Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
February 29, 2012

Will anyone use your innovation?

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

Clever ideas and innovations can appear very similar at first glance.  The difference is whether the new product, process, or procedure has utility in the market.  Or to put it in a more simple way, will anyone use it?  Sounds straightforward enough, but is it?

 We all live and breathe our innovation.  It becomes our creation, our child.  Edison sometimes referred to his inventions as his children.  This can create a danger, a danger that we will not be open to criticism and that we won’t listen to others.  Sometimes we don’t even listen to the end user, the person who will use the innovation.  What to us may be a great improvement, to them may be a scary new way to replace the old tried and true approach.

The following video illustrates how difficult change may be to the end user.  After you see this, we hope you remember to innovate with the end user in mind.


February 21, 2012

Could You Innovate with Thomas Edison?

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

Do you have what it took to work with Thomas Edison and become one of his Muckers? Edison had a test for some of his new employees that was very extensive. Today, some even call the test eccentric. The test covered your knowledge in your area of expertise as well as some general knowledge questions. For example a mason would be asked, “How many cubic yards of concrete in a wall 12 by 20 by 2 feet?” And everyone was asked questions like, “Who was Francis Marion?” or “What city in the United States is noted for its laundry-machine making?”

What really impresses me about these questions is that they required a depth of knowledge in the employees’ speciality but also required a broad, almost “Jeopardy” level of understanding in other areas. Such a breadth of understanding is a key to innovation. Many people are experts in their own field, but do they have enough experience in other areas to find new solutions? Edison would often take what was done in one discipline and apply it in others. As we innovate, we need to look for people who have a broad understanding to help explore new areas and find undiscovered solutions.

So, spend some time learning new things outside of your profession or area of expertise. It may help you find the very innovation that you’re looking for.

(To begin expanding your knowledge while learning more about Edison’s test click here)

February 13, 2012

Overcoming Barriers to Innovation

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

What are the barriers that are keeping us from innovating? How do we push through these barriers? While there are external barriers, most of what we must push through is in our own minds. These are the obstacles that we can best attack. This first short video shows that the line between art and engineering may only exist in our minds.

So, if the barrier exists in our minds how do we break through it? How do we improve? A first step is to identify the barrier and then find a creative way to move over, under, around or through what is stopping us. This second video from Tom Schmitt, President and CEO of FedEx Global Supply Chain Solutions, illustrates how we can do this in a practical way, by combining our analytical and creative sides or reaching out and getting help.

This blog was originally posted January 4, 2011

February 7, 2012

The Next Top Innovator

Author: Don Mangum, Jr. - Categories: Innovation Quotes, Thomas Edison

Should American Idol be replaced with America's Next Top Innovator?

American Idol, The Next Iron Chef, X-Factor and shows like this have become incredibly popular.  Many different countries around the world have their own show to see who has the most talent and the winner gets a prize and an opportunity to be successful.  Wouldn’t it be great if there were contests like this for innovation?  Imagine millions of people watching and voting every week to see whose innovation would reign supreme.  Well these types of contests do exist, minus the nightly TV show and the commentary by Paula Abdul.

One of these is called America’s Next Top Energy Innovation Challenge.  The voting is now closed, but this contest pitted several different start-ups with different types of innovations.  (To learn more about it click here)  This contest and others like it are great.  They help move innovation along and provide focus and incentives to the innovator.

Unfortunately most of us that are working on innovating are not going to be in a contest.  Nobody is going to create a reality show about our work and follow us around.  Edison stated, “I always invented to obtain money to go on inventing.” His focus was on the innovation and his success was a byproduct of his efforts.  We can gain a lot by following this principle, focus on our innovation and let our success be a byproduct of our efforts.  You don’t have to win a contest to be the next top innovator.