Salim Ismail was the opening speaker on the conference’s second day. It was the morning after the 80s Celebration in the Crystal Ballroom. People partied to the sounds of the B-52s and Bon Jovi late into the night. Between the amplified music, the plentiful amount of spirits and an 8:30 a.m. start to the morning, the crowd entered slowly with a tepid enthusiasm at best. They filed into the auditorium like a kid going to the principal’s office – slowly, with a sense of the pain to follow. Salim was awaiting his turn unaware in the Green Room.
Mr. Ismail hit the stage and within moments, the room was alive and engaged. He was a good speaker with great material. And, the material was mind-bending. Yes, the crowd’s brains may have been in a funk a few minutes earlier, but the blood started flowing quickly. This guy was mind-blowing with his views of the future. I’m not talking George Jetson kind of crazy stuff, I’m talking about right around the corner, it’s here right now stuff.
He began talking about 3-D printers. Now, I’ve heard enough to be dangerous about this amazing technology, but Mr. Ismail crystallized the impact of this technological breakthrough. What he had to say was jaw-dropping. The fact that the invention and subsequent reduced costs will eliminate an entire profession and completely dismember an industry that’s been around for decades left us all aghast.
His comments emphasized the difference between temporary disruption to the marketplace and fundamental change. That’s what leaders do – they recognize the difference between what’s a fad and what’s a new direction. The price on 3-D printers is dropping to a point where they will be affordable to most. With affordability comes the utility afforded to the business world through 3-D printing.
Truly, those who invented and mastered the technology needed for 3-D printing are society’s newest alchemists. Alchemy is the science (almost magic) of taking something rather mundane and converting it into something of greatness. Cows eat grass and turn it into milk in about a 24-hour period. Steve Jobs took the phone from a place of limited utility to becoming the “can’t live without” device of today. Now, add one to the list – the office printer will become the next great thing.
Mr. Ismail warned parents in the audience not to let their kids become pastry chefs. The entire industry is expected to disappear in the next decade because the printer will design, sculpt and deliver the most ornate and decorative chocolates ever seen. Yep, the chocolate of the future will be coming from what we used to call the “copy machine.” You’ve got to be kidding me. And that’s nothing.
A $300 3-D printer is poised to bring the multi-hundred billion dollar cosmetics industry to its knees. You heard right. The printer exists today. Using colored toner, make-up is being produced in the privacy of people’s homes – never again will one have to be barraged at the mall by women and men donned in white coats.
Mr. Ismail took a tired, distracted audience and turned them into wide-eyed, thought leaders who left with considerable spring in their step. Alchemy in its finest hour.