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Move over IT: Time for Operations to have some fun!

Ever watch the TV show Silicon Valley? It’s only half-parody. The HBO fan favorite will launch its third season this spring. Whether it’s the self-righteous but goofy Erlich and his startup ‘incubator’ or ‘Pied Piper’ founder Richard Hendricks, the characters depict the Silicon Valley quest to become the next ‘unicorn’; to develop the next billion-dollar software company.

The software culture is indeed larger than life. And outside of consumer apps, the vast majority of resources go towards the enterprise – helping IT professionals solve critical business challenges.

As seen in ‘Silicon Valley’, these companies compete to be the coolest, most exciting and most innovative. And they do a pretty good job. As a result, if you are an IT professional in today’s world, you enjoy a tapestry of always-innovating vendors working for you.

IT professionals deal in products that are updated monthly – not every decade on the decade. And it’s fun. If a challenge exists, so too does an exciting software solution. Just ask your favorite IT and MIS colleagues which exciting new apps they’re evaluating today. Gone are the geeky days of IT. It’s officially cool to be a nerd.

But with a host of new manufacturing business models and techniques, such as 3D printing, rapid prototyping, modular design and a host of short-run capabilities, the side of the enterprise that deals in the physical world is now taking off. Suddenly, innovation is moving way past the pixel, giving facility managers, designers and operations professionals of all kinds the same opportunity for innovation.

Put simply: If you run a business or a facility and don’t work with awesome technology companies creating exciting new products, you’re missing out on a paradigm shift in creative manufacturing.

The Wall Street Journal nailed this topic in its October piece on Clarus Glassboards. The title of the article is ‘A Startup that Actually Makes Stuff’. It describes a culture of innovation, youthful leadership, disruptive business models, sustainable design and anything but the status quo. It describes the opposite of the big businesses that have served commercial markets for decades – no outsourced manufacturing, no compromise in design. It describes everything you’d find in a billion dollar software startup, but in the physical world.

It turns out, this was the intention of Clarus Glassboards founders Robby Whites and Jeremy Rincon all along. Said Rincon:

“We wanted to make something tangible; if you dropped it on your foot it would hurt.”

The Clarus kind of company is essential to bringing innovation to the physical world historically underserved. In fact, so sluggish had been the pace of physical product innovation that Paypal founder and software investor Peter Thiel could no longer ignore it early last year.

Said Thiel in April, 2015:

We’re in a “two-track” era of innovation with lots of breakthroughs happening in the world of bits, between information technology, mobile, and that thing called the internet.

Yet the world of atoms is slow — with space travel, high-speed transit, and new medical devices still largely remaining the stuff of science fiction.

But last month Elon Musk’s SpaceX program did the impossible, landing a booster rocket after sending its payload into orbit and truly, the excitement – and investment – in the physical world has been rekindled. Musk, who is also pioneering electric cars as the founder of Tesla, refuses to accept the status quo historically prescribed in the manufacturing of products.

How about you? Are you demanding innovation in the products you buy? Every challenge in your operation is a business challenge of cost, efficiency, quality, performance, reliability and there’s no time for obsolete products (such as traditional whiteboards) and boring companies.

Your suppliers should be innovative, designing cutting edge products such as Clarus’ Flip, which won Interior Design’s Best of Year award for 2015. And as these companies come to resemble the cool Silicon Valley problem solvers your friends in IT work with, you should expect even more than they do.

You should demand white-glove service and shipping and logistical proximity – innovation in the physical world must be decidedly physical. Whereas Silicon Valley companies trade phones for chat, and info, Clarus Glassboards respond to customer intrigue with professional detail, answering the call for better service.

Clarus Glassboards might just be the prototype for the kind of exciting, innovative businesses commercial markets increasingly demand. Where others focus on economies of scale, Clarus focuses on quality. And where others focus on sticker price alone, Clarus thrives on a superior cost of ownership – a higher order of value. And while its too late for other manufacturers to bring a Silicon Valley style of innovation to the writing surfaces market, Clarus Glassboards will continue to leverage the first-mover advantage to create superior solutions for innovative professionals.