Saturday, December 5, 2009

Out of the freezer and into the 3D printer - what's your job?

The advent of the transition to a 3D world is here – what are you doing about it?

I say to my offspring (failing, really, to catch their imaginations) that it was all black and white/print media "when I were a lass". So they too will say to their children - "it was all 2D when we were kids, none of this full 3D visualisation and in-home 3D printing. If you wanted a Club Penguin figure or a scooter part, you had to go out and buy one - sometimes they had to ship it from overseas"

Manufacturing is on the cusp of a transformation with the advent of computer 3D printing. The speed and versatility of 3D production machines virtually eliminates the set-up times and costs of conventional manufacturing processes. The rapid prototyping they allow has significantly speeded product design and testing times, and even more significantly they are also starting to be used for high-end individualised manufacturing (e.g. hearing aids). In the near future, these machines could be as distributed in homes and offices as printers and photocopiers are today, radically altering the patterns of traditional factories and the consumer economy. Fabrication materials will still need to move to the locations of production, though these will no longer be centralised, but the location of production and consumption will be the same. Economies of scale may no longer be so significant, and distances between individual contributors to the design of products can be vast.
3D production machines open up the possibility of the same peer-to peer design revolution for 3D products as has been applied to the ‘mashable’ virtual contents of the web.

The advent of the technology of refrigeration changed New Zealand's prosperity and wellbeing path and provided a high standard of living from primary produce for many decades. The story of New Zealand's slide down the OECD rankings since the 70s, with changes in both geo-political affiliations and the price for primary produce compared to the price for skills is well known. With the shift of manufacturing away from developed countries, and increasing costs and concerns in relation to transporting goods to and from remote locations, New Zealand appears to face even greater challenges. 3D globally connected peer-design and distributed printing open up opportunities for small remote countries.

Do we understand what new opportunities the shift to 3D opens up, given the twin challenges of distance from other markets and scale (population just pipped 4 million and predicted to decline)?

Who is thinking about the transition to 3D in New Zealand and how are they being supported?

How are we preparing ourselves to be well placed to take advantage of this shift?

Who is making sure the preparation is being built in to our education, training and economic development agendas?

Post Script
Since I wrote this post in December, 3D printing has continued to become more widespread and cheaper. Have a look at this blog post by Sten to see how fast the field is moving and how some of the possibilities for transformation are becoming a reality:

Renowned long-run strategic thinker Riel Miller ( ) visited New Zealand in 2004 and described today's 3D revolution as a possible future. At that point in time many found it hard to comprehend, some found it unimaginable. Just six years later, it has become reality. It's a salutary reminder of the importance of understanding what is happening now and enlarging our imagination about what could happen next.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Fourth Estate and The New Wild West

Don Tapscott commented on Twitter today about the 'wild west' environment being generated as newspapers are dying but the new paradigm is not yet mature enough to take over.

This is one of the issues that's arisen in my work with the Institute of Policy Studies on for the Emerging Issues Programme. In a world where the traditionally authoritative sources of information are being severely challenged by new media (social networking, blogs, Twitter and more), daily newspapers are struggling to maintain their position as the “fourth estate” providing the vigilance that was once thought essential for democracy to flourish. For the public sector this poses a significant challenge around known and credible spaces for public debate, in order to develop durable policy.

Another challenge in this environment will be managing reputation and perception. Currently there are processes for challenging and correcting inaccurate or unfair coverage in mainstream media. There are currently no effective equivalent mechanisms for new media. In an environment where anyone can comment and reach hundreds or thousands of people without having to expose the validity of their assertions to scrutiny, far more pressure will be placed on the quality of each individual interaction between government and citizen and on building trustful relationships with individuals and groups.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thinking about futures literacy and the New Zealand Curriculum

How do you become futures literate? I've been thinking about the range of capabilities that people need in order to think about the future in ways that equip them for change.

This schema is work in progress and is built on the literature in the futures field and my own obervations of, and conversations with, futures learners.

Functional (Empirical)
Awareness of change over time
Capacity for understanding and interrogating data

Cultural (construction)
Understanding of what is “essential” (fixed) and why
Understanding of what is constructed and how

Critical (questioning construction)
Questioning all assumptions and constructions
Self understanding - assumptions

Understanding, valuing and being able to use different types/orders of knowledge simultaneously
Understanding multiple modes of analysis/enquiry
Understanding and applying multiple world views simultaneously
Self understanding - assumptions, mental models, world views, values
Capacity for synthesis (without assimilation)

It's interesting to plot these elements against the key competencies, values and principles in the New Zealand Curriculum - there's a substantial, if not complete overlap. The good news is that this means it's easy to integrate futures literacy development into almost any aspect of students' learning.

Shifting Thinking - starting to reflect on my own shifts

I've been at the Shifting Thinking conference run by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research today. The day has been structured to model 21st century learning processes, interleaving stimulating presentation with participant participation and opportunity for individual and shared reflection - with blogging and twitter feeds threaded throughout.

The process has been thought provoking and I'm still reflecting on what it means. A couple of thoughts sparked by the presentations:

the importance of decoupling "curriculum" and powerful knowledge, from the "cannon", the reified products of knowledge privileged by the powerful; and

moving our language into the 21st century - we're already starting to move beyond the knowledge society - how do we articulate what's currently liminal?

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Future: To Begin at the Beginning

This is my new blog – and to start off, this is my practical no nonsense view of thinking about the future and what I can do for you.
At one level, thinking about the future is really simple. There are some straightforward questions: "What appears to be happening now?" "What could happen next?" "What could that mean for me/us?"
At another level, it can be bewildering. Once you really start looking at what is happening now, it's easy to get lost in a welter of detail, or miss whole areas of change. It's hard not to be bound by the present and the past when you are trying to think about what could happen next, or to slide away from some possibilities because they are difficult or depressing to contemplate when you try to think about what this means for you and your people.
Drawing on a decade of futures thinking and a wide range of organisational experience in New Zealand and the UK, I enjoy helping people to make sense of the changing landscape and clarify their next steps. I design advice, workshops or training to meet your needs. Often people's experience of futures work is an interesting, enjoyable diversion, that's of no practical use to them when they return to the real world. Whether it's shifting mindsets and world views, or clarifying business priorities, I make sure the futures work you do with me can be put to use in your organisation.