Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson
THE BEGINNING of any major change is barely perceptible. It
is only when the change is full blown that it becomes clear, but that may well
be too late to take the advantage of an early understanding.
In the 20th century, if you had a great idea for a new
product you would have to overcome three primary challenges. The design you
take to the manufacturer to produce under license for you would need to be
popular enough for the manufacturer to risk making it. Then the product would
need to be popular enough for a retailer to allocate shelf-space to it in
preference to another product. Finally, it would need to be popular enough for
the purchaser to be aware of it and so buy it.
The owners of the means of production will always have
control over what is produced and the owners of the distribution medium will
always have control over what gets distributed.
All the paperwork and cost that would be required to patent
your invention aside, it is understandable why so few products, relative to the
number of great ideas people have, ever saw the light of day.
That is all changing, explains Wired magazine editor, Chris
Anderson (author of The Long Tail,) in his latest book, Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. Behind this
new industrial revolution lies the digital world with the web democratising the
tools of both invention and production.
The revolution being described in this book is not the
information revolution; it is a vastly more important one, with an order of
magnitude to match. The digital economy, defined broadly has worldwide
revenues, is in the order of $20 trillion according to Citibank and Oxford
Economics. In contrast, the world of physical things that can drop on one’s
foot, which Anderson calls the world of Real Stuff, is worth $130 trillion.
A revolution in the world of Real Stuff in not only
important because of the value of similar increase (15% increase in the Real
Stuff is worth 100% in the digital world,) but also for employment. The numbers
employed in the digital world are significantly lower than in the digital
world, relative to value. And, after all, we might spend time in the world of
bits, but we live in the real world of places and things.
Today more people than ever can be Makers. We make food,
plant gardens, take videos, and assemble photo albums. Millions of DIY-ers used
to work alone, suddenly they can work together with ease.
Today you can also take an idea to the design level with
ease thanks to the plethora of sophisticated design tools. In the past this
would have needed to be done in an industrial design shop, today it is as easy
to do on your desktop. To produce a prototype is also made so much easier since
design tools have common communication abilities so you can send it to a
fabricator over the internet and have it turned into something you can use,
sell or demonstrate.
When printers were attached to computers we were able to
self-publish if you didn’t mind the dot-matrix print quality. If you wanted a
professional look, you would need to go to a professional printer. Today, you
can produce photo quality from that R1 000 colour printer on your desk. In the
early years of colour printers they were a major investment, now they are
affordable and we have one at home.
3-D printers are too available so you can “print out” an
object you have designed on your computer. This is not science fiction, it is
available today. And tomorrow they will be as affordable as colour printers.
The impact is that you can design and make the product you invent yourself. Two
of the three primary challenges have been eliminated ... Now you control the
design and production.
Producing a single item or 100 is really only a matter of
menu setting, making it possible for you to start small with little investment
and grow as demand does.
If the web has proven anything, it is the power to
communicate with people you have never met in parts of the world you have never
visited. Selling over the internet is nothing special, just another avenue to a
market used by everyone from large corporations to a grandmother with jewellery
she no longer uses and would like to sell.
Now you can start your business at home. Now many more
cottage industries can flourish. The first industrial revolution saw this
phenomenon explode too. In the new industrial revolution it will allow the
engine of job creation, the small business, to get into its stride again.
Read this fascinating book. It is about the present, no less
than the future.
Readability Light --+-- Serious
* Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on
leadership and strategy.