Business 2.0, Design, Sustainability

3D printers and mass customisation

I had the opportunity to catch Lisa Harouni: A primer on 3D printing on TED recently. It’s a terrific introduction to what 3D printing is and why it’s important, especially for the manufacturing sector.

In preparing for the Stepping up workshop one of the themes that emerged in our thinking was “mass customisation” (including its relationship to “authenticity” which also manifests in social media). Mass customisation refers to the ability of customers to selectively design the products they purchase. Lisa highlights how this can then be extended to allow customers to produce the products at home as well.

Products can be quite complex, as the AirBike demonstrates. And 3D printers are rapidly decreasing in cost, with basic DIY models like the MakiBox coming it at USD$350. That provides some indication of what Harouni is referring to when she says their affordable and crossing over.

In her TED talk, Lisa also explores how just product data can be shipped, instead of physical product, to deliver a product to a customer. She also outlines how distributed manufacturing might work, where a customer defines their requirements and the data is shipped to a local manufacturer for production and delivery (with the potential of significantly lowering carbon footprint).

This type of distributed model brings to mind RiverSimple, which is a new car concept based on the principles of the hyper car, introduced by the Rocky Mountains Institute and outlined in more depth in Natural Capitalism.

Part of RiverSimple’s vision is to distribute manufacturing to local hubs, rather than centralising manufacturing in one country, or distributing manufacturing across a global supply chain. (As an aside, I see this approach as having both parallels and coming into conflict with Porter and Kramer’s “industry cluster” principle for creating shared value. Perhaps for another post…)

I’m interested in seeing how technologies like 3D printing develop, enabling these kinds of decentralised manufacturing models and enabling companies like RiverSimple to fulfil their vision. It’s worth noting that 3D

Government 2.0, Social media & networking

VicRoads social media case study

In mid-2009 we had the pleasure of working with the VicRoads team on a series of workshops for staff from across the organisation as an introduction to social media and networking.

The workshops were in part presenting these tools to staff, as at the time they were still quite new, and in part to inform and generate ideas for a broader social media strategy for the organisation.

So I was delighted to see that one of the folks involved in that initial strategy, Jonathan Roper (at the time with Paris First, now running Briarbird) has posted a series of video interviews talking about a recent social media initiative using an internal blog to gather feedback and generate dialogue for organisational improvement.

There’s some great stuff in there for anyone considering how to apply social media in a government organisation — well worth checking out. It seems that some of the ideas we were talking about in those early workshops are really starting to take shape within VicRoads, which is fantastic to see.

Business 2.0, Sustainability

Michael Porter on shared value

Certainly a man that’s speaking my language — economist and business school professor Michael Porter interviewed for the Harvard Business Review (via Umair Haque):

There are a few particular points of note I picked up watching this interview. At around 4:20 he says:

we once thought that if business just increases its profit, what’s good for business is then good for society. … we need to kind of think differently: what’s good for society is good for business. And that sounds like a play on words but it’s really quite a profound difference in perspective. The [concept] of “shared value” says that, actually creating societal benefit is really a powerful way to create economic value for the firm.

A short while later (at around 6:37) he says:

But that kind of profit creates shared value — it’s not just profit at the expense of society or the expense of the consumer, it’s really profit by benefiting society and the consumer.

On this latter point, in previous posts I’ve used the phrase “shifting from extracting value from the market, to creating value with and for the market”, which very much aligns with this theme.

At 8:31 he goes onto express the potential for competitive advantage inherent in such and approach:

I think the great strategies of the future are going to have this dimension. The companies that are going to have the more sustainable advantage are not just going to be making these minor cost and quality differences, they’re going to be engaging communities they’ve never served before; they’re going to be thinking much more deeply about the underlying human needs that are related to their products.

I would add, underlying needs that can be effectively determined using service design and design thinking approaches ;) He goes on to talk about building the shared value proposition into the core of the business strategy, another theme that I, among others, also propose.

His discussion on increasing farmer capabilities (around 11:00) reminded me also of what MTC Group is focusing on in their business.

Business 2.0, Social media & networking

Design we can all live with

I caught this video from Worrell Design (via @metarand) last week and I wanted to post it here because I think it is a great overview of the value of user research and collaborative design, with a specific focus on health care.

A lot of what’s covered in the video applies in a multitude of sectors and circumstances. While some of the video hints at some great technology ideas, these are only made possible by understanding the social aspects of the provision of health care — that is the relationship between practitioner and patient, and the other challenges, motivations, needs and wants that revolve around managing health.

I also think it highlights the challenges that many organisations and sectors face as the people formerly known as “consumers” are wresting back control using social and personal technologies, becoming active participants in the process.

In any case, well worth a watch…