Customizing the Customization Lexicon

The more recent and ongoing shift to customization in manufacturing has also spawned specialized words and terms. Some define variations and subsets of customization: mass customization, co-creation, crowdsourcing, open innovation, virtual personalization, personalized production, DYO—design your own, and so on.

What got us thinking about such terminology? In a somewhat whimsical exercise, we wanted to pinpoint a dictionary-worthy word or phrase that captures a unique hybrid in the customization universe: what Nike Team Sports does.

The online platform enables Nike customers to collaboratively design uniforms using an array of digital tools. Not random retail shoppers, but the athletes who will wear the uniforms, coaches, athletic program administrators, and Nike dealers. In some cases, even athletes’ parents participate. Enabling this, ahem, team effort, is 3D visualizations of uniforms and many customizable options.

The phrase niche crowd-sourced co-creation encompasses the key characteristics of the process and rings with alliteration. But it’s too windy for widespread adoption and makes a less than memorable acronym. How about collaboratively customized by stakeholders? Better yet: DBS—designed by stakeholders.

We can daydream about a distant day when DBS is so ubiquitous that it morphs into a verb, the ultimate lexiconic honor. Imagine a Stanford University football player speaking to a University of Oregon player just before the coin toss:

“Hey dude, killer uniform. Let me guess—it’s DBS-ed.”