This week I discussed with associates at work how Andy Grove is right: if lose manufacturing capability & understanding and you break the chain of experience & innovation (as posted here on BusinessWeek). The article from Grove hit quite a chord with people in business, particularly tech. So much is gleaned from the act of building that if you fail to understand the value of manufacturing – something that people think is only as important as the monetary value – that without it you miss much of the innovation process.
Take one such inventor prior to the adoption of off-shore production: the incandescent light bulb. This invention had a history dating back to 1850, when Joseph Swan started his work building a light bulb. Thomas Edison started his work in the late 1870's building on the work Swan had started in his effort to bring electric light to the UK. (Not to mention the fierce competition between Edison and George Westinghouse on the light bulb.)
Edison and his staff of scientists were tinkerers: what would have happened had he off-shored the manufacturing of the first imperfect but somewhat practical light bulb designs? Would Edison and Westinghouse have come up with the refinements needed to perfect the invention?
When a product is seen as a commodity, do we lose sight that many of these so called commodities provide the building blocks for new products that can spring new fields of products? Grove is right in that when we lose manufacturing capability and understanding, we break the chain of experience.
Just a thought for a Friday afternoon. Now I'm off to dig out the Legos and ErectorSet for my boys, in addition to their Kodu skills.
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