As part of the learning process, it is important to see, touch and feel what you are trying to learn about.  Edison was a ferocious reader, but he also recognized the value of being able to see and experience.  He stated it this way, “In regard to things I have never seen before, I would rather examine something myself for even a brief moment rather than listen to somebody tell me about it for two hours.”

I have seen this with the engineers I worked with.  After we hired a good person, one of the first things that we did was get them into the field.  Until they got out and actually saw how people used the product and how it worked beyond the drawing board, they would never reach their potential.  It was also amazing how many fewer mistakes were made after they had actual experience.

I found an interesting study that shows how this can work.  Currently the European Space Agency is sponsoring an experiment where they are simulating a manned trip to Mars, Mars500.  A group of six crew members are living in isolation simulating a manned trip to Mars.  During this nearly two year experiment they live as if they are in a spacecraft traveling through space.  They simulate the twenty minute time lag in communication, eat the food one might eat on the trip, and will even simulate leaving a landing craft and exploring the Martian surface.  With a little imagination, they behave every day as if they were having the actual experience.   By doing this, the crew and supporting scientists are learning more about how to help the astronauts who will make this trip a reality in the future.

So what does this have to do with our quest to become more innovative?  It is part of the foundation of what we are trying to accomplish.  We need to make sure we get ourselves, and/or our team out of the office and experience the world.  We need to see, feel, touch, and learn from reality and then apply it.  The benefits will be enormous.  Edison saw this and eloquently described the process in the lives of children, but it applies to all of us, “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.”  So let’s break out of our cocoon and see what emerges.

To visit the Mars500 Website Click Here