The Maker State: From self-buttering toasters to social software in the enterprise

Do you read Make magazine? I’ve enjoyed doing so for some time now, been reading it since its inception. To me it’s a bit like reading Popular-Mechanics-meets-DIY-Home-And-Car-Meets-Popular-Electronics, and there is enough that’s off the beaten track to stimulate me. I feel I learn a lot from going through the projects in each issue, even if I rarely get the time to do the actual Making.

This time something else caught my eye. An article headlined The Maker State, thankfully free and unfettered, no paywall in sight. I really like some of the ideas espoused in the article, about the Maker State. Here’s an excerpt:

In a “nanny state”, somebody else — governments, insurance companies, education administrators — decides which projects makers may attempt and which they may not. In the nanny state, experimenters and builders find themselves deprived of the materials, tools and information they need to carry on their interests.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the “night watchman state”. Here, authorities try to keep thugs off the street, keep the electricity on, and that’s about it. You’re pretty much on your own.

Most of us prefer to live, work and play somewhere in the middle. Let’s call it the “Maker State”. In the Maker State, everyone takes reasonable precautions and wears protective equipment. Safe working practices, if thoughtfully incorporated into the act of making things, can become a performance-improving feature, just as athletes wear better equipment to enhance their performance.

Now that’s exactly how I feel about social software in the enterprise. We must take reasonable precautions and implement safe working practices thoughtfully and sensitively, so as to create an environment where performance is enhanced. We need every enterprise to realise that a Maker State is what we need within the enterprise, not a nanny state.

Otherwise we’re going to continue with the madness of hiring intelligent people and then carefully draining every last drop of intelligence from them. Why would we keep telling intelligent people what to do? In a Maker State enterprise, individual and collective performance is enhanced by the application of the right soft-hands working practices rather than the handcuffs and leg restraints of the Nanny State, or the almost-anarchy abdication of the Night Watchman State.

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