• Are modular and customizable smartphones the future, or doomed to fail? A case study on the introduction of sustainable consumer electronics

      Hankammer, Stephan; Jiang, Ruth; Kleer, Robin; Schymanietz, Martin (CIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology, 2018)
      Mass Customization (MC) has become a major trend in the consumer goods market in recent years. While the economic chances and threats are already described very well, the social and environmental impact of MC products remain unclear. Phonebloks, a design study of a modular smartphone launched in 2013, created a vision about fostering sustainability through MC. Teaming up with Google’s Project Ara, a modular and customizable smartphone approach seemed very likely to reach market maturity. In 2016, Google canceled Project Ara shortly before the awaited market introduction. Analyzing the rise and fall of the first large scale MC based business model that was initially designed to foster sustainability in the consumer electronics market, gives us the opportunity to revise the economic, social and ecologic potential of modular and customizable smartphones in general. Furthermore, with constantly growing consumer requirements for new product iterations in shorter time frames, traditional measures for success, such as time-to-market, could change inherently as we are moving closer towards iterative product development processes and much shorter product life-cycles. This, in turn, leads to major changes for ramp-up processes. Using a qualitative case study approach based on expert interviews at two different stages of the Project Ara development process (2015 and 2017), we shed light on the future of modular and customizable smartphones and their economic, social and ecologic sustainability potential. We show that while Project Ara failed in the end, it had the economic potential to outperform its competitors in the field of modular smartphones. We find that an MC approach could lead to longer smartphone or, at least, component life cycles. Finally, we affirm a positive potential for influencing sociocultural behavior in the long tail of the smartphone market.
    • Collaborative value creation from a degrowth perspective

      Hankammer, Stephan; Kleer, Robin (Journal of Cleaner Production, 2018)
      The concept of degrowth aims fundamentally at reducing material and energy throughput equitably, while questioning the desirability of further economic growth. In order to achieve this reduction of society’s throughput, radical changes in the ways goods and services are produced, distributed and used are required. In this think piece, concepts of consumer integration into the value creation process and (new) enabling technologies are discussed as possible constituting elements of alternative organizational models in a degrowth society. To date, collaborative value creation concepts, such as crowdsourcing and mass customization, have been discussed almost exclusively as business model patterns for companies in economies that are set to grow. The same applies to the assessment of (new) technologies, such as additive manufacturing, web-based user interfaces for co-creation, and other flexible production technologies that allow for collaborative and individualized production. Potential positive and negative effects of these concepts and technologies with regard to the objectives of degrowth are discussed in order to initiate a debate about the inclusion of CVC for the design of alternative organizational models that are in line with degrowth thinking. This think piece illustrates that several elements of collaborative value creation and its enabling technologies coincide with degrowth objectives but do not lead per se to their attainment. Thereby, a starting point for future (empirical) work in this area is generated.
    • Degrowth and collaborative value creation: Reflections on concepts and technologies

      Hankammer, Stephan; Kleer, Robin (Journal of Cleaner Production, 2018)
      The concept of degrowth aims fundamentally at reducing material and energy throughput equitably, while questioning the desirability of further economic growth. In order to achieve this reduction of society’s throughput, radical changes in the ways goods and services are produced, distributed and used are required. In this think piece, concepts of consumer integration into the value creation process and (new) enabling technologies are discussed as possible constituting elements of alternative organizational models in a degrowth society. To date, collaborative value creation concepts, such as crowdsourcing and mass customization, have been discussed almost exclusively as business model patterns for companies in economies that are set to grow. The same applies to the assessment of (new) technologies, such as additive manufacturing, web-based user interfaces for co-creation, and other flexible production technologies that allow for collaborative and individualized production. Potential positive and negative effects of these concepts and technologies with regard to the objectives of degrowth are discussed in order to initiate a debate about the inclusion of CVC for the design of alternative organizational models that are in line with degrowth thinking. This think piece illustrates that several elements of collaborative value creation and its enabling technologies coincide with degrowth objectives but do not lead per se to their attainment. Thereby, a starting point for future (empirical) work in this area is generated.
    • From phonebloks to google project ara. A case study of the application of sustainable mass customization

      Hankammer, Stephan; Jiang, Ruth; Kleer, Robin (2016)
      Mass Customization (MC) has become a major trend in the consumer goods market in recent years. However, it is still unclear if MC goods have a positive impact on the environment due to the many influencing factors in comparison to mass produced goods. With Google’s “Project Ara”, a modular and customizable smartphone approach is very likely to reach market maturity and its economic, social and ecologic impacts are still unclear. Using a qualitative case study approach, we shed light on its potential economic success. Furthermore, we use the two theoretical concepts of Eco Innovation (EI) and Systemic Innovation (SI) to assess Google Ara’s potential to lead to changes in terms of ecologic and social concerns. In our analysis, we show that Project Ara has the potential to outperform its competitors of modular smartphones. We work out that Google’s modular approach could lead to a longer useful life of smartphones – or at least for some components. Finally, we affirm Project Ara’s general potential for being an SI. Even though Project Ara will very likely not change the complete smartphone market and the behavior of the involved actors, there is a potential for influencing sociocultural behavior in the long tail of the smartphone market.
    • Mass customization and sustainable consumption: Nudging consumers towards more sustainable choices.

      Hankammer, Stephan; Kleer, Robin; Piller, Frank (2018)
      In this study, we shed light on the unexplored potential of customer co-creation in a mass customization (MC) setting to contribute to the promotion of sustainable consumption. We theoretically derive and empirically test a number of opportunities for companies to improve corporate sustainability in a joint effort with consumers. Our research bridges between the MC and the sustainability literatures and shows that MC enables consumers to cohere attitude and action based on individual sustainability preferences. We use a mixed-method approach to empirically assess whether MC companies can nudge their customers successfully towards more sustainable choices by designing sustainability-based starting solutions and by providing sustainability information in MC configuration systems. We do so by portraying a simulated online buying process of a customizable TV with a realistic web-based product configurator. We find that offering goods with customizable attributes of different sustainability levels gives consumers the ability to customize products reflecting their individual consciousness for sustainable consumption (CfSC). Moreover, sustainable default settings play a significant role in promoting sustainable consumption, while providing detailed sustainability information does not show an effect. To get more insights into our results, we discuss the results on a supplementary qualitative analysis, revealing also a number of suggestions for future research
    • Towards degrowth-conform organizational models: Framework development and application

      Hankammer, Stephan; Kleer, Robin; Mühl, Lena; Euler, Johannes
      Economic growth is predominantly seen as a central economic and political goal. Recently, this view has been increasingly criticized and the idea of sustainable degrowth emerged as an alternative paradigm in order to ensure human wellbeing within planetary boundaries. As business activity is a key driving force behind economic growth, the role of corporate organizations in a transition towards a post-growth society is a particularly challenging question. It is for instance still unclear how business models for degrowth- conform organizations could look like. In order to address this research gap, our study aims to elaborate the role and design of organizations and their respective business models within the degrowth context. In this exploratory work, we use a two-step approach: Firstly, based on a systematic literature review we provide an overview on business-oriented findings in the degrowth literature. Based on this, we derive elements for a conceptual framework development to consolidate fragmented findings within the degrowth discourse. The resulting framework serves to describe principles for the design of degrowth-conform organizations. Subsequently, we conduct interviews with three CEOs of certified Benefit Corporations (B Corps) and an in-depth case study with four interviewees with a prime example of a B Corp: Dr. Bronner’s. Overall, our findings show that B Corps to some extent successfully implement numerous degrowth- conform elements within our current economic system. However, tensions regarding growth-orientation remain, and further need for research regarding the role and design of organizations for degrowth is identified."