10 reasons why you must join a makerspace – or create one yourself MADANMOHAN RAO 9 MARCH 2016 The worlds of art and engineering, hobbyists and professionals, come together effectively in the maker movement. Maker communities and hackathon events are springing up in increasing numbers across India, though a lot more could be done to dovetail this movement with initiatives such as Startup India, Skill India and Make in India. Maker hosts and enthusiasts from across India and overseas gathered in Delhi recently for the The Coalition festival of creativity (see also my quotes compilation and workshop coverage). The maker track of the festival was held in an inspiring location, the National Museum, connecting India’s glorious design past to the future possibilities of hardware and other industries. The speakers shared a number of reasons and case studies on why startups and the creative community can benefit from participating in local makerspaces – or launching one if it doesn’t yet exist in their city. A maker community promotes fun and curiosity as well as solid learnings and products (see my earlier articles on the Mini Maker Faire Bangalore and Wave Innovation Mumbai). Self-discovery “A maker is someone who derives identity and meaning from the act of creation,” explained Sahil Mehta, CEO, Lattice Innovations. Maker spaces tap the ‘inner creator’ in their members, and help them explore, discover and nurture their creative skills. People, tools and skill-development programmes converge to offer catalytic opportunities for growth. Maker spaces with broad community participation can showcase a wide range of offerings: Arduino and Raspberry Pi kits, drones, model airplanes, robots, teaching kits, artistic installations, green tech, 3D printers, solar panels, visual electronics, haptic sensors, and even musical instruments made from trash. Startups and founders “Makerspaces can help you go from tinkerer to hobbyist to entrepreneur,” says Vaibhav Chhabra, Founder, Makers Asylum, Mumbai. The Andheri-based maker community raised funds for its launch via an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Makers Asylum has helped product developers, designers and entrepreneurs with support for projects such as robotics (‘C3PO’), leather goods (Black Canvas Project), retinal imaging and satellite analytics. “I started out as a hobbyist and found out there is money in it,” added Sahil Mehta. No barriers of age, gender “Makers as young as 14 years of age have built sensors used during the Nasik Kumbh Mela,” said Suvarchala Narayanan, an actress and designer with the Construkt Festival (see my coverage of the 2015 edition). Nilay Kulkarni, at the age of 14, was a part of the MIT Kumbathon and reportedly worked on some solutions based on sensors for crowd tracking and management. Speakers in the maker track pointed out that the grassroots participatory nature of the community does not discriminate amongst members based on gender or age. There is a lot of peer to peer learning across lines of gender and age, and such cooperative attitudes can be solidified in the values/vision statement of the makerspaces. Persistence and perseverance Having a peer group of tinkerers gives makers an atmosphere of fun, support and creative confidence. Makers learn how to receive criticism, and factor in false positives and false negatives. “For every ‘yes’ there are a hundred no’s,” said Nishant Bhaskar, Design Specialist, Godrej & Boyce. An atmosphere of reinforcement and correction improves persistence and perseverance in the maker community. In the long run, this builds empathy in a maker and sharpens the ability to zoom in on feasible solutions. Global awareness Thanks to the Internet and social media, the maker movement is now a global phenomenon and is not restricted just to ‘westernised hipsters.’ Maker spaces and fairs are springing up across the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. A number of useful online resources are available in this regard: HackerSpaces.org, MakeZine, Makery.info, Fab Foundation, and MakersAsylum. Asian countries like China are rapidly embracing the maker movement. “China is no longer just a copy-cat nation. Indians must do more to learn about their neighbour,” said Tudor Tarlev, maker at Tudor Ventures and hacker in residence in China at Tsinghua University. China is evolving a national strategy around the maker movement for its education and economic sectors. Tarlev showcased a number of examples from around the world, such as Safecast (Geiger counters installed on people’s cars in Europe to map radiation levels), and Hacker Surprise in Vienna (a vending machine for maker products, eg. PCBs). Cooperation between makerspaces is happening in domains such as parametric architecture and disaster relief. Jugaad and beyond While improvisation and ‘band-aid’ solutions may be used in some stages, the maker movement also urges more systematic long-term approaches to innovation. “Jugaad is a temporary fix, but you can’t use it always in product development,” said Allan Rodrigues, VP, Hansa Public Relations. A number of researchers are recasting jugaad along with systematic