Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
April 26, 2011

Is It Naptime Yet?

Author: Don Mangum, Jr. - Categories: Become More Innovative, Thomas Edison - Tags: ,

In a blog we wrote last year, we talked about Edison and the Secrets of Sleep.  Today I would like to expand on that. Edison had what most of us would consider unusual sleeping habits. He stated, “I enjoy working about 18 hours a day. Besides the short catnaps I take each day, I average about four to five hours of sleep per night.” His use of “catnaps” is well documented and well photographed. But was this approach really a secret to his success?

I am not sure we can always take a nap in our office in the middle of the day, but there is possibly a principle involved here. Sometimes we need to take a break and get away from our problems or the issues of the day in order to solve them. Taking a break and coming back to it later is often a successful approach to solving problems. This may be difficult for those of us who want to attack our problems directly and quickly, but patience is a very important part of innovation.

Also, the nap itself may have been one of Edison’s secrets. The following video discusses how a nap may help us be more creative, a key component of innovation. It is a good message, but afterwards you may just want to go and take a nap.

April 19, 2011

How Innovative is a Carrot?

Author: Don Mangum, Jr. - Categories: Innovators - Tags:

A few weeks ago, we asked if ketchup could be innovative. Now we are going to ask if a vegetable can be innovative. Why not?

Several months ago one of my children asked me where baby carrots came from. While this is a much easier question than where actual babies come from, it was a question I couldn’t answer.  Recently I ran across the answer and I was truly amazed.

In the mid 1980’s a California carrot farmer named Mike Yurosek was frustrated with the number of carrots he couldn’t take to market. A large percentage of carrots do not grow in the proper shape, the one we see Bugs Bunny nibbling on. These carrots are deformed or “ugly carrots.” Industry estimates are that one-third of carrots are not pretty enough to sell in stores. But, like many people, while they are not attractive on the outside, they are still great on the inside.

Yurosek searched for a way to sell the “ugly carrots.” He knew he needed to change their looks.  At first he worked by hand.  Soon he combined an industrial green bean cutter with an industrial potato peeler and created a small peeled product which he named baby carrots. He sold them to some stores and the baby carrots became an immediate hit. It is now estimated that baby carrots are a 400 million dollar a year product. To succeed, Yurosek left the path that everyone else followed and was clearly rewarded.

So yes, a carrot can be innovative. Yurosek used what was considered waste and with the help of a new process he created a new product that he took to market.  Not as flashy as innovating in the high tech area, but still incredibly innovative. So, the question we should ask ourselves is what do we have sitting around or are throwing away that could become the great new innovation?

April 12, 2011

Can you hear me now?

Author: Don Mangum, Jr. - Categories: Innovators - Tags:

We all know that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. This was an opening step in the communications revolution that continues today. Before Bell’s invention, long-distance communication was by telegraph using Morse Code. With the telephone, conversations were actually possible with another person hundreds of miles away.  An interesting fact you may not know is that it took an invention from Thomas Edison to make this invention commercially viable.  (To learn more about Edison’s contribution to the phone click here

I thought about Alexander Bell the other day while attending a sporting event. At half time, I looked around the arena.  At least twenty people in my section alone were on their smart phones texting, twittering, taking pictures.  One man was even talking on his phone. I was impressed not only with the phones, but also with the invisible network that allows thousands of people to be connected to it in a relatively small place. I wondered what Bell would think of this.

We have come a long way from his relatively simple invention. I think that Bell would have liked how his invention has evolved and all that has come of it. He once stated, “Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do you will be certain to find something that you have never seen before. Follow it up, explore all around it, and before you know it, you will have something worth thinking about to occupy your mind.”  Bell followed his own advice and had many, many more inventions than the telephone.

His words remind us that we often have to leave the familiar path to innovate. While this may seem obvious, it is easier said than done. Sometimes we may think we have left the path when we have just stepped away from our comfort zone. While we may be taking a risk personally, if we’re not careful, we will leave one path only to join a well-worn path forged by others. 

So when should we leave our path?  I have two suggestions for you to consider.

    1. Leave the path when you are looking for new solutions
    If we keep reading the same books, magazines, and blogs in our own industry we are going to stay on the same path. Don’t be afraid to look to other sources of information that may not seem relevant for your answers. It may lead you to a place that no one has been before.
    2. Leave the path when you are applying solutions
    Sometimes new innovative direction comes from doing something familiar in a new way. By looking at approaches outside our industry, for example, we learn how others are doing something and  discover it could work for us.

So next time that you look down and see that your trail is turning into a rut, it’s probably time to get off the path. You may find something you have never seen before and didn’t even realize you were looking for it.

April 5, 2011

Celebrating a One Year Milestone

Author: Don Mangum, Jr. - Categories: Innovation Quotes, Innovators - Tags:

Twelve months ago we began blogging about Thomas Edison and Innovation.  In this time we have really seen a lot of growth in the number of those following our blog.  Thank you for your continued interest and support.

We thought that today we would focus on three areas that we have covered in the last year, creativity, learning from the past and enjoying life and innovation.  Each area has a quote, video or link to a post that covered part of this subject. 

Importance of Creativity

Inventors must be poets so that they may have imagination. –  Thomas Edison

Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things. 
                                                                                     – Theodore Levitt

5 Activities to Help Others Become More Creative and Innovative

How Harry Potter Has Helped Me at Work

We can learn from innovators of the past

Edison Quotes That Make an Impact

What can we learn about Innovation from Henry Ford?

Enjoying Life and Innovation

It’s kind of fun to do the impossible. – Walt Disney

Whistle While You Work

 This video about innovation always makes us smile.