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Giving a talk on radical humanism next Friday. "Where's the ROI?"
Dial in information is here.
Here are my slides. They're a work in progress.
Do you believe the future = breaking down the walls?
I invite the community to edit.
- D
All opinions my own and not those of my agency or the federal government. Photo by Sreejith K via Flickr.

Branding Advanced Manufacturing: 5 Lessons For Practitioners

Since November 2014, I've been working to brand a public-private government initiative called the National Network For Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI).

The NNMI is a collection of advanced manufacturing technology R&D institutes, each focused on a particular technology.

(The term "advanced manufacturing" means new and improved materials, made in new and improved ways, i.e. connected to the Internet.)


These institutes matter because the USA has been slowly losing the know-how to manufacture its own inventions for the past 15 years.

Flat-screen TVs and lithium-ion batteries are just two examples.

And very often, as with robots, the means to make a thing can also become a product in and of itself. The industrial robot that assembled a car can also be the sex robot that serves as a personal companion. 

These technologies, when successful, have enormously wide-ranging capabilities. 3D printing, for example, is a means to produce everything from the aforementioned cars to prosthetic limbs. Intelligent fabric can make a bulletproof T-shirt or a bikini that tells you when you're about to suffer a sunburn.

The Vision

Freedom. "Make it here, sell it everywhere."

It's easy to depend on buying cheap foreign-made products on-demand. And that's exactly what has happened to many American consumers, as well as the businesses who need to get their products made.

We want to ensure the long-term freedom of our nation by shoring up the internal capacity to make what we sell and use.

Presenting Problem

It's risky and expensive to invest in figuring out how to make a thing. But it's important to have the ability. That's why other countries have been pumping massive amounts of money into this kind of activity for decades. 

In this country, we put the emphasis on private-sector priorities and private-sector incentives. So to launch an institute, the government chips in half the seed money and the private sector chips in the other. 

Each center has to become profitable within 5 years or they go under.

Innovation Required

Given the limited window of time to become profitable, the effort to brand these institutes is time-sensitive. 

This gives the job some urgency.

But it's taking place in a startup environment, as specifics regarding operations are being hashed out all the time.

There are also very limited funds available with which to do the job. 

Plus, it's an interagency effort. So there's a need to coordinate activity not only within one bureaucracy, but half a dozen.


Before you do a thing you ought to know what your goal is. Mine are very simple because they connect directly with return on investment:

1. Inform the public about what their money is being spent on. (This is similar to any government branding effort.)

2. Connect our institutes with each other and the public so as to spark an ongoing conversation that helps people find well-paying jobs in manufacturing, and that helps employers manufacture things cheaply and efficiently right here in the USA.

3. Help our individual institutes become financially sustainable, relatively quickly.


"Pressure is the only way to make a diamond." It's true: Even with all I've experienced, observed and read about branding, the methods I've ended up using are unusual. 

While it's too soon to tell if the effort will ultimately be successful, I think I'm ready to begin documenting  my methods for the sake of other brand practitioners.

1.Tell your spouse or significant other

My husband has known me for nearly 25 years. If I'm spouting nonsense he's very comfortable telling me so. You can't convince the world if you can't convince your spouse.

2. Find your audience on Twitter

Twitter is highly sensitive to what people want to talk about urgently. Your tweets are a great indicator of whether the public cares about what you have to say, and more specifically, who in the public cares.

3. Talk about it on Facebook

Brands are built one person at a time. They are built not in a vacuum, but in conversation. They are personal. This is why Facebook is the perfect place to engage in brand-building activity. You can talk about your experience building the brand, or you can share interesting popular new stories that relate, along with a comment.

4. Get help from as many people as possible rather than a select few

When you are building a brand, it makes sense to engage as many people as you can along the way. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, you encounter talent that can take your browned in a completely different direction, in ways you could not have anticipated. Second, these small audiences can double as brand testers, as well as brand-amplifiers. Whether you are talking about staff, colleagues, potential partners, or even the media, the conversational interchange between you and the other person leads to actual publicity as well as new ideas about which aspects of your message have the most impact.

5. Test and iterate in public 

Normally one thinks of branding as a private, protected activity that is kept away from the public until a logo or tagline is ready to be unveiled. But if you take the opposite approach, and involve the public and what you are doing, a sort of bond develops between you and the people you are trying to reach. Even if you fail, you succeed - sort of like committing to lose weight in public.  It is also cost-effective to pilot many outreach ideas simultaneously and drop the ones that don't work relatively quickly.

Undoubtedly there is a lot more ground to cover. But these are some of the essential things I've done over the past half-year or so. Further updates to follow.

Lifting The Curse Of Adam (Life In The Moneyless Future)

"By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food." - Genesis 3:19
It is easy to understand the curse of Adam as a prediction. But painful and dangerous physical labor, for men, is not a good thing.

Neither is the subjugation of Eve and the women that descended from her. ("Your husband...will rule over you." - Genesis 3:16)

Rather, Jewish people understand that a life of toil (Adam) and dominion (Eve) was the price they paid for interfering with G-d's plans for the world.

Before they ate of the Tree of Knowledge, man did not have to "work" to provide for his wife; woman did not have to worry that engagement with family would hurt her.

The task of humanity is to overcome these two curses.

Feminism, therefore, is a spiritual quest. What was ours to begin with now has to be won: Restore the balance of power between the genders.

But very few talk about the quest for male empowerment. It sounds paradoxical; don't men already have the die cast on their side?

The Bible would say, not so. By virtue of being "slaves to the workplace," whether that workplace be a farm or a factory or a cube farm, men have historically lived within the conditions of that ancient curse.

It is in this context that we can understand modern technology and the quest for more and more automation.

This, too, is a spiritual quest. It is a quest that can ultimately set men free from their historical chains. So that one day they can take care of their families, without ever having to set foot in a place of work.

Doing things that don't matter to them.

Earning pennies on the dollar they return to their employers in value.

There is only one way that we can screw this up. By once again interfering in G-d's plans for the future of humanity. By thinking we know more, and can take more of the world's blessings than the next guy.

As women gain the equality to which we are rightfully entitled, it goes without saying that we cannot use that power for harm - i.e. if we act to subjugate others then we risk losing all the ground we've gained. We are at risk of retaining or even worsening our curse.

Similarly, as men are gifted with the knowledge to understand the scientific laws of the Universe, it is incumbent on them to act with generosity to the rest of human kind. Freedom thus means finding a way to release all people from the toil of slave-like, dangerous, unnecessary work, so that there is nothing standing in the way of prosperity and freedom.

We can work together, men and women, to lift the curse of Adam and of Eve. We already have the know-how. We already have the will.

What we lack is the commitment to each other that is needed. Once we have that and choose to act in unity, G-d will rain down an eternity of blessing on the people. And we will not know human suffering any more.


Photo by Rob via Flickr Creative Commons. All opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my agency or the Federal government as a whole.