Futurist David Pescovitz talked about the “future of making” in his keynote presentation at CHESS, IHA’s senior-level conference for industry decision-makers that was held a couple of weeks ago in Chicago. David is the research director at the Institute for the Future, co-editor/managing partner of BoingBoing.net, and editor-at-large for MAKE, the DIY technology magazine.
According to David, “two future forces, one mostly social, one mostly technological, are intersecting to transform how goods, services, and experiences will be designed, manufactured, and distributed over the next decade. An emerging do-it-yourself culture of “makers” is boldly voiding warranties to tweak, hack, and customize the products they buy. And what they can’t purchase, they build from scratch. Meanwhile, flexible manufacturing technologies on the horizon will change fabrication from massive and centralized to lightweight and ad hoc. These trends sit atop a platform of grassroots economics—new market structures developing online that embody a shift from stores and sales to communities and connections.”
CLICK HERE to download David’s “The Future of Making” map.
These forces are doing more than just transforming HOW products are designed and made.
These forces are transforming WHAT products are designed and made.
Ben Kauffman, founder of Quirky, once said that “the products that are on retail shelves at Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond aren’t the best ideas in the world, they’re just the ideas of people who have access to those shelves.”
The new resources, online communities, technologies, and companies that are cropping up to support the new culture of “makers” are making it much easier for the best ideas to make it to the market.
I’ve conducted product concept tests for a number of inventors over the years. These new product concepts had what it takes to be a success: they met a need or solved a problem better than what the consumer was currently using and they were unique or superior to what was already on the market. Most important, the product concepts scored well on purchase interest. However, the chances that these great products would ever get to market were slim to none. There were simply too many obstacles and obstructions facing the inventor.
Now, some of the obstacles and obstructions have been removed. Inventors and start-ups can raise money to fund development through crowd funding sites like Kickstarter. They can inexpensively design and develop their ideas at facilities such as Pumping Station: One in Chicago that give them access to tools, collaboration, and help. They can make and test prototypes and manufacture small quantities of finished product at open access public workshops like the TechShop that give them access to state-of-the-art design, prototyping, and manufacturing equipment and training. They can test market their new products on an e-commerce site they designed using WordPress and an add-in such as Woo Commerce.
And if inventors don’t want to try to bring their product to market themselves, licensing is no longer their only option. If their product idea is good enough, Quirky will bring it to market for them. Inventors submit their new product ideas to Quirky.com for the Quirky online community to vote on. If the idea gets enough votes and makes it through the evaluation by the Quirky team, that idea is put into prototype design and production by the Quirky staff in New York City. The finished product is then made available for sale, both on the Quirky website and at big box retailers around the country, with the inventor receiving a percent of sales.
How the culture of “making” is impacting the housewares industry
As I see it, the “maker” culture and the resulting leveling of the playing field for inventors and start-ups has three key implications for the housewares industry.
- In the future, the new products that make it to the retail shelves at Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond won’t necessarily come from the established manufacturers who have traditionally had access to those shelves. With the success of As Seen on TV products and Quirky, retailers are getting more comfortable with unconventional sources of new products.
- Firmly entrenched manufacturers who suffer from “not invented here” syndrome will be at a competitive disadvantage to companies who look for new product ideas both inside and outside the company.
- Manufacturers who have cumbersome bureaucratic product development processes and massive centralized manufacturing technologies will be at a decided disadvantage because they won’t be able to get products to market as quickly as scrappy much more nimble start-ups.