Open Skunk Works

For quite a while I have wanted to manage engineering at a “skunk works” – the closest I came was running the “Cafe Design” project at Interval Research Corporation, but there we were only developing research prototypes, not products. I did implement a skunk works strategy there called “the inventions strategy”, through which we would attempt to invent and develop tools and devices before they were requested by the researchers.

Perhaps (this is real-time daydreaming) there would be a way to assemble a development group to serve the chaotic market of makers and open hardware developers in a fashion synergistic to all participants (and not exercising hegemonic control by absorbing other participants). The nature of the problem solved by this group would be the need to develop and produce variations of baseline designs to fit the marketing needs of makers.

Given that a significant part of the maker movement is fueled by “3D printing” technology like the MakerBot, what could be developed might be palettes or libraries of design files that would allow makers to assemble configurations of basic electronics, human interface (like pushbuttons, touch sensors, displays and interfaces) into an enclosure sized and manufactured to order, along with its contents.

The name of the function would be “electromechanical compilation” or possibly “product compilation” if it included software, and it would involve the efforts of a significant number of engineers and others from a number of disciplines. Or possibly “Open Skunk Works?”

It’s a daunting prospect that needs a “ramp” on which to approach it – this is also called a “road map” when planning products.  I expect to be spending more time thinking about this problem and hopefully breaking it down into smaller problems. Right now this is as far as I go on it, but watch this space.