Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Snowflakemobile! LEGO Block Cars?

November 18, 2008

I’ve been following the story behind a new car being developed by Tata Motors in India called the Nano.  It is one of those stories that you follow with equal parts fascination and fear, and it is very much worth following whatever your reaction.  The short story is that this car is being developed as an alternative to the use of small motorcycles and mopeds for transporting multiple people.  If you’ve traveled to many other countries as I’ve been fortunate enough to, you may have witnessed the same scene that inspired the Nano when you’ve seen three to six people, often a whole family, riding on a single moped as they dart and weave their way through traffic on their way to work, school and home. 

I’ll leave you to read more about the car and the story behind it as a quick search will turn up plenty.  The July 2008 Wired magazine has an article for example called “The $3000, 33-Hoprsepower, Snap-Together ride to the Future” that will provide you with a good overview and insight.  Basic specs for the four door version include:

  • about 10 feet long and 5 feet wide.
  • 623cc two-cylinder 33 HP rear engine
  • capable of 65 miles an hour
  • projected cost new, 120,000 rupees, including road tax and delivery in India, = ~ $2500-3000

As interesting and scary as the whole concept of providing four wheels for the masses of the world is, what has caught my attention of late is the focus on cost  and other reductions which they are taking to a whole new level.  For example they are looking into reducing shipping volume and costs by shipping the cars in a snap together kit form which would be assembled at the destination.  Right now this is very UNsnowflake like in that these cars are in many ways the epitome of mass production and sameness.  However as they develop this LEGO block approach to car manufacturing and start to design for snap together modularity, it is easy to imagine how quickly this would morph into a mashup model that would enable each person to quite literally design their own car, have it shipped to them and and assemble their own snowflakemobile.

Want to try your hand at designing your own Nano?  Head over to this “design your own Nano” site to get an idea how this might work when the choices were much more in number and detail so you could truly create your own Snowflakemobile!

Snowflake Based New Economy?

November 7, 2008

Can’t help wondering (hoping?) if the current downturn in the overall global economy will provide the opportunity and perhaps the imperative to make some substantial changes in our approach to designing and producing products an services?  The one I’m thinking about the most of course is the Snowflake Effect permeating design such that the default design assumption is creating unique products and services which are just the right for each unique person and situation.

This transformation from a model of mass production to one of mass personalization will require a complete new rethinking of many of our fundamental assumptions, processes and infrastructure.  There are other examples in history of such transformations taking place such as the change to containers in the shipping industry, however in all these examples this degree of complete change required an almost “perfect storm” of conditions occurring at about the same time to create the imperative for such a wholesale change.  What can we learn from these previous examples?

Will the current collapse of the global economy combined with other global conditions and an  increased focus on uniqueness, be what it takes to create a new economy based on going after meeting the unique needs of billions of markets of one? 

Global Snowball has a Heartbeat?

October 31, 2008

As per my posting a few days ago “Indi-Groups?” and continuing some comments from my discussion with Kevin Kelly, I was struck by his observation and phrasing (my best attempt to paraphrase from the conversation):

“we are living in a very new and special time when we simultaneously have dramatic increases in the power of individualization AND the power of the group”

In the vernacular of the Snowflake Effect I had been pointing out similar ends of the spectrum from individual Snowflakes to the collective Snowball such as Pluralization of Personalization and “Snowballs are Snowflakes too!”


Kevin noted this startling charting of the October 2008 financial market crash from a recent New York Times article which shows how we are truly living in a global economy that is now acting more like a single organism.  As I recall Kevin captured this nicely when he referred to it as “an economic heartbeat”.


Sure seems to be powerful proof that we are indeed living in a time characterized by the simultaneous powers of the individual Snowflakes and collective Snowball.