innovation as ‘frugal innovation’ (see my book review), and are promoting blended approaches to innovation. Jugaad is viewed as a ‘temporary hack,’ and not the only innovation pathway. Innovation ecosystem The maker movement connects members to broader players in the innovation ecosystem such as corporate sponsors, technology providers, systems integrators and government agencies. Smart makers can build viable business plans and product feasibility maps by connecting to this broader ecosystem (see also my framework of ‘15 innovation tips: how large corporations can successfully engage with startups’). “Technology is just one part of the solution – you need to collaborate, get it out there, and get customer feedback,” advised Anirudh Sharma, ‘Chronic Inventor’ at SBA Labs. “Do systems innovation, not just product innovation,” added Anna Warrington, Director, Make Life – Forum for the Future. IP strategy Exposure to creative ideas along with larger companies can sensitise makerspace members early on about the broader intellectual property (IP) issues of open source, patenting, copyright and trademarks. “Keep inventing and worry less about patents – the pace of innovation in industry is so fast,” advised Anool Mahidharia, Co-founder at Makers Asylum, Mumbai. The key approach should be to understand the near-term and long-term impacts of IP, said Rahul Goel, partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Ultimately, IP should help boost business, manage risk and increase valuation. Legal firms in India are gearing up to give startups advice in such IP domains. “You can take a commercial decision to open source your patents as well – look at Tesla,” said Ashwin Sapra, Partner Designate at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, pointing to the electric car company’s licensing of its patents to companies like BMW. However, for startups to deploy IP strategies at a global level can be costly and time-consuming, cautioned Neeraj Gupta, CEO at FormulateIP. Co-creation Makerspaces, due to their community and participatory nature, open up exciting possibilities for co-creation. “The best way to solve local problems is through co-creation,” said Prashant Venkatasubban, Co-Founder, DevThon. “Stop working for people, and work with the people,” advised Dhairya Pujara, Founder of Y-Centre, drawing on his extensive experience on working in the health-tech sector in Mozambique. It is important to ‘shut up and listen’ to customers before preaching solutions to them, he advised. Aspiring entrepreneurs should learn to ‘think with their hands’ and work early on prototypes for customer needs, said Dhairya, drawing on his example of working with children to design malaria awareness cards in Africa. Holistic education Maker spaces can also provide richer educational experiences and extra-curricular support to students. “The journey of education is as important as the outcome,” said Premankan Seal, Content Head at Makers Asylum, and maker activities can make the education experience more practical and meaningful. “The mindset changes when you change the conversation,” agreed Meghna Bhutoria, Founder of Makers Loft in Kolkata, which encourages student membership, peer groups and team projects. Other benefits of maker spaces cited by their hosts include ecosystem engagement and serendipity. For example, companies like Lattice Innovation hire employees based on their maker involvement in competitive hackathons. “A makerspace promotes play, learning and serendipity – people meet people, machines meet machines,” said Kshitij Marwah, Head of MIT Media Labs India. Challenges identified by makerspace practitioners included the lack of maker opportunities in rural India, and the need to cooperate more across the country and in the South Asian region. “Tap into your personal maker. Foster the maker in you,” said Anna Warrington of Forum for the Future. “Play with the ideas of the future, you never know which one may stick,” she summed up. ALLAN RODRIGUES ANIRUDH SHARMA ANNA WARRINGTON ANOOL MAHIDHARIA ASHWIN SAPRA CHINA DELHI DEVTHON DHAIRYA PUJARA FORMULATEIP FRUGAL INNOVATION GODREJ KSHITIJ MARWAH LATTICE INNOVATIONS MAKERS ASYLUM MIT NATIONAL MUSEUM NEERAJ GUPTA NILAY KULKARNI NISHANT BHASKAR PRASHANT VENKATASUBBAN PREMANKAN SEAL RAHUL GOEL SAHIL MEHTA SUVARCHALA NARAYANAN THE COALITION TSINGHUA UNIVERSITY TUDOR VENTURES VAIBHAV CHHABRA ABOUT THE AUTHOR Madanmohan Rao is research director at YourStory Media and editor of five book series (http://amzn.to/NpHAoE). His interests include creativity, innovation, knowledge management, and digital media. Madan is also a DJ and writer on world music and jazz. He can be followed on Twitter at @MadanRao
“Have you ever met a person, come across an idea, or found a resource that was precisely what you needed at exactly that moment in time? These "happy accidents" bring us surprise and joy. But more than that, they are essential to moving u...”
“Thank randomness. We would be jelly-like protoplasm if some cells hadn't decided to try some random mutations at some point in time. Now that we are all fully formed, let's also thank it for cornflakes and LSD.”
