There seems to be unanimity among those who are lucky enough to have crossed paths with Aksel Krabbe Nielsen, who for almost 20 years was responsible for the Global Induction & Visitor Program in Billund: he has been one of the kindest and most passionate LEGO® ambassadors ever — not to mention a skilled guitar player.
After a total of 37 years in the LEGO family, Aksel has recently retired – but not without leaving a legion of fans across LEGO entities and beyond.
From LEGOLAND® to the LEGO Group
Aksel first joined the LEGO family back in 1983. “I started dressed as a cowboy running a roller coaster in LEGOLAND® Billund”, he recalls. “At that point, my plan was to stay for only one summer to get some fresh professional inspiration, then go back to being a Danish and music teacher, which I had been doing for the previous eight years.”
Lucky for us, Aksel never went ahead with his initial plan but found a way to fulfil his passion for teaching through a range of different educational projects (and later, for music too with the Party Band).
“My background came in handy when we developed the school visitor program for LEGOLAND. We promoted a series of workshops in partnership with LEGO Education to make the tours more engaging for both children and teachers. I think we received around 20,000 kids in only one season. A few years later, in 1998, we built on the initiative to create LEGOLAND Learning, which included the first Mindstorms Centre”.
These previous experiences prepared him for what would come next. In 1999, he would receive the invitation to join the ‘Big League’, as they called the LEGO Group back then, to reshape the external visits and onboarding programs.
“I love meeting new people, and it’s been really inspiring to meet LEGO fans and new employees from all over the world. While many things have changed over the years, the LEGO values have always remained strong, and that’s because of the amazing LEGO people”, says Aksel. “But I’ve also tried to remind the newcomers that they should speak up because they come with fresh perspectives and can inspire us to innovate.”
Some of his favourite memories involve experiencing what he calls “magic moments”: when the audience is fully engaged and committed to listening. “These have truly energised me throughout all these years. They don’t always occur, but when they do, you have no doubt it’s there. And that’s the best way of learning”.
One remarkable example is the duck exercise. “Every participant gets the same six LEGO bricks and needs to build a duck in 45 seconds. When you place all the ducks on the table, you see that they are nearly all different and yet very creatively built. It is a very fun activity, and it shows the power of learning through play.”
So what’s next for the LEGO cowboy? Aksel feels ready to “live slowly” while also trying new things. “From now on, my focus will be on riding my mountain bike, helping my wife with gardening, and cooking. I’d really like to make my own aioli mayo and eat it with French fries. It’s fantastic!”