The Ripple - Digital Transformation - Edition 2/2020

Case Study of Disruption: 3-D Printing

As companies think about their purpose, they are well advised to move beyond thinking of themselves not only delivering products and services, but delivering outcomes for customers, society and even the planet. Ask yourself this key question to determine (or refine) the purpose of your organization: "What are the outcomes you are delivering?"

3-D Printing is a potential disrupter of a classical manufacturing business. Leaders can use scenario role-plays to gain important insights. You begin by assuming that this technology has fully arrived. This assumption enables a company to explore what it could mean for its manufacturing footprint, supply chain, the nature of work in the factory et al. The result of these thought experiments enables a company to become better prepared for the future and act proactively rather than just reacting to on-going developments. It provides observations which enable an organization to articulate its purpose and the desired outcomes which it intends to deliver to its customers and society.


The word “vision” is a much misused word. Crafting a vision is challenging. In an era of constant disruption, a company’s vision is more crucial than ever. You don't want to be fighting the last challenge but preparing for the next one. In the words of the great Canadian ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky: "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." The challenge is manifest. How is it possible to envision a future 2 to 3 years away - never mind 5 to 10 years in the future - with technology developing at such a rapid speed? Processes such as scenario role-plays or reverse engineering of the future can provide helpful insights. Such processes help to make explicit the transform- ational impact of technology your business faces.

How does this work in the current business environment?

The advantage of this approach was evident at a recent health care conference. Participants from various companies were discussing the adoption of the current EMR technology (Electronic Medical Records). As part of this discussion, they contem- plated upon the potential impact of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology on EMR in the coming years. Many participants reached the conclusion that a large majority of the EMR systems which they were currently developing would be obsolete by the time they were implemented.

An example in the field of manufacturing makes this point clear.

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