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.