Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
January 31, 2012

Pure Imagination

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

My son was recently in the musical production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at his junior high school. I went to one of the evening performances and was very impressed with the production. After I returned home, I realized that I had not only seen a great production (put on by 11 and 12 year olds), but I had also been introduced to a great innovator, Willy Wonka.

As you may remember, the fictional character Wonka was the greatest choclatier in the world. He was not only creative but had built a large successful company. He embodied two of the great aspects of innovation. He created new products, and he was able to take them to market.

One of the songs in the play is entitled “Pure Imagination”. What a wonderful idea. It was Wonka’s ability to spend time in pure imagination that allowed him to innovate. And the time he spent in his imagination fueled his innovation. The crazier and more outlandish the idea, the more time Wonka spent exploring it.  After I found the words to the song, I came up what I believe is part of the definition of pure imagination.

Pure Imagination
1. No limits to the possibilities
2. If you want to see paradise simply look around.
3. If you want to change the world, there is nothing to it.  Do it!

I have included two versions of the song for you to look at. The first is from the original movie musical. The second is a more modern version with words to follow as you listen. After viewing these, take some time and tap into your underused resource of Pure Imagination.



And if you like your Pure Immagination with a Rock Edge Click here.

January 24, 2012

Buzzwords and Catch Phrases

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

Buzzwords and catch phrases have become part of our business culture. Often they express a complex thought or idea in a few words. Unfortunately, when used too often or when spoken without the performance to back them up they can become cliché or even counterproductive.

One of the phrases that I love and hate the most is “Thinking outside the box.” It expresses a very important idea for business and innovation. The ability to see new solutions to our problems outside of what we or anyone else has been doing is very important and a characteristic of many of the great innovators. But this phrase has been used so often with no performance, that it no longer has the meaning it should have.

IBM illustrated the problem this way:

So what’s the solution? How do we avoid having buzzword bingo played in our organization? The answer is simple in explanation, but often difficult in execution. We have to talk less and perform more.

Edison illustrated the solution when he stated, “I have more respect for the fellow with a single idea who gets there than for the fellow with a thousand ideas who does nothing.” Showing that we can think outside the box will do more for our group or team then telling them that it is important. So let’s go out and perform with a “little less talk and a lot more action.”

This blog was originally posted November 30, 2010.

January 17, 2012

Do we Fear Innovation?

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

As a manager or as an organization do you reward innovation? If you ask anyone this question the answer will always be yes. But is this answer true or have we created an environment that talks about innovation but does not reward truly reward it?

Instead of asking the question about innovation, let us ask it about risk. Do we as a manager or an organization reward taking risks? Risk sounds scary. If we take risks we are going to fail sometimes, but is that a bad thing? Edison said, “Every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward.” To innovate we have to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them.

Now back to the original question. Do you reward taking risks and being innovative or do you reward playing it safe and maintaining the status quo? Take a look at the following short video and see if this resembles your organization. The answer may surprise you.

January 10, 2012

Edison and the New Light Bulbs

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

Last week new efficiency standards went into effect for light bulbs. Edison’s invention that brought light to the world has new standards that will eliminate his old bulb and replace them with new more energy efficient bulbs. These standards have created some controversy and I have wondered what would have Edison felt about the new government standards? I was not sure that he would have liked them, but then I read an article by Thomas Edison’s great-grandson entitled, “Edison would’ve loved new light bulb law.”

The article makes a number of points but the one that really sticks out to me is if Edison was alive today, he would be in his laboratory trying to invent a better and more efficient light bulb. Edison continually strived to improve on what he invented and was never satisfied. One of my favorite Edison quotes is, “Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”

So look around and see what you have stopped innovating, but yet could be improved. Maybe it is time for you to re-innovate your light bulb.

To read David Edward Edison Sloane’s insightful article, “Edison would’ve loved new light bulb law” Click here  We think you’ll find it very interesting.

January 4, 2012

Edison: Goals and Resolutions

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

This time of year people reflect on the past year and set goals and resolutions for the next. Where can we improve? What can we accomplish? Such questions often fill our minds at home and work. Thomas Edison asked these and similar questions all through his life. He had a unusual outlook as he sought the answers. When he applied his conclusions to innovation, he created remarkable results.

A great example from Edison’s life about his goals and vision is found in the creation of the light bulb. Edison had a vision of what he wanted to accomplish: to create the incandescent light bulb. While he had some ideas on how he would accomplish his goal, he did not have all the steps laid out on a nice checklist. In fact, most of his steps “failed.” He tried thousands of approaches to developing the right filament that did not work. This didn’t distract him from his goal. What others perceived as failure, Edison viewed as important steps to his ultimate goal.

When asked about his results, or rather lack of results, regarding the light bulb Edison stated, “Results? Why, man, I’ve gotten lots of results! If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward…” He recognized the small steps he took brought him closer to his goal, even if an outside observer considered it a failure. Each “failure” was really a learning opportunity.

Innovation often comes from trying new approaches to old problems. So as we begin a new year, keep in mind the words of Edison’s good friend Henry Ford, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

This blog was originally posted December 28, 2010