Maker Me… Welcome to the Maker Economy

A recent Forbes Article caught my eye: 3D Printing In-Stores Is Very Close and Retailers Need to Address Itprint-970-80. I have been writing and thinking about the impact of 3D printing for some time. At the 2014 International Leadership Associations Annual conference and later at a Global Conference in Panama City, Panama I spoke on the future of work and more specifically my book The Open Organization. My discussion focused on the nature of organizational structures. I outlined the scenario that was pushing us toward more open flat organizational structures. One scenario I presented was focused on the idea that we will become a maker society. Springing off the emerging 3D printing, I challenged the audiences to imagine a world in which we were able to print products we ordered off Amazon or other retail websites from our desk on our 3D printers. For larger products I posed the idea that we might pick up our order from a corner store – much like going to the local drugstore to get our film developed. I talked about how this would disrupt manufacturing, logistics, and retail itself. I surmised how this could produce new products and services not yet imagined as a result of the maker society. New cottage industries of 3D print shop drive through pickup windows and one hour delivery could possibly emerge form this era. Perhaps we will see companies begin to switch from manufacturing products to producing and distributing raw materials we could purchase for a host of items. The Maker Economy could end much of retail as we have grown to know it. Already, malls around the U.S. are shuttering their doors and windows as they can no longer compete with the likes of Amazon and Walmart. Retailers who imagine a new reality will be left as other fade into retail history [Think Block Buster and Sears].

The Maker Economy will disrupt business and government in the way we view laws, img_0112negotiate tariffs and how we identify and engage an already fractured workforce. When dealing with laws, suppose we used a 3D printer to print a pair of Adidas Shoes – Who will actually own the product? Who could own the data produced from 3D scanning your body? Would the website selling the design own it or could they sell your specific dimensions to other retailers? Imagine targeted advertising that now depicts you wearing the product that the designer is trying to sell you on.

We want the obvious answer to be that the end consumer would own the product and their data. But, what if printing a shoe or uploading your 3D scanned files signified your agreement to lose control of your data or to even “borrow” or lease the shoe for the life of the shoe itself and that once the item has reached its normal end-of-life it must be returned for recycling? Imagine how this could affect not-for-profits that collect and distribute old cloths. Or – what if the designer of the shoe could sell advertisement space on the product you just printed? All of these questions and more come to mind.

The dawn of the Creator Economy is upon us. With the election of Donald Trump many have surmised that we will see a manufacturing renaissance in the United States. I would argue that we will, but it won’t be what we might have imagined it to be. As 3D printing improves, the manufacturing in the US will likely hold another 10 to 20 years before the Maker Economy hits full swing. With the emergence of 3D printing, we will see the carbon footprint of manufacturing decrease as they switch to support a mostly raw materials output. We will also see technologies and techniques related to recycling improve and become mainstream. Intellectual property laws will need to be re-imagined to protect the branding of products produced by individuals. Prototyping will also change the speed at which products reach markets. Houses, cars and everyday objects will be readily accessible anywhere in the world in which the end producer has access to bioprinter_500x360the Internet and a 3D printer. 3D scanning will revolutionize the knock-off counterfeit industry. Mining and extraction of raw materials will increase as we source raw materials for our 3D printers. Cottage recycling industries will take on the status quo and we will find new ways to improve the economy. 3D printing will revolutionize health care. We will see technologies increase whereby we can start to grow replacement parts that are built from our own DNA thereby ending organ rejection and waiting lists. Pharmaceuticals will also be challenged in this new era of Maker Me. The Maker Economy is sure to shake up the world. Now is the time to plan for change and to minimize its impact.


cropped-img_0100-001Dr. Philip A. Foster is a Thought Leader focused on the Future of Work and the 21st Century Workplace. He is a prolific writer, International Lecturer and Best Selling Author of “The Open Organization” – now available on Amazon. He is an Ambassador to the OpenSource.com community and holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight from Regent University, Virginia. You can contact him at http://www.maximumchange.com

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The Future of Working: Dystopia or Utopia?

