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A child plays with LEGO building blocks while visiting the National Building Museum's exhibit 'Lego Architecture: Towering Ambition' in Washington, D.C., August 10, 2010. - 

It's hard to believe now, but LEGO almost went out of business in the early 2000s.

University of Pennsylvania Professor David C. Robertson writes about the company, its near-death experience, and how it came back in his new book “Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry.”

“Star Wars and Harry Potter were really popular in the years in which there was a movie," Robertson said. "But LEGO, which had been in the middle of this huge burst of innovation in the late '90s and early 2000s, had kind of innovated beyond what it could manage, and LEGO almost went bankrupt."

The problems went beyond disappointing toy sales. In his book, Robertson explains that LEGO had a lot of internal problems, and didn't even have a way to track their monthly financials.

“To some degree, they were a victim of their own success,” said Robertson.

What saved LEGO? Robertson writes that it was a new management team that turned the company around, helped it start innovating again, and made it profitable.

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal