23 – From Planned Obsolescence to Openness
Many people had the experience of their 2-year-old kitchen supply fail unexpectedly. I’ve seen four hand blenders fail in my hands in the past eight years. The last one broke after only two years of very mild use for no obvious reason and was a very special disappointment, as it was one of the more expensive choices in the shelve. I thought I had invested some extra money in some extra quality, durability, reliability…
But what i got was most probably „planned obsolescence“ – the product was made to fail quickly so that I buy a new one soon.
But this time I thought I’d make an effort and ask hacker friends from my co-working space, if they could fix it. A couples days later I found the hand blender on my desk with a note saying:
„Can’t open it. Can’t fix it.“
So, this time they shall have it back, I thought. I will send this thing to where it came from and „simply“ ask them to reinvent their product system.
In a world with limited resources, we need to be able to fix things, instead of buying not recyclable non-repairable products over and over again.
My answer to this „junk product“ condition is this letter below, that I invite you to copy, adopt and print, and send it along with your next broken procuct to the manufacturer of the product:
Dear Producer of [product name],
I’ve really enjoyed your [product]. Yet, after only 2 years of mild use and for no obvious reason it has stopped working properly.
My efforts to fix it are hindered through the closed design of the hardware, which comes down to plastic clicking and glue (???). Where opening means breaking it even more, as once opened it would not be possible to reassemble all the parts in the same way. This [product] is now doomed to end on a landfill or at max be down-cycled, instead of being fixed and used. Given the world’s limited resources, I see it as your duty to use your power and energy wisely, as to produce products that are mindful of our shared global resources.
The advantages of creating products that are more transparent and fixable are not only on the consumer side, but also beneficial for the producer.
Here are some interesting ways to open your product to make sure it is the better product for the user in the end:
- Offering an openly accessible construction plan of each product and
- using standardized and modular parts, that can be assembled and disassembled with common tools available in every hardware store.
This kind of Openness would open up new ways for your customers to engage with the product. They can even improve it through open innovation processes, which you as a manufacturer would benefit from. The resulting product durability would increase customer loyalty. Customers will not invest their money in a product again that has proofed not-durable the first time. They will rather try a different brand. If the customers find a company, which goes by the points listed above they will probably opt for their products instead.
Here lays your chance to be that pioneer and become one of the first movers for openness in your industry.
Author of this window: Jenni Ottilie Keppler