Jørgen Vig Knudstorp
Aarhus University, School of Business and Social Sciences (Aarhus BSS)
One of the most noteworthy accomplishments of Jørgen Vig Knudstorp has been to strengthen and revive the LEGO Group through his respect for the company’s core identity. As a young and rather inexperienced CEO, Knudstorp spent much of his career successfully restoring a company to its true self: the little plastic brick and the endless possibilities for creative play.
At the beginning of his business career, Knudstorp thought his stint in the corporate world would be a short one. His greatest dream was to pursue a career doing research and teaching at Aarhus University, where he’d received his MS degree (1995) and his PhD in economics (1998), a field he was, and still is, passionately interested in. And this was still the plan when he was offered a job as business developer in the well-known LEGO Group in 2001.
The reunion with the LEGOLAND of his childhood, meeting the LEGO Group’s owner and managing director, and the description of the task at hand appealed to the two most fundamental aspects of the character of the boy and the man Jørgen Vig Knudstorp: the creative and the systematic. The challenges Knudstorp saw at the LEGO Group would take both qualities to solve: imagination coupled with strategy and objective analysis.
In the first five years at the LEGO Group he was sent all over the LEGO galaxy. The experience gave him a 360-degree view of the company and all the challenges within it, and it allowed him to develop a strategic perspective. At the age of 34, Knudstorp went from managing six to eight employees to managing 10,000. And the dream of an academic career was replaced by a new goal of saving LEGO by getting the company to focus on its core identity again: LEGO bricks and creative play.
When Knudstorp became managing director at the LEGO Group more than 10 years ago, the business had significant financial struggles. After just three years as CEO, he was named Denmark’s best leader, and today he is considered the epitome of the kind of leader global corporate giants want to head their empires.
As a result of his career success, in 2014, Knudstorp was appointed Aarhus University Distinguished Alumnus. The recipient of this award must be a graduate who has made an extraordinary contribution to society through his or her work, either nationally or internationally, and whose impressive achievements have drawn positive attention to the university. Knudstorp exhibited these traits and more.
Throughout the years, making a positive impact has been of great importance to Knudstorp and the LEGO Group. The LEGO Group’s positive impact on the societies in which they operate has never been bigger or stronger than in 2014. These influences include the millions of hours that children spent engaged in LEGO play experiences, the local jobs created, the employee development, the business generated for their partners, tax contributions, and environmental improvements.