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On the Verge of Change
A Commentary by e MOTION! REPORTS Publisher

Myron D. Stokes

The first industrial revolution, typically considered as having occurred between the late 18th and late 19th centuries, placed an abundance of goods in the hands of the masses through improved manufacturing methods. It also triggered a shift from a farm-based, self-sustaining existence for many, to one dependent on factory work in or near large population centers.

The second industrial revolution received its impetus largely from the invention of the automobile and accelerated with Henry Ford's development of the production line. To be sure, if the first revolution initiated a population shift to the cities, the second unleashed a torrent of movement - even creating new metropolises.

Technology Sponge

It is said that the automobile is the most significant contrivance of humankind - along with the aeroplane - from the standpoint of its being a "technology sponge." That is to say, it's not only capable of absorbing and utilizing virtually all existing technology, but that yet to be invented. As a result, all other industries are rendered as suppliers. Further, it can be said that the car is not only part of a vast industrio-economic system, it is the system.

World commerce has at its core the conceptualization, development, manufacture and improvement of motorized vehicles for mass mobility. And for nearly a century, not much has changed in a broad sense: We assume that the process of vehicle manufacture and sale won't change beyond selecting your model at the dealership, in person or on the 'net, deciding whether to lease or finance and off we go. The process gets repeated every 3 or 4 years.

"The Scene of the World is Changing"

When an ancient scholar uttered the words "The scene of the world is changing" nearly two millennia ago, he had reference to Roman socio-economic structure. But he may as well have been applying this to our current state of affairs. Why? Because while still existing within the second industrial revolution, we may be on the verge of massive change that can hit with tornadic speed and impact.

The Third Industrial Revolution?

A collaborative effort between three scientist colleagues, Russians Boris Zlotin and Alla Zussman of Ideation International, Inc. and Ford Motor Company's Larry R. Smith, has produced an extraordinary White Paper: "Futuring the Next Industrial Revolution."

This powerful document not only suggests our current method of vehicle production and acquisition will be altered almost beyond recognition, but that the automobile's place in and impact on the environment will make the transition from being "less harmful" to "positive". Indeed, one that is 100 percent recyclable (at present, only 1,045 lbs. of every 10,000 lbs. of raw material is reusable) with characteristics more organic than mechanical.

Inventive Problem Solving

"Futuring" also advances the TRIZ (pronounced trees) concept, a Russian acronym for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving and the result of a half century of research by Russian mechanical engineer Genrich Altshuller. While working as a specialist in the Soviet Navy's patent department in 1946, he sought better ways to apply creativity and categorize the innovation process by working closely with inventors. To advance the process, two scientists trained in the method, Boris Zlotin and Alla Zussman, founded the Kishinev School in 1982, now the leading institution and authority on TRIZ.

Ideation International, founded in 1992 by CEO Zion Bar-El, partnered with the Kishinev School with the goal of introducing TRIZ as a base component of a business entity's employee training programs, at every level and position. The end result is - at least in theory - that the entire organization can become part of the problem solving process, as opposed to a few departments or individuals. The process can be applied to a specific problem on a per project basis as well. Several companies have already benefited from an Ideation team being brought in to help redirect existing efforts attempting to address a manufacturing or design difficulty.

Innovation in a Can?

From what we have been able to discern thus far, TRIZ may come close to "packaging inventiveness", although it has been demonstrated throughout history that rarely are truly new technologies the result of institutionalized research. These macro-leaps forward, from the steam engine to aircraft to the microwave oven, are overwhelmingly the result of tireless efforts on the part of a singular visionary working with partners. Usually, they went totally against accepted scientific thought, practice and the current state of technological advancement in any area.

This observation is somewhat at odds with an aspect of the TRIZ process, Directed Evolution, which postulates that technological systems evolve not randomly but according to objective patterns of evolution. As the son of a scientist/inventor, I have had the opportunity to watch the innovation process first hand. I must say, however, that Altshuller's development of TRIZ and its attempt to map the human creative process evokes comparisons with the Human Genome Project. Obviously, we are not implying similar complexity or import.

Based in Southfield, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, Ideation primarily targets TRIZ to the automotive and aerospace industries - their client list is impressive, from GM to Lockheed Martin -- but has much broader applications. Ideation's site www.ideationtriz.com provides an expanded description of this process. ER will stay close to the project and offer updates relative to its continued implementation.

A Disturbing Observation

The tone of "Futuring" document may initially identify it as a tome for traditional environmental change, but it goes well beyond that.

This is not a collection of potentially politically inflammatory expressions; rather, the observations and conclusions are made on solid science. "Futuring" also looks at the macro picture as it relates to the automobile's impact not only on the environment, but on our economy and culture, of which it is an inextricable part.

If there was any aspect of this work that could prove to be unsettling, if not disturbing, for many is the discussion of "New Car Smell", upon which the authors attach a danger sign. Without doubt, this aspect of the car buying experience is the most pleasurable: The result of olfactory organ stimulation triggering a core emotional response of pride and accomplishment. In fact, it is so powerfully associated that product is available purporting to "maintain that new car smell."

The problem, according to the authors, is emissions deriving from a combination of plastics, carpet and seat materials which may well have carcinogenic qualities.

Our review of the document prompted us to present "Futuring" in its entirety as a PDF download. We warn you, however, that assimilation of the information and insights contained within will irrevocably restructure your deepest held convictions regarding the world's largest industry.

Change, indeed.

Myron D. Stokes







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