s imagination, and he took up the challenge of bringing a system to the toy industry, doing so with his best candidate product, the Lego brick. He developed these six rules that defined the nature of the system in play.
Besides these crucial aspects of his work, Godtfred was also responsible for creating the first Legoland, creating the Billund airport to bring visitors to the park, and making improvements to Lego such as wheels and hinges. The son of a single father who often struggled to make ends meet, Godtfred had to face and overcome the challenge of minimal formal education and support his father’s business. Over 20 years since he passed away, Godtfred is still recognized for his contributions to the toy industry, and the Lego Group will doubtless remember him and his work for the foreseeable future.
Godtfred’s life is itself the history of my favorite toy, so I think the reasoning behind my choice is clear. I have been obsessed with Lego since I was five and learning about how it was created and who created it is of great interest to me, given that it has had such a big influence on me. A common thread I share with Godtfred is my interest and excitement about my father’s work, though perhaps on a slightly less extreme level than Godtfred. I have always loved to visit my dad’s work, asking many questions about what he does and how it works, and his career as a computer engineer is one I may pursue as a career. Like I am, Godtfred was passionate about creating and inventing in general, and both of us have felt a need for quality in our work. Godtfred’s life story also serves as a lesson in what can be achieved with a hard work ethic and proactive behavior, as he was involved in the Lego business since he was 12, and took actions to learn more on his own, like going on sales trips for his father Ole while he owned the company. The main barrier keeping me from researching and connecting with Godtfred is that there may not be enough content available to learn about him, which I hope to overcome by being more creative in how I research and learn about him, for example using books or videos rather than just internet articles. The creating, thinking, and innovating tendencies of Godtfred are something I see in myself, so this project can help drive and inspire me to foster them. Through his achievements and work, Godtfred has secured eminence, and I hope to learn from and share his life’s story with my fellow TALONS.
As I continue to research Godtfred, I would like to learn from and learn about more details and nuances of his life. I would like to learn about the specifics of his endeavors like patenting the Lego brick, including how he did them, who helped him, and the impact they had on him and his business in the short term.
College, B. (2021). Godtfred Kirk Christiansen. Babson College. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.babson.edu/academics/centers-and-institutes/the-arthur-m-blank-center-for-entrepreneurship/awards/academy-of-distinguished-entrepreneurs/inductees/christiansen-godtfred/#.
The LEGO Group. (2021). Godtfred Kirk Christiansen. Godtfred Kirk Christiansen – LEGO® History – LEGO.com ZA. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.lego.com/en-za/history/articles/a-godtfred-kirk-christiansen.
The Lego Group. (2021). LEGO® system in play. LEGO® System in Play – LEGO® History – LEGO.com MY. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.lego.com/en-my/history/articles/lego-system-in-play/.
The LEGO Group. (2021). Quality in every detail. Quality in every detail – LEGO® History – LEGO.com ZA. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.lego.com/en-za/history/articles/d-quality-in-every-detail.
Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, September 12). Godtfred Kirk Christiansen. Wikipedia. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godtfred_Kirk_Christiansen.