Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
September 27, 2011

Edison’s Recipe for Success in Innovation or Anything Else

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

Cooking shows have become very popular. Several cable cooking networks only broadcast programs about cooking. People are shown making, demonstrating and competing while creating elaborate meals and other food products. Often these master chefs follow highly detailed plans on how to make these creative and innovative dishes.

Edison may not have been a master chef but he was a master innovator. He had a plan or what he called a recipe for success.

He stated, “If you want a recipe for how to succeed as an inventor I can give it to you in a very few words, and it will do for any other business in which you might wish to engage. First, find out if there is a real need for the thing which you want to invent. Then start in thinking about it. Get up at six o’clock the first morning and work until two o’clock the next morning. Keep on doing this until something in your line develops itself. If it doesn’t do so pretty soon, you had better shorten your sleeping hours and work a little harder while you are awake. If you follow that rule, you can succeed as an inventor, or as anything else, for that matter. It was the following of just such a rule that led to the invention of the electric light, the phonograph and the kinetoscope.” (From At Work with Thomas Edison, by Blaine McCormick, 2001)

We can summarize Edison’s Recipe in these steps:
1. Look for a need-Then look for a solution
2. Start to think about it-Dream about the solution
3. Get up early the next day-Start working on it
4. Don’t get discouraged-If you do not find success, work harder

These steps are fairly simple and yet profound. So now that you have his recipe, let’s go out and see what we can cook up.

The blog was originally posted December 7, 2010.

September 20, 2011

Immerse Yourself in the World of Thomas Edison

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

One way we all can learn how to become more innovative is by studying the lives of innovators. We have studied the lives of over one hundred and twenty-five innovators.  While there are many similarities, you can learn something new from each one and their individual approaches to their problems and issues. You probably don’t have time to look at hundreds of innovators, so if you have time to look at just one, we recommend Thomas Edison.

Thanks to the work of many historians and others through the years, we have an incredible amount of information about Edison and his inventions. Through books and other media you can study his life and his approaches to innovation. We also highly recommend going to the historical sites that preserve his legacy, if you can. Here you can immerse yourself in his world and gain insights into the life of the greatest of all innovators.


In addition to the laboratory, the historical site includes the Edison home in West Orange, NJ. This is a very important part of your visit–to be able to immerse yourself into his personal life. It shows that Edison had to struggle to balance his personal life with his professional life. It will also help you see him as a real person who led a remarkable life.


These and other Edison historical sites allow you to get a little deeper into Edison’s life and his innovations. Reading books and stories about him is very helpful, but to walk where he walked and see where he worked provides unique insights. Now, we don’t all have time or resources to make a personal visit to the Edison sites, but there is another way to immerse yourself in his world of invention. That’s through your imagination. If you take the time to study, and then imagine yourself there in his world, you can also gain valuable insights.  So, we recommend that you take time to immerse yourself in a world of innovation by using your imagination.

September 13, 2011

Getting into the Habit of Innovation

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

We like routines and often get into habits of doing the same things over and over again.  It is comfortable.  It’s easy to do it the same way we did before.  Sometimes it’s the old habits that prevent innovation.  We need to break through our old habits and at the same time help others embrace changes.  The following video show what happens when we don’t break old habits and embrace new innovations.


September 7, 2011

Is Innovation Crazy?

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

New ideas are often met with skepticism and ridicule.  People don’t like change and are often comfortable with the way things are.  This can be true even if circumstances are not good and things are not going well.  The lack of support of others or their resistance can be a significant barrier to innovation.

Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, put it this way, “When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts.”   What some people call crazy, I would call a willingness to go into the unknown, recognizing the risk but willing to take the risk to get to the reward.

I recently came across a cnn.com article about the iPad and airplanes that reminded me of this idea.  When iPads came out some people just focused on what it could not do.  They mocked the name. Who would want one of these devices?  The answer now is everyone.

In the article an airline announced that they are replacing the paper pilot manuals on their planes with iPads.  There was some resistance to the announcement.  What would they do if the iPad failed?  I focused on what the iPad was going to replace.  The manuals and other materials a pilot was required to carry weighed 38 pounds and was more than 12,000 pages long.

I asked myself what is crazy –  the new iPad or a pilot in a plane with 12K pages worth of materials and no search capability.  Often the real crazy or dangerous behavior is staying with the status quo. 

So the next time someone says your idea is nuts it may just be a sign you’re on the right track.  The best thing we can do is go out and get a little crazy.

To read the airline article click here.