Cbw_bXzWAAIt_ap                  Image Source: (McCormick 2016).

Recently I read an article from The Verge by Rich McCormick (2016) regarding Mark Zuckerberg’s presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The focus of this article was a picture of Mark Zuckerberg walking past attendees who are wearing Samsung’s Gear Virtual Reality headsets. Rich states that the image,

“…looks like concept art for a new dystopian sci-fi film. A billionaire superman with a rictus grin, striding straight past human drones, tethered to machines and blinded to reality by blinking plastic masks.”

Normally I would chuckle and move on, however this picture represents deeper insights about the future of our workforce and leadership. In fact, last year my colleague Dr. Jeff Suderman and I published a similar scenario in our paper “Envisioning Leadership in 2050: Four Future Scenarios.” In our article we presented four scenarios which depict how we might engage human capital by the year 2050. Two of these scenarios explored the possible dehumanizing effects or impact of technology in the future workplace.

One scenario focused on something we called Bio-Circuitry Leadership. It was represented by an image found in the movie Edge of Tomorrow in which soldiers were partnered with armored body suits. We imagined a scenario in which there would be “minimal separation between humankind and machinery/technology and very often, humans must adapt to the needs of technology instead of technology being adapted to meet our needs” (Suderman & Foster, 2015).  In this scenario, organizations and their leaders become “a complex blend of the best of both worlds: machines and humanity. The era of bio-circuitry leadership means that organizations have leveraged people and technology into a seamless system. It is difficult to distinguish between who people are and what they do because of how effectively human capacity is enhanced and blended with technology” (Suderman & Foster, 2015).

The second scenario presented a contrasting view and was titled Automaton Leadership. “By definition, an automaton is a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being. As a result of the relentless progression of technology, human capital will be shaped into a group of robot-like devices to accomplish the betterment of our world” (Suderman & Foster, 2015). As this scenario unfolds we find a world in which the “economic collapses of the early twenty-first century coupled with a decreasing full-time workforce led to a wide acceptance of technologies in everyday life” (Suderman & Foster, 2015). Under this scenario we imagined a world in which individuals of working age “…apply for and are fitted with docking harnesses which permit them to connect directly into the work grid. The Internet of everything now includes humans themselves. Individuals strap themselves into a work pod and the docking harness connects their entire body into the Internet” (Suderman & Foster, 2015). In this world the lines between “reality and virtual are merged as individuals spend most of their waking time connecting to the network” (Suderman & Foster, 2015).

Dr. Suderman and I recognize that our storylines are no more than best guesses about how our future will unfold.  However, the usefulness of scenarios about the future is not how accurate the stories turn out to be, but rather, how they help us shape the possibilities of the future. Twenty years ago few of us knew or even thought about the impact a smart phone would have on our lives. Today, we find mobile technologies impacting everyday decisions such as grocery shopping, taxi services and hotel accommodations. The seemingly innocuous introduction of ubiquitous technology has shaped a new economy right before our very eyes.

The idea of a future workforce strapped into some kind of technology may not be as farfetched as we would like it to be. In fact, most of us are already invisibly tethered to our smart devices. Laugh if you will, but the picture of Mark Zuckerberg and the audience of drones could very well be a glimpse into what is to come.

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IMG_0100-001Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, International Lecturer and Best Selling Author of “The Open Organization” – now available through Ashgate Publishing.  Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. Twitter: @maximumchange, E-mail: philip@maximumchange.com.

Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman, E-mail: jeff@jeffsuderman.com.

 

References:

McCormick, Rich (2016). This image of Mark Zuckerberg says so much about our future. The Verge. Retrieved on February 21, 2016 from http://www.theverge.com/2016/2/22/11087890/mark-zuckerberg-mwc-picture-future-samsung

Suderman, J.L., &Foster, P.A. (2015). “Envisioning Leadership in 2050: Four Future Scenarios. A Case for relevant 2050 leadership – preparing for change.” Building Leadership Bridges. Sage Publishing.