Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
October 25, 2011

Innovation Thoughts

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

Thomas Edison surrounded himself with great thinkers and was friends with some of the most successful people of his day. I think he would have valued many of the ideas suggested below, some very similar to his own and others are in contrast to his thinking.

On the importance of a fearless attitude toward change which is the foundation of innovation

Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Keller

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”—Eleanor Roosevelt

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”—Helen Keller

“We may not be interested in chaos but chaos is interested in us.”—Robert Cooper, The Breaking of Nations: Order and Chaos in the Twenty-first Century

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”—General Eric Shinseki

On your individual role in innovation:

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”—Gandhi

“You are the storyteller of your own life, and you can create your own legend or not.”—Isabel Allende

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” —Karen Lamb

On the human side of innovation:

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

“The two most powerful things in existence: a kind word and a thoughtful gesture.”—Ken Langone, founder, Home Depot

“The deepest human need is the need to be appreciated.”—William James

This blog was originally published August 5, 2010

October 18, 2011

Roadblocks to Successful Innovation

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

I have really enjoyed helping people work through the process of innovation.  Even though key principles of innovation always apply, each situation is unique and different.  Lately, I’ve noticed several roadblocks to innovation.  Hopefully, we can help you stay on the path and avoid these roadblocks.

1. Not knowing what you don’t know.  Innovators are typically experts in their fields.  They are smart, creative and work hard.  But nobody is an expert in every field.  If someone assumes that their intelligence and hard work will get them through every situation,  they will be very disappointed.  Finding an expert with different skills and background can help avoid this roadblock.

2. Not knowing the difference between an invention and innovation.  I have seen a lot of really neat inventions.  When I look at them, I think here is something that’s very creative and will solve a problem.  Unfortunately, some inventors think this is all there is to innovation:  find a problem and solve it.    They fail to recognize that innovation is not just in creation, but also in taking their product to market.  As simple as it seems, the keys to avoiding this roadblock are making sure the invention will really help the user and then creating a clear path to get it to market.  If an innovator will follow this path, the chances for success will be greatly enhanced. 

3. Not recognizing the many resources available for innovation.  Often innovators try and reinvent the wheel when what is really needed is an innovative improvement.  Edison said that he started where others left off.  With the internet and other technologies, innovators can see what others have done, move past their mistakes and/or build on their successes.  Also, other qualified people can be used as resources to increase the probability of success.

As you work your way along the road to innovation, watch out for the roadblocks.  Most can be avoided if you look up and see all the people and other resources around you.

October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison–World Class Innovators

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

With the loss of Steve Jobs, we thought it would be fitting to re-post a blog we posted last year titled, “From One World-Class Innovator to Another.”  Both Edison and Jobs give us great examples to emulate in our quest to become more innovative.

From One World-Class Innovator to Another

Originally posted June 16, 2010

Steve Jobs is the co-founder, inventor and chief executive officer of Apple. He also previously served as chief executive of Pixar Animation Studios and is now a member of the board of The Walt Disney Company. He has a lot in common with Thomas Edison as these quotes illustrate.

1. Steve Jobs said: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

I have on my bookshelf dozens of biographies of leaders I respect: They include, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Churchill, Schwarzkopf, Gorbachev, Gandhi, Joshua Chamberlain of Gettysburg, Thomas Edison, the Watson’s of IBM, etc. These men were innovative geniuses and great leaders. It might even be said that innovation demands leadership, or leaders. Without leaders, innovation would be reduced to only an unfulfilled idea or ambition. It seems that great leaders arise when critical needs are met with innovative solutions. And so I wonder, what is happening around you that requires an innovative solution. If you seize the opportunity, then you are or will become a leader.

2. Steve Jobs said: “We think basically you watch television to turn your brain off, and you work on your computer when you want to turn your brain on.”

At a recent Edison Event, several people challenged themselves to take steps to ensure they have personal time. Turn off the phone for a time, don’t accept calls for an hour or two, no emails for a set time, listen to good music, frequently shut off the TV in the evening, were among many recommend actions to keep the brain more active and creative. Sometimes the computer can become a distraction as well. It takes effort to ensure that you have some peace and quiet, but it can be done.

3. Steve Jobs said: “There’s a phrase in Buddhism, ‘Beginner’s mind.’ It’s wonderful to have a beginner’s mind.”

Another way to say “beginner” is “child-like.” One of the challenges of a maturing adult is to maintain a “beginners mind.” What are threats to a “beginners mind”? There are many.  Some very common threats include:  1. Successful patterns of behavior; 2. The certainty that comes from experience; 3.  Routine familiarity with our surroundings; and 4. A bureaucratic culture.  Edison said it this way, “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.” Fostering a “beginners mind” is a important step toward continuous innovation.

October 4, 2011

To Innovate you have to Step into the Abyss

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

Not long ago, I read an article and said, “WOW, this is one of the best articles about innovation I’ve read recently and the author doesn’t realize it’s about a key innovation element.”  The article is titled, “You’ll freak when you see the new Facebook”  and was written by Pete Cashmore, founder of Mashable. 

Facebook users have probably heard about the upcoming changes.  Non-users won’t care, but they’ll hear about them, too.   After discussing some of the changes, the author makes this stunning observation, “You’ll revolt when the site rolls out its new features in the coming weeks.”   He means “revolt” in the way companies fear:   bad press, unrest in the twitterverse and people leaving Facebook.

All of this begged the question, why would Facebook risk alienating users? The problem they’re creating is easy to spot:  fewer users equal less revenue.  Everyone knows that. And Facebook is led by smart people who know how people react to change. 

So why would a company that has changed the way people use the internet do such a thing?  I asked myself, “What’s the potential benefit?” Then the light came on.  Taking such a risk is often a cost of innovation.  A company, an organization or a person that wants to be innovative must be willing to boldly step into the darkness.  The key is to understand the risk and at the same time recognize the potential reward.

At the end of the article the author says, “So yes, you will hate the new Facebook profile when it launches in the coming weeks. Then, like me, you’ll realize Facebook has unleashed something so remarkable you didn’t even recognize it.”  Facebook is willing to take the risk because they know they have created something unique and innovative.  Now they just need to see if the market will accept it.

I have no idea if the changes at Facebook are good or bad, or if people will accept them.  But I do know this:   If more people would take risks such as these, the rate of innovation would dramatically increase.  Will there be failures?  Yes.  But there will also be amazing successes.  So, if you have an innovative idea it’s time to step out into the abyss because taking the risk may be the only way you can succeed.