My second job out of college was with an incredible startup political agency called the Glover Park Group. It's now a much larger and more successful agency, but at the time it was just a tiny company with a huge vision. I got the job because a woman my mother used to babysit for growing up was friends with one of the partners of the firm in New York. I was en route from a work trip at the Denver Airport when I received a call from her that'd end up changing my career path ... and my life. The job gave me a passion for working alongside scrappy, smart people, taught me how to tell a compelling story, and introduced me to some dear life-long friends. And I have one woman's network to thank for it all -- a network that likely took her a lot of time and energy to build. The lesson? Well, this one connection taught me that casting a wider, more open network can unlock opportunities you may not even know exist from your current vantage point. And that networking is an unparalleled skill for people -- both young and old -- to have. So to help you hone your own networking abilities, check out the ten tips below. (You can send us a cut of your raise and promotion later.) 10 Ways to Make Meaningful Business Connections 1) Be shockingly helpful. HubSpot’s co-founder and CTO, Dharmesh Shah, has an expression I come back to every time I think about networking: the notion of being shockingly helpful. Starting here will fundamentally help you rethink how you network. If you start with the intention of meaningfully helping 10 people in a month, your bar for who you reach out to and the value you offer goes up, as does the quality of the potential interaction. Start with a list of who you can help in your immediate network, and once you’ve warmed up your shockingly helpful muscles, expand your network each week. Doing so will pay significant dividends over time. 2) Play Eventbrite roulette. One of the challenges with the very nature of networks is that we are all inclined to self-select based on our interests and existing habits. But doing the same things to network will give you the exact same results. To combat this, try playing Eventbrite Roulette. Search for events happening in your area in the upcoming week and attend the third event that shows up on the page (or pick your lucky number as you see fit). If you’re the more traditional sort, look at the events board at your local coffee shop or library and attend the event that represents the furthest possible departure from your current comfort zone. Whatever you do, resolve to go, enjoy the new experience, and say hello to five new people. Sometimes the act of attending an event you wouldn’t typically otherwise gravitate to will start to open your eyes and habits to new connections and creativity you might otherwise miss. 3) Shake up your social networks. If you look at a scatter plot of your connections on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, chances are your network lines up roughly to past jobs you have had, schools you have attended, and places you have lived. It's safe to say that our social networks have a significant impact on the content we consume and share on a regular basis. That said, the constraints of your existing network often create a virtuous closed loop. Resolve to follow ten new people on Twitter and LinkedIn this week. But instead of taking the algorithm-suggested options, identify a few people who are experts in things you know nothing about. Just the act of following them will help open up your perspective and likely lead you to some adjacent people worth learning from as well. 4) Strengthen your weakest connections. Mark Granovetter’s research on the power of weak ties revealed that a vast majority of people got their jobs through people they occasionally or rarely see -- dating back to as early as 1973. While job hunting has changed significantly since 1973, the importance of passive connections has not: it’s rare that your best friend will refer you to your next job, but much more likely that an old classmate, neighbor, or friend of a friend will. Given that, set a reminder in your calendar weekly to reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in six months. Your outreach could be a simple hello or an invitation to coffee, but I typically find that leads to transactional emails and delayed or often canceled plans. Another -- perhaps more effective -- strategy? Ask folks about the best thing they have read or listened to lately. Doing so is friendly, flattering, and frankly not as boring as typical professional correspondence. 5) Rethink your event networking strategy. I’m amazed at how many people spend events they attend entirely with people they know. After all, the whole point of leaving your office should be to meet people or learn things you might not otherwise. To ensure you always make the most of it, approach every event you attend with a plan. To get started, search the event agenda and hashtag to identify people you’d like to meet who are attending or speaking and challenge yourself to connect with each of them. Instead of joining the packed crowds of people talking to speakers after they conclude, set up time to talk to speakers a few hours before they go on stage. Can't snag time with them? Go the "shockingly helpful" route and create compelling blogs about their talks to help spread their message and insights more broadly. 