Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
May 31, 2011

Creativity and Innovation

Author: Don Mangum, Jr. - Categories: Become More Innovative, Innovation Quotes - Tags: ,

Edison said, “Inventors must be poets; otherwise they will not have imagination.” This imagination is creativity and is a key building block of innovation. Creativity is the spark or burst that often gets the whole innovation process started.  Most important, it’s a skill we can all develop or improve.

Unfortunately for many of us, we are our most creative when we are in elementary school. That’s a  time when we are willing to draw, paint, work with clay, write stories or even write poetry.  Then we get distracted. We set aside our  creativity and  often we never  pick it up again.  Little  do we know, that it’s  still there waiting to be reawakened with sometimes surprisingly little effort.  So, if you are looking to become more innovative, spend some personal time becoming more creative. Pick a creative activity you haven’t done in a while and spend some time working on it. It will get parts of your creative mind flowing and help ignite the burst that starts innovation. 

One  activity I’ve found  to be helpful is  reading through inspirational ideas of highly creative people.  Here are some of my favorites:

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
          Pablo Picasso

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
          Scott Adams

“Well, when you’re trying to create things that are new, you have to be prepared to be on the edge of risk.”
          Michael Eisner

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
          Maya Angelou

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”
          Theodore Levitt

May 24, 2011

Innovation in 3-D

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

3-D is one of today’s big buzz words.  3-D products are at the cutting edge of innovation.  In today’s blog we’ll show you a revolutionary product, the 3-D Printer, and you don’t need special glasses to use it.  It is truly innovative in two important ways.  First, it takes what was once science fiction and turns it into reality, as you will see.  Second, using this product will enhance the work of many innovators.  If you haven’t heard or thought about this product you will find it to be truly amazing.  In many ways it works like an ink printer, but instead of laying down a single layer of ink, it lays down multiple layers of materials.  Many different types of materials can be used with the 3-D printer, including plastics, metal, wood and ceramics.  Here is a video example using the printer to create ceramic products.

Imagine, in the future, instead of children bringing  home a handmade cup or paperweight from school , they will design it on the computer, print it and then bring it home.  When I was first introduced to this product a few years ago I was astonished by the possibilities.  Our company considered using it to make a miniature model of our product to show to a potential client.   At that time the process was very expensive, so we finally decided not to order one.  Now the technology has taken another step and you can buy a personal 3-D printer.  It may still be expensive for home use, but the time is probably coming when you will print 3-D objects at home. Here is an example of a personal 3-D printer. 

Our purpose for talking about this remarkable product is two-fold.  First, if you aren’t familiar with this technology or haven’t looked at it for a while, you may decide it could be a tool that can help in your innovation.  Second, we want to remind all of us to be on the lookout for new tools that can help us in our work.  Technology changes rapidly, and while you may be on the cutting edge in your field, what’s going on in other fields?  Take a look around you and I’ll bet you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.

More information on 3-D Printing

CNN Article Click here

Wired.com Video on building your own 3-D Printer for under $1000 Click Here

May 17, 2011

Through the Eyes of Children

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

Stories of how exceptional people acted as children help illustrate important principles.  I can still remember the story of young George Washington with a new hatchet.  He decided to try it out on one of the trees on his family’s property.  When his father came home and began to question what happened, George willingly, “Father, I cut down the cherry tree.”  This lesson of honesty is still taught to children in school.  I am not sure if it is true or apocryphal, but I hope it’s true.

Today, I will tell you a story about young Tom Edison’s curiosity and his willingness to try new things.  Al, as Edison was called as a child, had observed that a mother goose sits on her eggs before they hatch.  One time, when the mother goose was not around, Tom decided he would try to get the eggs to hatch by sitting on them.  It did not go well.  Once he sat on the nest and gravity took over all he had was egg on his pants.

When the mess was found by his older sister Marion she told him, “It’s all right, Al, you did a very smart thing even if it didn’t work.  If no one ever tried anything, even what some folks say is impossible, no one would ever learn anything.  So you just keep on trying and maybe someday you’ll try something that will work” (From Edison Inventing the Century by Neil Baldwin, 1995).

This lesson on innovation stuck with Edison his entire life and is one reason he was able to succeed when others failed.  He was always willing to try new things and move into areas others thought were impossible.  This area beyond where others dare to tread is where innovation happens.  You may crack a few eggs, but in the long run you will cook up something new.

May 10, 2011

Try Something New

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

The other night I was going through my iPod thumbing around for some music to listen to. We believe that music can have an impact on creativity, so I was looking to be a little more creative. The song I landed on revived a memory of a time in college when I was studying a lot of different things and introducing myself to new ideas.

I can remember learning a little about a lot of things:  a little English, a little math, some history,  and a touch of philosophy. I even took a ballroom dance class one semester.  A friend of mine talked me into taking it.  The ratio in the class was 4 boys to around 20 girls; it was a fun class. Of course, the only thing I may have learned in that class was that I’ll never win Dancing with the Stars, but maybe it was good just to learn something new. I’m afraid that as we all get older and get deeper into our area of expertise, it’s easy to stop expanding our knowledge. It is only natural that we want to excel in our chosen field, but what are we missing if we don’t continue to broaden our horizons?

Creativity is often taking pieces that already exist and putting them together in new ways. This creativity is often a key step to an innovation. But what happens if we stop putting new information pieces in our head? If we don’t keep putting new pieces in our heads then when the time comes, we may not have what we need to be creative or innovative.

So spend some time in a new area and expand your possibilities. It will help you be more creative and you never know what will happen. You may even find that you like something new, like ballroom dancing.

May 3, 2011

Don’t Skip a Step

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

Apple has become one of the most innovative companies around. Their products such as the iPod, iPhone and the iPad led the way into new areas. But not every product Apple has produced has been a success. Before all of these other successful products was an unsuccessful product, the Apple Newton.

Apple's Newton and an iPhone

The Newton products were the first PDAs (Personal Data Assistant) and tablet computers. If you look at what the Newton could do it is very similar to the PDAs, smartphones and tablet computers of today. But in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Newtons never took off and were never successful products. The question is why did the Newton not succeed when similar products have succeeded since?

The answer may be that Apple tried to skip steps of innovation that are difficult if not impossible to skip. These steps occur in two areas, the technology and the marketplace. The following video explains this principle very well in asking the question, “Why don’t we have flying cars?” After viewing the video ask yourself, “How is this principle at play as I try to innovate?”