Crafted Products


There will come a time when it will no longer make sense to mass manufacture and ship products all over the globe. This will happen when the convenience and low cost of tools and components for making products in small local factories wins out over the economic and environmental costs of shipping to and from abroad.

When that time comes, there will be a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to manufacture and sell crafted products — products made in small customized batches, manufactured as needed. The products might be anything from small electric toothbrushes to big boxy refrigerators.

This will go down in one of two ways:

1. Large firms will emerge with a franchise model

2. Individuals will do it on their own, create their own networks of knowledge and resource sharing.

The former perpetuates the top down, centralized, mass solutions that we have today. The latter promotes regionally specific innovation and collaboration with the advantage of global knowledge-sharing network.

Or perhaps there is a third option. If so, what does that look like?







Who Is Best at Predicting the Future?

I’ve come across an interesting study about a correlation between cognitive styles and accuracy in predicting the future. The study is from Philip Tetlock, Professor of Leadership at UC Berkeley who built on Isaiah Berlin’s theory about foxes and hedgehogs. Put simply, foxes are lateral thinkers,  hedgehogs are linear thinkers, and it is foxes who are better at predicting the future.

Tetlock contends that the fox–the thinker who knows many little things, draws from an eclectic array of traditions, and is better able to improvise in response to changing events–is more successful in predicting the future than the hedgehog, who knows one big thing, toils devotedly within one tradition, and imposes formulaic solutions on ill-defined problems.

This insight makes sense, that foxes with their ability to hold multiple points of view are better positioned to see the future. But there’s a twist. Hedgehogs, with their certainty, tend to be more confident and thus convincing to a crowd. And foxes, with all of their “It could be this way or it could be that way” internal debate, tend to express less confidence and are less convincing to a crowd. Stewart Brand sums this up nicely here:

Bottom line… The political expert who bores you with a cloud of “howevers” is probably right about what’s going to happen. The charismatic expert who exudes confidence and has a great story to tell is probably wrong.

As you may know, I’m interested in “unlikely leaders” and foxes  fall into that slot. They express doubt while the hedgehogs express confidence. So my question for all of us is this: How might we train ourselves to listen to foxes, to embrace their expressions of doubt so that we can better understand where we’re going.

read more here:

Make Better Stuff for the Holidaze


When Black Friday comes I’m gonna dig myself a hole/ Gonna lay down in it ’til I satisfy my  soul

Well, close. It’s Black Friday. And rather than shop, I’m going down to my makerspace and I’m gonna make stuff to sell at two upcoming craft shows: 1 and 2. This is my tiny part in promoting a power-balance shift from mass manufacture and consumption to small batch production.

Sure there’s “Buy Nothing Friday” and AMEX’s “Small Biz Saturday.” But as a maker, I’m faced with a make-or-buy decision for the holidays. And I’m deciding to make. Make stuff that’s better, more unique, more locally sourced than the stuff you can buy at the mall. Luckily we have tech manufacturers in our makerspace, so what we make isn’t limited to knits and candies (not to knock knits and candies!)

Make something this weekend. And feel free to send me a picture!

image: Laurence Clarkberg

products: IG memebers

Testing Generosity


Yesterday I tested a game exercise I developed called Generosity with students in Tom Seager’s Sustainability Ethics class at ASU. Generosity is a card game in which characters help fulfill each other’s needs with value that they have so that the players are free to do amazing things.

This is about the fifth time I’ve tested the game. Some consistent insights have emerged from the tests:

1. At the beginning of the game, some players struggle to fill out their “need” cards while others have a hard time filling out their “value” cards.

2. Throughout the game, players realize value that they didn’t know they had. (This is my favorite insight)

3. Players gain empathy for each other as they play the game and they reframe their value or create new value to align with other player’s needs.

4. Some players take on a “connector” role and help other players identify need-value matches that are hard to see.

5. Players shift their definitions of “generosity” from an act that is altruistic to one that has mutual benefits.

6. After the game, players incorporate the “matching needs with values” mechanic into their conversations.

A unique insight that came out yesterday was that brain chemistry plays an important role in being generous. Humans have a need for dopamine and oxytocin that can drive us to provide value to others. An interesting question that emerged from this insight was “Is the need for dopamine or oxytocin enough of a value exchange or can/should we evolve to create even richer value by being aware of  brain chemistry rewards?”

I don’t know the answer to that one, but it’s fun to think about. I truly enjoy listening to the conversations that this game inspires people to engage in. Thank you Sustainability Ethics students. The value of your engagement fulfills my need to understand how we can be more generous with each other.

Why is Design Thinking Useful?

Design-thinking is a popular topic among product developers and entrepreneurs. I think that’s because there are a lot of similarities in the processes that designers, developers, and entrepreneurs use. Whether we’re developing apps, services, or physical products, we’re all in the business of making new stuff and saying to a group of people, “This will solve your problem.”

Some of what you’ll read here will sound familiar. I’m a designer, so this post is phrased in a design-thinking vocabulary. But it’s a useful vocabulary for anyone, especially for folks who work with team members and users from different disciplinary backgrounds.

Design-thinking is a combination of anthropology and art. It’s anthropology because design-thinkers study how groups of humans interact with one another and how tools mediate those interactions. And it’s art because design-thinkers make stuff that other people will see and use. Artists call other people the “audience,” but design-thinkers call them “users” and more recently “co-creators.”

Design-thinking is useful in several ways:  Continue reading “Why is Design Thinking Useful?”