6) Gather an unconventional group. As humans, we collectively resist uncertainty and change. If you vaguely suggest a group outing with a bunch of people who don’t know each other well to hang out, chances are you’ll end up making plans for sometime next year. Instead, choose an activity that is reasonably inexpensive and fun, then pick a date and time to do it. Send a personalized invite to five people to join you, none of whom have met prior to the outing, and make it clear that the purpose of the evening is to have fun and meet new people. Chances are, you’ll find a group who never would have thought to go oyster shucking, photo walking, or art gallery gazing on their own, but who are super grateful that you put it together. In addition to planning a fun night, send an email thanking everyone after so that your loose connections get the benefit of each other’s networks as well. 7) Be fearless. In her book, Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling suggests that you “make a list of the people you think would make the greatest mentors and try to get close enough to steal their Wi-Fi.” While her approach is tongue in cheek, most of us have people we admire from afar for their smarts, insight, or ambition ... but we never approach them. If you’re in this boat, I recommend checking out Jia Jiang for inspiration. Based on his experience facing rejection first hand, Jiang warns that fear or rejection leads people to ultimately say no to themselves. Don’t let the obstacle to building a large open network be your own fear or rejection. Instead, create an ambitious list of people you want to learn from and identify creative ways to make it happen. 8) Take the road less traveled. Most often, people forget to network until external signals suggest they do so. For example, when a speech ends, we crowd the speaker to make an introduction, and then reach out on LinkedIn shortly thereafter. Or, when someone gets a new high-powered job at a great company, we send a congratulations text message. While all of these things are well and good, they rarely open up new channels or streams of communications simply because they transpire en masse. My dad took this idea to heart early on: Rather than sending out holiday cards that'll likely get lost in a pile, he sends St. Patrick’s Day cards instead. The lesson? Identify one creative way to take the networking road less traveled and seize the opportunity to meaningfully engage with someone new. You’ll stand out from the pack and increase your likelihood of success in the process. 9) Calendar your networking time. If you’re like most busy people, your calendar is packed with obligations and transactions. If you have time blocked for networking, chances are it’s for a specific purpose, such as an active job hunt. Instead of waiting for serendipity to bring new people to you, put an hour on your calendar each week specifically focused on expanding your network. Ask a friend who the most interesting person they know is and go meet them. Email a blog author whose content you love with a specific comment or question about his or her work. Reconnect with an old colleague whose work you always admired. Sometimes these conversations will lead nowhere, but many will generate new ideas, connections, and creativity, so it’s worth the break in the action from your usual busy day. 10) Think like a journalist. Using people’s passions as an entry point to learn from them is far more likely to stick than a standard request for more information about their company or career. With this in mind, channel your inner journalist and generate questions that unleash what people know or love about a subject you know very little about. I once connected with a reporter I wanted to chat with by citing a Mighty Ducks quote deep in his Twitter stream (Emilio Estevez helps in any networking conversation, by the way). I also made one of my best friends in Manhattan by talking to her parents about Ohio State football. The lesson? These jumping off points go beyond standard small talk about weather and politics, and help you uncover more interesting stories and takeaways from people. Ready to Get Started? Large, open networks have the power to create countless opportunities for connection, career growth, creativity, and collaboration. Yet most people put off networking because they view it as arduous or a waste of time. I think it's just the opposite. And after hearing my story, I'd hope you're with me. In the words of Sonia Sotomayor, "To succeed in this world you have to be known to people." You never know who will change your career or life the most, and it's never too late to get started. So what are you waiting for? What's the best networking advice you've ever received? Share you thoughts below. The job The lesson? Well, this one connection So to help you hone your own networking abilities, check So to help you hone your own networking abilities, check So to help you hone your own networking abilities, check 4) Strengthen your weakest connections. Large, open networks have the power to create countless opportunities for connection, career growth, creativity, and collaboration. Yet most people put off networking because they view it as arduous or a waste of time. I think it's just the opposite. And after hearing my story, I'd hope you're with me. In the words of Sonia Sotomayor, "To succeed in this world you have to be known to people." You never know who will change your career or life the most, and it's never too late to get started. So what are you waiting for? The job The lesson? Well, this one connection So to help you hone your own networking abilities, check So to help you hone your own networking abilities, check So to help you hone your own networking abilities, check 4) Strengthen your weakest connections. Large, open networks have the power to create countless opportunities for connection, career growth, creativity, and collaboration. Yet most people put off networking because they view it as arduous or a waste of time. I think it's just the opposite. And after hearing my story, I'd hope you're with me. In the words of Sonia Sotomayor, "To succeed in this world you have to be known to people." You never know who will change your career or life the most, and it's never too late to get started. So what are you waiting for?
