Friday, April 25

Are you a Maker or an Inventor?

I was speaking last weekend in Cedar Rapids Iowa at a Makers Fair event.

Cedar Rapids, in addition to being a quintessential Midwestern town, was surprisingly a hub of technology. Surprising in the sense that we tend to equate towns like Cedar Rapids more with agriculture than technology - but with Rockwell Collins, and other high tech firms anchoring this community of doers and problem solvers, it should come as no big revelation that the makers movement found its way to the flatlands of Iowa.

As often happens, I was asked to come speak about the inventing industry and trends in the industry that impact us as America's Inventors. This time though it was a bit different. I was at a Makers Fair event, and the crowd was anything but typical inventors.

In preparation for my speech I spent some time researching the Makers Movement, trying to understand the core values of this groundswell of creativity and how it compared to our world of inventing.

What I found was surprisingly simple. Makers are inventors, and Inventors are makers - there is but one fundamental difference - Intent.

Intent, the reason we do something. In the inventing industry we are driven first by a need to create solutions, followed quickly by a desire to commercialize our work. Over many hundreds of years the result has been the birth of both great invention, and intense paranoia.

In contrast, the young (it has only been around since 2005)Makers Movement is more the Gerry Garcia approach to free love inventing. An open society of sharers who solve to learn, and share to further the world they live in. Commercialization is a distant thought in the back of a very creative mind focused on process and communal creation.

While sometimes critical of the commercialization aspects of more traditional inventing, Makers are still finding their way in a in a world that has grown leaps and bounds in just nine short years.

I suspect as time goes on, and the Makers start to see the commercial success that is inevitable in an innovative environment, we'll see a softening of opposition to making money from free love inventing. After all, as much as Gerry Garcia loved riding around in an old school bus, he didn't give away his albums - he sold them.

Thanks so much to the great folks at the Cedar Rapids Science Center and The Makers Space for having me. It was a great time, and I truly enjoyed meeting everyone.

Mark Reyland

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