Start-ups

    Retro Motorcycles Signal Innovation In Goshen, IN

    Manufacturing in America — Using the Past to Create an Innovative Future

    It’s heartening to learn about a small USA manufacturer who’s doing something creative, new, and interehalcyon-product2sting.

    Janus Motorcycles in Goshen, Indiana is creating hand-crafted, small batch motorcycles. These are simple, accessible, easy-to-work-with bikes. They are throwbacks in a certain way, but don’t get me wrong they’re elegant. The retro-ish designs are informed by old American bike brands like Indian, and old British bikes like Triumph and Norton. It’s not hard to imagine that famous Hoosier, James Dean, riding one of these bikes around the countryside.

    The bikes look like James Dean era rides because Janus purposefully leaves the bikes open, in the sense that all the parts can be seen, and of course, worked with. This is counter to the trend of car and motorcycle manufacturers that discourage amateurs working with their products by covering parts with hoods and hard-to-break-into enclosures. Love that aspect of this story — how do you encourage makers if you can’t play with, fool around with, tinker with, products?

    I love this story for a number of reasons beyond the open design.

    First of all, it’s a young group of guys who put this together. Honest-to-God thirty-something entrepreneurs who are building something with love and passion. Next, they’re American and making something almost entirely in Northern, Indiana. Not just assembly, but design, parts — nearly everything (they do source a motor from overseas… if only somebody would come along and provide an American made motor Janus would be 100% American made!)

    Then there’s the Amish connection.

    Goshen, Indiana, which for those of you who read this around the country is something like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, but without the southern accents. It’s the country, it’s corn, soybeans, orchards, and Blake Shelton on the radio country. That said, Goshen is not far from Elkhart where a lot of fancy RV products are made, so, yes, there is manufacturing in this countryside. The Studebaker was once made in South Bend, as was the Avanti, not far from Goshen, but those companies are long gone. Goshen is in the heart of Amish country. As Janus was getting started, Amish craftsman helped them figure out how to make some of the bits and pieces necessary to assemble these motorcycles. Little known fact but the Amish are incredible “makers” who know how to work with metal and sophisticated tools. The “maker movement” is not just for hipsters in urban areas!

    The business grew out of the co-founders love for mopeds and small bikes. They knew that market well. They started making custom bikes together and found a synergy in the way they think and create. One a creative out-of-the-box approach, the other a respect for design and a hard won comprehensive knowledge of small displacement bikes.

    Devin Biek and Richard Worsham, the Janus co-founders, were not experienced manufacturers when they got this going — but they figured it out. They prove that smart people, seeking to build something with high quality, can manufacture. This is not a trivial thing because in America we’re going to have to learn how to manufacture again. We can do it. This is proof.

    Reshoring is a concept where you think of businesses coming back to America to make things. As a trend it’s slow in developing because there is so little incentive for those outfits to return. For mass production you go where there is cheap labor. Really, we don’t want those companies back if they’re not going to pay people middle class wages. Reshoring may happen here and there, but to recreate a manufacturing sector we kind of need to start over.

    In reality, jobs are created in manufacturing now in America by people like Biek and Worsham, who are starting from scratch, learning as they go, and making something great. They’re really not competing with Honda or the other big players because they are making something with a truly unique high value, special, Limited Edition products. That’s how you get started, and that’s how eventually you reinvent industries. That’s not reshoring, that’s re-creating. That’s how you grow job bases in regions.

    Rebuilding the manufacturing base is going to require about 100,000 more companies like Janus, not the pipe dream of big companies coming back. Don’t believe the lies some politicians tell about this. You don’t reverse a 40 year trend of offshoring just by talking loud. You do it by encouraging, supporting, teaching, and in general, loving, young makers. That takes time, and what governments can do is either stay out of the way, or, do something to support the maker movement in education and in worker re-training.

    They have a lovely video on the Janus home page, about 25 minutes long that tells their story. If you want to be inspired as an entrepreneur, have a look. Good luck Janus!

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    Innovation Facilitator Tool Kit

    I am sometimes asked what a Facilitator should have in their kit bag. Here’s my answer — the Innovation Facilitator Tool Kit list. The items are below in bold. Many have links to where you can source the materials. I’m assuming the facilitator is a hands-on project leader who facilitates meetings, such as idea generation or strategy sessions. I did not take into consideration travel via plane or car. Obviously, some things are more portable than others. Consider this a master list which you can subset for your needs. Some of these items are not available off the shelf retail, so, put this kit together ahead of time so you can focus on design and executing your session plan as




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    21 Rules for Innovation Team Building