Since 2012, I have been involved in the seemingly contradictory practice of “Designing Serendipity.” For many, serendipity is simply an inexplicable lucky accident. Such a view is neither useful nor historically accurate. Horace Walpole coined the term in 1754 to describe the ‘faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident.’ It is in this sense that Pedro Medina speaks of Serendipity as a Style of Life and Greg Lindsay of Engineering Serendipity. This line of thinking is succinctly conveyed by Roman Philosopher Seneca in the saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Take for example the old saying that finding a penny on the ground is good luck. While the “lucky accident” view of serendipity might see this as foreshadowing good things to come, I would suggest a better interpretation would envision serendipity as strategy. Someone who is aware of their surroundings is more likely to see the penny as well as other good fortune coming their way than someone that does not keep an eye out for opportunities around them. One of the most common ways of designing serendipity in organizations is to promote casual collisions. The thinking goes that by increasing the number of unexpected encounters, there will be a corresponding increase in the serendipitous conversations and discoveries. These take many different forms but often take the form of intentional bottlenecks that force people to slow down and maintain within close proximity of others, hopefully leading to a conversation, and then to a discovery. Such is the carefully planned domino effect that is desired by casual collisions. Physical Design for Casual Collisions These are some of my favorite examples of using physical design to promote casual collisions and serendipitous conversations: Lunch Lines – Google tracks the length of their lunch lines, not to reduce them but rather to keep them at an optimal length. Elevators – The Bloomberg building in New York elevator takes you from the ground floor to the cafeteria where you can then switch elevators to other floors. Bathrooms – Apple put restrooms in a single location to drive people towards the same place. Hallways – Architects in some cases are designing narrower hallways, which force people to look up from their devices to avoid bumping into others. Lunch Tables – Offices are encouraged to replace small lunch tables with fewer, longer ones Watercooler – One company is even literally moving around the proverbial watercooler Open floor Offices – Tearing down office walls to create a single open space where people can see and bump into each other. This is but a small collection of initiatives aimed at creating propitious circumstances for people to talk with others that they do not usually speak to. As Greg Lindsay asks, “But how can we do a better job of bringing people together than installing bigger cafeteria tables, adding another coffee machine, or locking all the bathrooms but one?” Casual Collisions Can Cause Bruises Greg suggests tearing down walls but the open office has its problems (noise, lack of privacy) and in the end it does not necessarily lead to the desired objective. Why? Because physical proximity is not social proximity. Take a look at public transport (buses, trains, elevators) where people are in a confined space for a prolonged period of time yet social norms prevent them from talking. Pedro Medina highlights this social norm and turns it on its head when he enters elevators and asks, “Is this one of the buildings where it is permissible to speak to others in the elevator?” The resulting laugh is sure sign of a successful ice breaker. A similar point is made by Kerstin Sailer in Seeing is Not Interacting. She describes a university building in Singapore designed to revolutionize teaching and learning, where there are stacked towers with each floor opening towards the central courtyard. Designing Social Interaction While at Nesta, the UK innovation foundation, we came up with a process called Randomised Coffee Trials, which I like to joke is an incredibly sophisticated process where we encourage colleagues to have coffee with each other. The having coffee part is easy, orchestrating recurring one-on-one introductions to a new colleague is now easy to do with Spark Collaboration. Using physical design, companies are hoping to encourage you to bump into coworkers outside those that you typically interact with during your work activities. We’ve found that a more elegant solution is possible because people want to meet their colleagues, they just lack the system to do so. Spark Collaboration facilitates casual collisions without the bruises. About Michael Soto Michael Soto is Co-Founder & Program Manager for Spark Collaboration. Spark Collaboration helps organizations create powerful networks. Using Spark, organizations can match employees one-on-one for real-time social interactions. By meeting over coffee, lunch or video chat, employees can create real social connections that can help them be more connected, innovative and ultimately more productive. Michael is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, received his BA from Harvard University and did his Masters at the University of Sussex. Subscribe to OP|EN for BUSINESS! 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“Serendipity, generally thought of as accidental good fortune, has long been a staple of popular science. The notion of fortuitous discovery still has strong appeal, but could it encourage innovation?”
“"Serendipity has gained a lot of interest recently, yet the notion itself remains unclear in many discussions. And once more – ”No, it’s not a happy accident!”. Following the original definition by Horace Walpole that was later elaborated by Robert K. Merton ”Serendipity is a quality of mind, which through awareness, sagacity and good fortune allows one to frequently discover something good while looking for something else”. So in true sense it’s something totally different than one single (happy) event." ”
“Serendipity has gained a lot of interest recently, yet the notion itself remains unclear in many discussions. And once more – ”No, it’s not a happy accident!”. Following the original definition by Horace Walpole that was later elaborated by Robert K.”
“It’s taken us 4 years to scale Web Summit from 400 attendees to 20,000 and a bunch of physicists have played a big part. Back in 2010, 3 international journalists showed up, this year it will exceed 1,200.”
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