Heading for an industrial renaissance?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Christina Villefrance Moeller, TalesOfLeading

When I think about the Renaissance period I usually think about creative wealth from artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci and thinkers like Machiavelli. Originating from Italy the era enriched us with a rebirth of the human being as central in the world instead of the church. It was followed by a comprehensive exploration of the globe (re-) discovering America. In northern Europe the Enlightenment challenged God as the omnipotent guide to distinguish good and evil, right and wrong in our society. Thinkers like Spinoza, Luther and Calvin questioned holy scriptures authority. The idea of a secular society was born although grueling wars was fought before it really became common. The Enlightenment was also a time where thinkers like Rousso questioned the absolute power monarchs and emperors, which later led to their downfall by force or voluntary resignation.

Why is the renaissance relevant for manufacturing companies today?

I’m fascinated by  the creative development of new products and business models enabled by new technologies (3D-printing, Internet of Things, Big Data). These technologies can help us solve problems like 3D-printing spare parts in odd places (space station or on Mars), it can reduce the use of materials and improve functionality with complex structures (healthcare or airplanes), it can add several layers to service concepts to ease customers use of the product or let them customize it themselves. Inside the factory more processes can be automated and interlinked reducing the need for manual work. A huge amount of data can be collected and analyzed by specialists giving them new opportunities for understanding what influence working machines.

How can we organize ourselves around this?

As recently pointed out by Porter and Heppelmann, these new technologies will influence the way we organize manufacturing companies. For decades we have been trying to incorporate Lean’s five principles and grasp the range of Toyotas Production System. Will it still be relevant? Who will define value if your customers is co-developing products or even manufacturing it herself? What will happen to value chains? Will it become value systems of interrelated units like factories in the factory? How can you make material and information flow in a eco-system of systems and who’s pulling? And who’s got the authority to improve what?

What is democratizing enterprises mean?

Taking the next step from renaissance to enlightenment. Is it then also time for questioning the companies (-leaders) right to dictate employees’ values and mindsets (mental model) in the holy name of alignment? Is it different from the wave of democratization in the companies in the 80s in Scandinavia? What does this mean for the relationship between managers and employees? What does it mean for intergroup cooperation in the companies? And what about transparency? We all have access to a huge amount of data, but can we navigate in the foggy abundance of data?

Sorry, I haven’t got answers for these questions, but I’m looking forward to working on them together with you.

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