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 / Summer 2013 / Issue 71(originally published by Booz & Company)


Many-to-Many Manufacturing

Anderson recognizes that the world of makers isn’t a utopia. Yes, makers create jobs. But, he notes, “It’s actually more correct to say that small businesses destroy a lot of jobs that they create, since most small businesses fail before their third year.” A global network of small suppliers is likewise fragile. Its transport infrastructure is subject to the whims of an increasingly volatile global climate and political upheavals, and small companies don’t have the pull that large ones do to put pressure on their shippers when things go wrong. What makes this situation work for small businesses is not that it’s perfect, but that it’s good enough. If part of their enabling infrastructure fails them, they innovate to get around it. It’s the momentum, not the stability, that Anderson is banking on to create growth.

To avoid disruptions, large manufacturers would do well to keep an eye on the maker movement. “General Motors and General Electric aren’t going away,” says Anderson, “but then again, neither did AT&T and BT when the Web arose.” Telecommunications companies are now platforms for many-to-many communication and innovation. Small Internet service providers are their customers, not their competitors. It’s a good lesson for manufacturers: Those companies that see themselves as platforms for innovation will do best in a many-to-many market.

Author Profile:

  • Tom Igoe is an associate professor at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (NYU-ITP) and is co-creator of Arduino LLC, an open source microcontroller development platform. He is the coauthor of Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers (with Dan O’Sullivan, Thomson, 2004) and author of Making Things Talk (O’Reilly Media, 2007).


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