We are getting it all wrong.
When people ask, "what's next?" you will hear one of three things:
Those are not "next" those are "now."
When I think of what's next, nothing has been more illuminating than watching the Makers Movement take hold. If you're not up to speed on this business revolution, you can read more about it here: From Atoms To Bits To Atoms and be sure to buy the latest business book by Chris Anderson (editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine and bestselling business book author of The Long Tail and Free), Makers - The New Industrial Revolution.
It seems small.
Most people look at 3D printing and it seems small and inconsequential. There is nothing here that looks like it's able to serve the masses and the technology is not affordable to the masses. We have a short attention span. We forget how expensive home computers were and we forget how limited the Internet was when it first came online. We are in the era of exponential growth when it comes to technology and marketing. The ability for individuals to have a "make" button as readily available on their desktop as a "print" button is going to cause a massive shift in business and marketing. Being able to purchase highly customized products at a local level with competitive pricing is going to sharply redefine economies at a mass scale, and it's going to create a global re-distribution of wealth unlike anything we have ever seen to date.
The movement is afoot.
What is relegated to workshops and some semi-public spaces is starting to become more and more accessible. On October 19th, 2012, GeekWire ran a news item titled, A playground for geeks: Nike vet to open 10,000-square-foot maker space in Seattle. The article is about a new venture called, Makerhaus, which opens in Seattle on December 6th and was founded by Ellie Kemery (formerly of Nike and Hornall Anderson). From the article: "What's MakerHaus? It's kind of a geek paradise. The 10,000-square-foot renovated industrial design space will include educational programs where members can take classes on topics such as Intro to Rhino 3D CAD; Getting Funded on Kickstarter; or Laser Cutting Basics. Members also will be able to test their own skills in a metalshop and woodshop, and utilize two professional-grade 3-D laser printers."
It's much more than WorkShop 2.0.
Too many people are quick to dismiss this movement. It sounds too technical. It sounds like the next generation of trade work. It is not. We have to remember that the early days of computers and programming felt just as strange, awkward and unrelated as this may sound right now to businesses. Don't allow yourself to fall into that same trap. These individuals are currently leveraging these types of environments to create the next generation of electronics, robotics and physical goods. Making professional grade design and manufacturing skills and tools available to anybody and everybody in the same way that we can access books from a local library. This not only enables a small design shop to dream up and create the next big thing, but it democratizes the process down to you and me.
What the Internet did for information and publishing, the makers movement is doing for physical goods.
Kemery explains why MakerHaus and spaces like this are critical to our future success: "Our goal is to become a launchpad for companies and businesses, and also a breeding ground for innovation," she says in the GeekWire piece. "If all of the people who we start having as members go on to open up spaces and shops of their own that they no longer need us - that to us is success. We are really about empowering them. We know those people, they are us."
Similar words were used in describing the early days of the Internet, e-commerce and social media. Pay attention to this movement.