Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
July 26, 2011

Reading is Fundamental

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

We all know that reading is important.  The book Cradles of Eminence (Little, Brown and Company 1962), studied the childhood of over 700 famous men and women.  One of the conclusions of this book is that almost without exception the parents of these children had a love for learning.  This was not just learning at school , but self learning and understanding.  Our own research shows that this is also true with individuals that are innovators.

At the laboratory and in his home Edison created learning environments.  He had large libraries in both places.  He also believed that learning came from observation.  He said, “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.”

His quest for learning extended to his children, even when examining a work project.  Edison’s son Theodore remembered, “…when Father was looking for something, why he would want us to look through all the references to some particular chemical.  So we’d get these books and we’d work maybe until two o’clock in the morning, putting little slips of paper in the books and stacking them up on the table and then he would read through all these references to whatever he was looking up.  The whole family sometimes was involved in that.”

Edison created a learning environment in his home and workplace.  If we want to innovate like Edison we need to create these environments as well.

This Blog was originally posted November 15, 2010.

July 19, 2011

2011 Emerging Explorers

Author: Don Mangum - Categories: Innovators - Tags:

Last year, we chose four National Geographic 2010 Explorers as subjects for two of our blogs.  As you may remember, each year the National Geographic Emerging Explorers Program selects rising talents who push the boundaries of discovery, adventure, and global problem solving. They are the new visionaries leading the efforts to educate and inspire people to care about the planet using natural, technical and people resources to accomplish their efforts.

Today, we introduce two more of these outstanding individuals this time from the 2011 class. They are much like Edison in their chosen fields. They are on the cutting edge of service or technology. If you click on the links, you will find interesting details about their work.

The first is Hayat Sindi, a native of Saudi Arabia, and a real citizen of the world.  How she came to change lives around the globe using a piece of paper about the size of a postage stamp is a story that is both remarkable and inspiring.  No obstacle was too large.  No challenge went unmet.  Relentlessly, she pushed forward with a determination common to many successful innovators.  We hope you have time to read both of these stories, if not, this is a good one.

To read Hayat’s story Click Here  

The second of the 2011 National Geographic Explorers is Juan Martinez.  He is identified as an environmentalist on the National Geographic 2011 list of Emerging Explorers.   He is an environmentalist to be sure, but he is also a social innovator who is making a real difference.  What does this social innovator do?  He affects change in children among the poor in our society by the sheer magnitude of his will.  Once again, his is a remarkable story filled with inspiration.  A chance moment, like many innovations, brought dynamic change into his world.   This time chance came packaged in a failing grade in the class of a great teacher.  This seemingly random moment and the teacher’s caring changed everything for Jose.  In time, it led him to impose his will on his difficult circumstances and today he does the same on the challenging problems of young people.  His unusual approach is why we chose this story.  If you have time, we think it will be well spent getting acquainted with Jose.

To read more about Jose Click Here

July 12, 2011

Harry Potter and Innovation

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

You may know that the last of the Harry Potter movies, Deathly Hallows 2, is soon to be released in the US.  I’ve decided to go see it with one of my sons and his family.  He has five children, four of them in school.  I was at their house the other day, and we talked about their preparations for seeing the movie.  They are very excited to go.  Not only that, in preparation they have been watching all the previous seven Harry Potter films.  I could hardly imagine doing such a thing. 

In talking to them about these movies, it became quickly obvious that they were very well acquainted with the characters, almost like good friends.  If I hadn’t known better I might have thought that Hogwarts, the Wizard’s school, was only a few miles away and some of them had been students there.  After the conversation had gone on awhile longer, I almost wondered if Hagrid was going to come walking through the door any minute.  He’d have to bend way over, of course!  As day turned to evening, darkness began spreading into the corners of the room.  Even though conversations moved on to other topics, I have to admit that I might have looked once into the shadows to make sure that the evil Lord Voldemort wasn’t lurking there.

When we returned home, we were armed with six DVD’s each in turn titled “Harry Potter and ….”  We’d have all seven DVD’s, but the grandkids haven’t seen the rerun of Deathly Hallows Part 1, yet.  So we’re on our own on that one.  I’m not sure we’ll watch them all, but last night we watched the first one, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”  I marveled again at the remarkable imagination of J.K. Rowling. 

Today, I’ve wondered which is best, being the creator like Rowling or having our imagination activated by a good work of fiction?

Edison said, “Inventors must be poets so they will have imagination.”  So, maybe it’s the creator who wins out. 

But, Steve Jobs reminds us that, “There’s a phrase in Buddhism, ‘Beginner’s mind.’ It’s wonderful to have a beginner’s mind.”  So, maybe readers and viewers, like my grandkids, are the ultimate winners, because reading these works can ignite their beginner’s mind. 

In any event, you may want to see this final Harry Potter movie, it could open your “beginner’s mind.”  Or, you may want to sit down and pretend for a moment you are JK Rowling and begin writing the novel you’ve always intended to write.  I guarantee such activities will stir your inventor’s imagination.  And then, who knows what you’ll invent or write.

July 5, 2011

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: http://norwellconsulting.com/Innovation/innovationindex.html 

  This blog was originally posted May 10, 2010.