[Editor’s note: This installment is part of an ongoing series. You can start at the beginning in order to follow its logical sequence.]
Though the practice of modular design in and of itself may not be so novel anymore, it’s far from having reached a full stride in business and marketing.
Newly emergent technologies and innovative product applications will move forward at a rapid pace in large part because of it.
The adventure of mixing and matching “what if” scenarios with “how to” answers promises to unleash a steady stream of pioneering aspirations.
In the book, “Making Innovation Work,” the authors suggest these can range from incremental improvements to huge leaps, which also may be characterized as disruptive.
Consider, for example, the arrival of 3D printer technology and what untapped possibilities may yet lay ahead for it as a modular component — a springboard, really — to something else with unsurpassed utility value.
Might it someday affect how supply chains work, alter the methodology for inventory control, re-define distribution channel management, or perhaps introduce a formerly impossible degree of manufacturing flexibility?
Might it do more than merely move the needle, but perhaps revolutionize current thought and practice in all of these areas?
Could it be the one critical piece to finally securing a definitive solution for the mass customization of physical goods?
The answer is, of course, we won’t know until we know. As of now, 3D printer technology is too expensive and slow to replace/displace the economics of standardization still in use for the large-scale production of physical products.
And in fact these same high costs — currently prohibitive costs — are hindering the roll out of large-scale mass customization in many areas of contemporary human endeavor.
But with the aid of a pioneering spirit and the labors of time, that could all change.
As most pioneering men and women are acutely aware, formerly unseen product and service opportunities derive from combining knowledge and ideas in new ways.
The best incubator for innovation is the galloping desire to see a purpose-built dream come true.
Ponder, for instance, this year’s finalists for the Radical Innovation Award in the hospitality industry.
CNN’s report, “Will your next hotel room be delivered by drone?” features visionary designers that imagine a world where hotel pods will be delivered by drones, “a pop-up concept whereby rooms are set up in hard-to-reach or underutilized spaces.”
For example, “Driftscape, submitted by the Toronto office of award-winning architecture firm HOK, is a mobile, self-sustaining hotel delivered by drone. It can be dropped off anywhere, even in the most remote stretches of the planet.
Driftscape consists of several modular units, including a food and beverage element and a single guestroom that offers up 360-degree views.”
Imagine the potential impact across the gamut of what is sold in this sphere if something like modular hotel pods delivered by drones, or variations of it, manage to gain some genuine traction.
What might happen in the hospitality industry, the camping industry, the motorhome market, the tourist industry or any of their related products and services? Might it displace some and enhance others?
Could it be the very definition of a disruptive market force?
Value Chain Agility
The reality for contemporary marketing is clear: the prevailing atmosphere of fluid uncertainty and change is a prevalent force, and it affects every enterprise under the sun.
The generic value chain approach for marketing is suited to staying in step with this variable ebb and flow, precisely because it employs principles like the universal concept of modular thinking to remain agile, flexible and lean.
It also invites an enterprise to weigh the prospect of outsourcing select aspects of the value chain so as to build and maintain an optimum overall structure.