    I revised this “rule of thumb” list for a client and she suggested I re-share it in a blog post. This list is the accumulated wisdom of many years and it includes thinking from colleagues in the innovation space. Its target is the innovation team leader, but there are lessons for all types of team members here. The big change from the previous version is the emphasis on projects. It’s the key to Innovation in my view, from culture change to positive team dynamics to effectiveness of an overall innovation program. It’s the one thing of innovation — doing Projects. So here goes: 21 Rules for Innovation Team Building 1. A strong bold project initiative, with a clear vision for




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    Damaged Pure Michigan Brand Impedes Economic Development

    Pure Michigan is a Damaged Brand As a Michigan resident I’ve followed the developments in Flint with a mixture of horror, sadness, outrage, and confusion.  This post is not about political blame. Having said that, I don’t deny the political element to the problem; it’s a sad tale of bad decisions on top of bad decisions, and some of those made for purely political reasons. Fact seeking people on both sides of the aisle need to take a very close look at what’s happened. The focus of this post is about the damage that has been done to the state of Michigan’s brand, Pure Michigan.  This is not being talked about, but it’s as damaging in the long run as




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    Graphene Application Challenge Prize?

    The Graphene Challenge Graphene is a new material that is just in its infancy in terms of commerical usage. It’s from graphite, the stuff in pencils. It’s magical stuff — 150 times stronger than steel, flexible like rubber, and potentially usable in electronics, water filtration, energy, building construction, medical, and more. It’s the thinnest material known to man at this moment. It’s 250 times more conductive or “mobile” than silicon. It hit the news again recently as scientists have discovered a much cheaper way to produce the material. This is a market that is about to explode. It’s frustratingly hard to work with. But that’s the fun part.  Unfortunately for the USA, it would see the prime early movers in




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    Paying Lip Service to Developing Entrepreneurs

    There is a very frightening trend happening in the USA. We are not growing entrepreneurs. See my “Seven Ways to Grow Entrepreneurs” below! What is it we believe in our capitalist country? Isn’t it something like this: Anybody who works very hard, has a bit of talent and a good idea, can start something, grow it, and do well.  Isn’t that the essence of the entrepreneurial American dream? Yes, there is more to it than that. Yes, you can fail. Yes, it’s a market driven meritocracy — or it should be. I’ve always taken this entrepreneurial spirit for granted – it’s who we are! I’ve always assumed that as the years go by, more and more Americans (and this extends




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    GOP Debate: No Mention of Manufacturing

    A short post to make an observation. Say what you will about the GOP debate last night — and there is much to say — there was no attention paid to manufacturing. Search the transcript, you’ll not find the word mentioned a single time. Wow, it’s a very big point to miss. In related topics innovation was mentioned once, and infrastructure, a huge problem, was not mentioned at all. Why is it important and a big missing that manufacturing wasn’t mentioned? Manufacturing, and the middle class jobs that accompany renewed manufacturing, are absolutely essential to sustained, healthy economic growth. Our growth right now is anaemic in large part because of this missing element. We are not going to be a




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    Baby Steps To Breakthrough In Regional Economic Development

    Creativity, Innovation, and Economic Development — Embracing the Challenge Better Questions Means Better Answers for Regional Economic Development It’s about Attitudes, Projects, and Baby Steps Economic Development is important and challenging work. Having just interviewed players in this field and surveyed some regional initiatives — it’s clear that innovative work is being done in regional economic development — by some. I suspect that many in the field find the economic development challenge overwhelming. A bit like the Bob character in What about Bob, it’s tough to be creative when you are afraid to take a simple step. Thank you Bill Murray for a memorable character. Let’s face it, some regions always seem to lose out on the new plant. Some




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    Rural Broadband Necessary for Rural Innovation

    Tuesday– September 23, 2014 It’s nice to see that people are recognizing that innovation isn’t always in Silicon Valley. Writing you today from the countryside in Three Oaks, Michigan, aka “Michiana” — where my poky web access is satellite based. Steve Case’s article earlier this week in the Washington Post  — Why innovation and start-ups are thriving in ‘flyover’ country —  is spot on. Case, you may recall, was co-founder of AOL. He correctly identifies the reasons why Chicago, Denver, Cincinnati, and other smaller cities are becoming vibrant centers of start-ups. He’s asking for investments of time and money to be made in order to further the trend. I agree, and… He didn’t go far enough with his article — he missed one




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    Employee Abuse is Poison to Innovation

    Abuse Poisons Innovation Efforts — and Innovation Experts Take Fairness as a Given The Five Forms of Employee Abuse (see below) One of the nice things about working for yourself is you don’t have to put up with abuse. Yes, sometimes I’m out there scrambling, sometimes clients are very demanding — but that’s a small price to pay for living or dying on the strength of my own ideas and work. I was reminded yesterday that the vast majority of people work for a company. A good friend suffered a demeaning and unfair incident at work — and it was devastating. I recalled the many times in my early career when similar things happened to me. It occurred to me




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