Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
May 26, 2010

Activities to Help Others Become More Creative & Innovative, cont.

Author: Don Mangum - Categories: Become More Innovative - Tags:

1. Encourage tenacity and persistence. Thomas Edison observed that, “many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

In 1980, Mary Ann Shaffer, on a whim, traveled to the island of Guernsey in the “nethermost reaches” of the English Channel. While there she learned of the trials and tribulations of the people of Guernsey during World War II. The island was occupied by the Germans during the war. Mary Ann returned home with an armload of books about the island and its wartime history. She had always wanted to write a book “that someone liked well enough to publish.” Twenty years passed before she took up the Guernsey Island project in earnest, a labor of love that took another seven years. As she was concluding the book, Mary Ann fell ill and grew too weak to finish. Her niece, a writer in her own right, stepped in and guided the project to the finish line. The book was published in 2007 under the title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It has become a runaway international best seller. Unfortunately, Mary Ann passed away before its popularity was fully known. She died February 2008 at the age of 74. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been changed because Mary Ann Shaffer didn’t give up.

Such stories beg the question, what’s inside each of us waiting to spring free that would make the world a better place?

We can help others become more creative and innovative by encouraging them to take some time and consider projects that have potential that they have left unfinished or given up entirely. Who knows what has been discarded that could fit into Edison’s category of being close to success? If you can lead others to develop these diamonds in the rough, you will create great benefit for the individual and the organization.

I have a project that I set aside awhile ago that still intrigues me. I’m going to resurrect it. I’ll keep you posted in the coming months.

2. Teach your team about the Edison Event. Pick something you learned that was helpful to you and teach it to them. You will be twice blessed. You will reinforce your learning from the Edison Event and you will help them benefit from it, too. If you haven’t attended an Edison Event yet, check it out at:

3. Give team members an individual creativity break. Send them to a quiet place where they can clear their mind. Allow at least 30 minutes. If they have an IPod, have them bring it along with some relaxing music. Or you might ask them to bring something to read that is uplifting and will momentarily help them slip away from immediate pressures. Or give them a “mindless task” and encourage them to let minds to wander into creative pursuits. If you carefully pick the times you do this, it will add much to the level of creativity and innovation within your team. You could do this once a week or so, even in periods of great pressure.

Edison was noted for taking such breaks and coming back with significant new ideas, thoughts and projects. He helped others do the same. Sometimes major breakthroughs that made a difference in major inventions came this way.

May 19, 2010

5 Activities to Help Others Become More Creative and Innovative

Author: Don Mangum - Categories: Become More Innovative - Tags:

1. Cultivate a sense of wonder. Thomas Edison said, “You cannot put a price on the knowledge gained by children when they are allowed to see something with their own eyes, such as a cocoon breaking open and a butterfly emerging.”

Encourage team members to keep track of moments of wonder and report back from time to time. For example one person reported getting up to get a child a drink in the middle of the night and becoming lightheaded on the way. Quickly reaching for a handrail on the stairs, she waited for blood flow to normalize her balance, etc. On the way back from the kitchen, she had a moment of wonder: How did the designers of handrails know just where to put the handrail to make it so easy to find? She Googled it and found many interesting answers about the design of handrails. A simple thing, but feeding your sense of wonder, a sixth sense of sorts, can lead to many creative and innovative thoughts.

2. More on wonder. At a recent Edison event, I sat with a geologist who told me about tectonic plates. I was fascinated by the discussion. I’m now beginning to study tectonic plates and learning how the earth has left clues about many things within its folds. Wonder leads to asking thought provoking questions which often lead to creative ideas that can lead to remarkable innovation. So we suggest it again—cultivate a sense of wonder, personally and in your team and share it.

3. Ask others to read the Edison and Innovation Blog post: 10 Activities to Help You Become More Creative and Innovative.

4. Seek out problems that need solving. Give your team the opportunity to discuss work problems that need to be solved that will make the team, the division or the company more effective and positively affect the bottom line. This can be done by giving an assignment ahead of time to bring ideas to future a team meeting. Or, it can be done spontaneously in a brainstorming session.

5. Send members of your team to the Edison Event presented by Norwell Consulting at West Orange, NJ. To learn more about the Edison Event go to:


More ideas about how to help others become more creative and innovative will follow in future blogs.

May 4, 2010

Ten Activities to Enhance Your Innovative & Creative Skills

Author: Don Mangum - Categories: Become More Innovative - Tags: , ,
  1. Go for a walk.  Go alone or with somebody you enjoy.  Notice the beauty in the surroundings.  Think about what you hear from nature.  Become immersed while shutting out all the usual distractions as much as possible, whatever that means to you. 
  2. Listen to the “right” music.  When I listen to Enya in a quiet, private place, tension disappates, my creative juices seem to ooze out and creative, innovative ideas frequently start to flow.  If you take time, you’ll find music that will work for you. 
  3. Go golfing.  Go with friends, but not necessarily business associates, in fact, probably not.  This one is included for those of you who must be doing something when you’re doing something else.
  4. Write a short story.  A very short story.  Pick a subject like:  “A street urchin was approached by a woman dressed in white.  What did she say?  Why was she there?”  But you’ll have to choose another subject.  I’ve already done the one about the street urchin.  When you write your story, isolate yourself from the world in a way that works for you.  Take only 30 munutes or so.  Listening to music might help.  If you’ve already tried writing a story, I recommend that you do it again.  It only gets better. 
  5. Invent something.  Be bold. Come up with something that will revolutionize your industry; your world; or the whole world.  Take only 30 minutes.  Conceive of it.  Design it—draw it.  Keep doing this one from time to time and who knows how your life may change. 
  6. Become an artist.  If this sounds impossible read Betty Edwards book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and do the exercises.  This took me about 30 hours and has changed my perception of my gifts, talents and abilities.  She provides a portfolio of art materials through her website, www.drawright.com.  She promised that anyone can draw.  I knew she was wrong.  She was right!  I can draw.  Anyone can learn.  I also learned that as I draw, my creative, innovative side is more active in many other parts of my life.
  7. Shut out the static in your life.  Not forever, that won’t work, but at least do it for a set period like an hour or longer.  You can make it happen. The rules are simple.  No phones, no emails, no interruptions.  During this welcome break do something creative.  If you can’t think of anything, check out the other items on this list.  Maybe you’ll find something on the list, or maybe it will help you think of something else.  In any event, if you do this regularly, creative ideas will begin to emerge.
  8. Take a nap.  If you have courage, do this during the middle of the day.  At work, if you can get away with it.  There are numerous pictures of Thomas Edison sleeping during the work day.  In some of these, he’s on a small bed in an alcove in his large office where he often slipped away for a quick rest.  His wife Myna provided the bed because she didn’t like the pictures of him sleeping on a bench.  Remember, though, he owned the company, so he could do what he wanted.  You may have to pick your times and places more carefully.  When you wake up, write down some of your immediate thoughts.  You’ll often find some great creative solutions to current problems.
  9. Find relaxing activities at the end of the day.  When you’re winding down just before bed time, read a good book, listen to relaxing music or other more gentle evening activities.  In doing so, you’ll be more likely to find creative solutions to problems while you’re sleeping.  If you wake up in the night with a good idea, write it down before you go back to sleep.  Frequently the idea will be a very good one; but sometimes it will seem like gibberish when you read it in the morning. 
  10. Attend the Thomas Edison and Innovation Event.  It’s presented by Norwell Consulting at the Pleasantdale Chateau and Edison Historic Laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey.