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Management Giants

Erno Rubik

There is only 1 correct answer and 43 quintillion wrong ones for Rubik’s Cube. God’s algorithm is the answer that solves the puzzle in the least number of moves. One eighth of the world’s population has laid hands on “The Cube”, the most popular puzzle in history and the colorful brainchild of Erno Rubik.
Rubik’s initial attraction to inventing the Cube was not in producing the best selling toy puzzle in history. The structural design problem interested Rubik; he asked: „How could the blocks move independently without falling apart?“
In Rubik’s Cube, twenty-six individual little cubes or cubies make up the big Cube. Each layer of nine cubies can twist and the layers can overlap. Any three squares in a row, except diagonally, can join a new layer.
Rubik’s initial attempt to use elastic bands failed, his solution was to have the blocks hold themselves together by their shape. Rubik hand carved and assembled the little cubies together. He marked each side of the big Cube with adhesive paper of a different color, and started twisting.

Ernő Rubik was born in Budapest, Hungary, July 13, 1944, during World War II. His father, Ernő Rubik, was a flight engineer at the Esztergom airplane factory, and his mother, Magdolna Szántó, was a poet.

He graduated from the Technical University, Budapest (Mûszaki Egyetem) Faculty of Architecture in 1967 and began postgraduate studies in sculpting and interior architecture. From 1971 to 1975 he worked as an architect and then became a professor at the Budapest College of Applied Arts (Iparmûvészeti Fõiskola). He has spent all his life in Hungary.

In the early 1980s, he became editor of a game and puzzle journal called ...És játék (“...and games”), then became self-employed in 1983, founding the Rubik Stúdió, where he designed furniture and games. In 1987 he became professor with full tenure; in 1990 he became the president of the Hungarian Engineering Academy (Magyar Mérnöki Akadémia). At the Academy, he created the International Rubik Foundation to support especially talented young engineers and industrial designers.

An Inventor Dreams

He had a passionate interest in geometry, in the study of 3D forms, in construction and in exploring the hidden possibilities of combination of forms and materials, not just in theory, but also in practice.

In the course of his teaching, Erno Rubik preferred to communicate his ideas by the use of actual models, made from paper, cardboard, wood or plastic, challenging his students to experiment by manipulating clearly constructed and easily interpreted forms. It was the realization that even the simplest elements cleverly duplicated and manipulated, yield an abundance of multiple forms that was the first step on the long road that led finally to the Cube.

When the Cube was complete, Erno Rubik demonstrated it to his students and let some of his friends play with it. The effect was instantaneous. Once somebody laid his hands on the Cube it was difficult to get it back! The compulsive interest of friends and students in the Cube caught its creator completely by surprise and it was months before any thought was given to the possibility of producing it on an industrial scale.
That was how the Cube as a puzzle, was invented in the spring of 1974, when the twenty-nine year old Rubik discovered it was not so easy to realign the colors to match on all six sides. He was not sure he would ever be able to return his invention to its original position. He theorized that by randomly twisting the Cube he would never be able to fix it in a lifetime, which later turns out to be more than correct.

He began working out a solution, starting with aligning the eight corner cubies. He discovered certain sequences of moves for rearranging just a few cubies at a time. Within a month, he had the puzzle solved and an amazing journey lay ahead..


During 1978, without any promotion or publicity, the Cube began very slowly to make its way through the hands of fascinated youths into homes, playgrounds and schools. The word of mouth spread and by the beginning of 1979 there were enthusiastic circles of Cube devotees in various parts of Hungary.
Undeterred by the universal rejection, spurred on by his firm belief in the exceptional quality of the toy, Tom Kremer, now armed with a convincing marketing plan, continued his search for a viable partner. After many disappointments, he succeeded in persuading Stewart Sims, Vice President of Marketing of the Ideal Toy Corporation, to come to Hungary, to see with his own eyes the Cube in play.

It was now September 1979, by which time the Cube has gained a sufficient degree of popularity to be seen occasionally in the street, on trams, in the cafes, each time in the hand of someone turning and twisting and completely absorbed. After five days of convoluted negotiations between a skeptical American capitalist and an obstinate communist organization largely ignorant of the operation of a free market, with Laczi and Kremer holding desperately the two sides together, an order for one million cubes was signed amidst much handshaking and great relief all round.


The challenge of trying to master the Cube, to be able to restore all of its six sides to the original colours seemed to have a mesmeric effect on an amazing variety of individuals right across age, occupation, wealth and social standing. Grandmothers, bank managers, baseball players, pilots, librarians, park attendants could be seen working away at their Cubes at any hour of the day. In restaurants the Cube would feature on tables side by side with salt and pepper pots, handled with greater frequency than either. But it was the young, schoolboys and students, who were in the vanguard of what was fast becoming a massive movement that swept through the world. They were the ones who proved most adept at solving the puzzle, they were the ones to form special cubists clubs, to organize competitions, to suffer from Rubik’s wrist playing continuously for hours and days with an object that simply could not put down.

Erno Rubik has not changed much over the years. Working closely with Seven Towns, he is still deeply engaged in creating new games and puzzles, and remains one of the principal beneficiaries of what proved to be a spectacularly successful invention.

He is known to be an introvert and hardly accessible person, hard to contact or get for autographs. He typically does not attend speedcubing events. However, he attended the 2007 World Championship in Budapest. He also gave a lecture and autograph session at the “Bridges-Pecs” conference (“Bridges between Mathematics and the Arts”) in July, 2010.

Presently he is mainly working on video game development and architectural topics and is still leading the Rubik Studios.