Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
August 29, 2011

Innovative or Creative?

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

Creativity is a key part of innovation.  But, it is not the end; rather, it is a means to an innovative end. Edison learned early in his career that a key to innovation is making products that people would purchase and use. He stated firmly, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.” Often in our quest for innovation, we forget that we are trying to create something people will really use, something with high utility.

Below is a new product video I really enjoyed. When I first saw the new product, I was really amazed at its simplicity, and it just looked cool. The question to ask yourself as you watch is, “Is it innovative or just creative?” If you watch it and say, “wow, this is cool”, then it is creative. If you watch it and say, “wow, I want to buy one”, then it is innovative. Let us know what you think.

August 22, 2011

Thoughts on Becoming More Creative & Innovative

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

1. Take an individual creativity break. Go to a quiet place where you can clear your mind. Allow at least 30 minutes. If you have an IPod, take it along with some relaxing music. Or take something to read that is uplifting and will momentarily help you slip away from immediate pressures. Or perform a “mindless task” and encourage your mind to wander into creative pursuits. If you carefully pick the times you take creativity breaks, it will add much to the level of creativity and innovation within. You should 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 also helped others do the same. Sometimes major breakthroughs that made a difference in major inventions came this way.  You might also encourage others to do the same.

2. Build your tenacity and persistence. In our research of more than 125 successful innovators, tenacity and persistence were characteristics that were demanded by their work.  In this, we are not talking about the average person’s ability to stay at a task.  Rather, we observed that most of these innovators had remarkable resolves to succeed.  Some faced down extremely difficult challenges before they reached success. 

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 become more creative and innovative by taking some time and considering projects that have potential we 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 continue to develop these diamonds in the rough, you may create great benefit for yourself and for others.

August 16, 2011

Unexpected Innovation

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

Sometimes we look at a product or process and think, “that’s pretty good, I don’t think it can be improved. After all, it’s been done that way a long time and is convenient as it is.”  There is, of course, another point of view.  Today, I want to show you two familiar products  and a well-known service that are still being innovated. Hopefully, after you look at these you will look around and see other products or services that need more innovation.

First, who would have thought that a faucet could be innovated? Well, as you may have already seen, they have been.

Second, innovation of the light bulb did not end with Edison.  As this article shows there is still room for innovation in the production and distribution of light bulbs. To learn more Click here.

And finally the number 911 has saved countless lives and now it will even be better. To read about this Click here.

So look around and see what you can innovate. You may be able to find something to improve where you least expect it, and often it is the unexpected innovations that make all the difference.

August 9, 2011

Innovation is not Comfortable

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

For some reason we as individuals, as companies and often as a culture place barriers between ourselves and innovation.  Often when looking for people to create a work team we say that this person is too old, or too young, or they do not have enough education, or they do not have enough experience.    Frequently we create a group that we hope is innovative, but we look around the room and everyone looks the same with similar background and experiences.

There is a natural tendency to reach a level of comfort and stay there.  There is nothing wrong with being comfortable, but being innovative is not comfortable.  Innovation by definition is moving into areas that are new and exciting, but they also carry risk.  I really enjoy this video as it illustrates that to innovate we should break down fences and maybe invite people on our journey to innovation who we might not think about at first.  Having someone different in your group may make all the difference.


August 2, 2011

Edison Quotes That Make an Impact

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

I have been asked which of Thomas Edison quotes are my favorite. It is hard to pick favorites, but it is easier to point out the ones that have had a greater impact as I have studied the man and his approach to innovation. Here are five quotes that have impacted me:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

The last quote has had an impression on me since I was a boy. My father has had a plaque with this quote on the wall of his office for as long as I can remember.

“Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”

This blog was originally published October 7, 2011