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What if LEGO were asked to lead on education?

Amid a failing government model, would they accept, decline or delay?

What if the British people asked Lego to take a primary role in delivering education in the UK and that also involved them proposing a new society ownership structure to deliver it?

Let’s imagine, that for a combination of reasons the British people decided that the current government-led model to delivering education was broken and complaining more wasn’t really helping. They had to look at a solution based more on the future than improving on the past.

Real term funding cuts, leading to increasing trade-offs, a perceived increasing gap in spending per head between a privately educated and state educated child. Universities increasingly under pressure to address failures et cetera.

Is this scenario so far-fetched?

I’ve chosen an Education scenario, but I could have used health and discussed a food manufacturing business forced to focus on affordable, convenient nutrition within planetary boundaries as part of a new health coalition.

I’ve chosen Lego for three reasons:

  1. The uniqueness and familiarity of the brand

  2. Lines are already blurred. Their Education business works closely with educators from Pre-school to Secondary and of course there are Lego clubs in almost every school

  3. They are family owned.

So, this example isn’t about education, this is an example of how a government model based on incremental change, led by leaders, who are both siloed and schooled in incrementalism runs out of time. Investors and business have to step into the void whether they want to or not. However, if that business is backed by an investment model equally lacking in agility, based on incremental change, then we have a problem.

Ownership Models

Let’s look at owners or investors. Six Degree People have identified that the investors or owner people group is critical. Part of the primary people group alongside employees. They ultimately give permission to re-imagine success.

The investment/ownership models of the future are yet to emerge, but the family held business, all things being equal, has one critical advantage over a listed business, certainly the listed model as it exists today. It has agility or at least potential agility. It doesn’t have to report quarterly, it doesn’t have short termism locked in. It can redefine success in any way it wants, with different metrics.

Yes, it’s overly simplistic to say all listed businesses behave in the same way as it would be to say every private equity backed, privately held or family held business is the same.

A listed food business with a product range which has already made a significant shift to one predominantly focused on affordable, convenient nutrition within planetary boundaries will be better equipped to deal with the uncertainty of failing government and investment models, than a family held business whose product range hasn’t.

However, if you take two businesses of similar size, with similar products. One listed and the other family owned; The family owned business will have a built-in instinct to think longer term to the next generation.

But back to the original question. We are about people. How would the people in and around Lego respond to the request of the people. Would they accept, decline or delay? Would they have enough adaptable minds to help seize this opportunity and literally break down the walls of siloed thinking and replace it with the Lego DNA?

Let’s be clear this isn’t a role Lego want to play, or indeed any other business in our experience, but in a time where incrementalism is failing, when the lines between investors, governments and businesses is blurring surely you have to build these scenarios deeper into your DNA.

We believe any business that has enough Non-Linear Competency in their investor, advisory, coaching and employee group and therefore the DNA of the business, will thrive. If you don’t then you are more likely to keep on applying the old linear change models of either ‘much bolder’ than last year or the slash and burn approach that struggles to distinguish between good and bad legacy, until you to run out of time.

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