one of the side benefits of moving around and having to crank out ideas and prototypes around the world is getting to work and see how the various make type spaces operate and the type of people inside of them. while I don’t like to generalize, there is a distinct flavor or style in each of the groups. working within the confines and structure of each groups rules usually requires a bit of patience, diplomacy and explaining slightly different paths to get to the desired result.
the first group Is the university make spaces. these all started to dot the map of colleges and universities because I think a dean says, “we need to innovate” and what you get is usually expensive spaces, with tools, that from the outside – you get to stare at and wonder if they ever get used. there is a giant window of opportunity for the universities and students, but I fear the building of spaces was not really dictated by teaching creativity and innovation – but rather to have wealthy benefactors and companies give money to people who haven’t really had to go start a business and make it profitable, who have specialized advanced degrees, and you want common sense, spatial innovation to happen. in some respects, it appears to be an oxymoron to the masses. with the specialized medical and cutting edge, these spaces really are wonderfully equipped, but the idea of one department sharing or working between each of the lab spaces is something you don’t speak of.
yes, I do know of a university in the world that has 14 really well-equipped prototyping spaces and the departments do not talk among each other. yet, all want to expound how amazing of a brain trust they have.
the political groups tend to be a bit different in that it is usually well-minded folks with a vision and little to no operating experience with how to make things. call it more of a cerebral idea that looks for a government or grant handouts to fund an idea, yet, very little actual input is given to how to make or run things. they operate almost opposite of what you are taught in business school. the idea of making a profitable sustainable business is a moving target where grants and other programs are modified to fit the space, instead of making the space to make things. the biggest weakness in this model is that the politics can get worse than even the conservative land of academia.
the last group…makers who make…is a fascinating group. you have nerds, dorks, and geeks who simply have enjoyed making things most of their lives. few probably had the golden spoon or wealthy parents to give them access to tools and spiffy new equipment, much less training on how to use it – but there is a drive inside the person that has them ask, ‘what if?” or the desire to tear apart things, put them back together and improve the idea, if not come up with a completely new idea. the personality types in this last group always remind me of the chess club in high school. smart folks that don’t seem to have all the social skills you would love in a person – but if you have a problem – they can solve it. if you have a group of them together…they work not for the good of self, but the best solution (even if rube Goldberg sometimes makes an appearance)
is there a perfect make space? I have yet to find it. there is usually a disparity between well-funded groups that like to look at machines and underfunded groups that make what they can’t afford to buy. another surprise is how some groups will realize failures are normal, and how other groups will quit after the first misstep. perhaps that is why I enjoy the spaces so much.
the downside of the spaces? usually, you don’t have access to what you need for a full range of general work. it could also be that I am weird and have had to learn several various skills versus the normal path of one…. you can literally make anything if you have the right tools. but there is one thing I am noticing, in that outside of coding…I don’t see too many folks making things. I could be wrong, but perhaps the maker group is simply a section of overall society. you have some folks that want a microphone in their hands, others want to lead, others follow…. few that make.
as we automate our society with robotics and advanced artificial intelligence, I truly wonder what people will do. particularly when I see the designs that machines come up with for the problems of man. it will be interesting at how designs change and what they will look like optimized by machines versus what humans traditionally design for with known constraints.
it will be a fascinating future…but I simply don’t know what humans will be doing except a small portion of the planet will live in a sort of controlled faux utopia…much of the planet will probably live in a survival mode as the distribution of goods and services and the gap between the haves and have-nots grows larger.
then again, I really am an optimist and pray the planet figures out how to get along with, rather than destroys each other – and/or their robots don’t become digital hitmen on anything different than what someone decides is the norm. but that is about it for 10 minutes of hitting keystrokes into the computer today.