Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
May 30, 2012

Vacation from Innovation

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

As summer begins, people are planning their vacations.  “What are you going to do?” or “Where are you going to go?” are common questions around the water cooler.  We have a suggestion. The next time you are asked, “what you are going to do this summer?”  reply, “Take a vacation from innovation.”

Edison enjoyed his work.  In some ways his work was play.  He once said, “Most of the exercise I get is from standing and walking all day from one laboratory table to another.  I derive more benefit and entertainment from this than some of my friends and competitors get from playing games like golf.”  While this was true he also took breaks.

(Ford, Edison and Firestone on a camping trip)

Edison had a winter home in Florida, a long way from his laboratory.  He would also take trips with other titans of his day such as Ford or Firestone.  He would come back from these trips refreshed, often with new ideas and approaches to his experiments and problems.  So the next time you need to improve your innovation, the best thing you can do may be to take a vacation.

May 22, 2012

Unexpected Innovation

Author: Administrator - Categories: Become More Innovative - Tags: ,

Sometimes we look at a product or process and think, “that’s pretty good, I don’t think it can be improved. After all, it’s been done that way a long time and is convenient as it is.” There is, of course, another point of view. Today, I want to show you two familiar products and a well-known service that are still being innovated. Hopefully, after you look at these you will look around and see other products or services that need more innovation.

First, who would have thought that a faucet could be innovated? Well, as you may have already seen, they have been.

Second, innovation of the light bulb did not end with Edison. As this article shows there is still room for innovation in the production and distribution of light bulbs. To learn more Click here.

And finally the number 911 has saved countless lives and now it will even be better. To read about this Click here.

So look around and see what you can innovate. You may be able to find something to improve where you least expect it, and often it is the unexpected innovations that make all the difference.

This blog was originally posted August 16, 2011.

May 15, 2012

Who taught you to innovate?

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

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day in the United States, a day when mothers and others are recognized for the influence that they have in our lives.  This influence can also apply to innovation.  Someone, and most likely numerous people, helped you get where you are today.  Parents, teachers, mentors and others can open up new ideas and opportunities for us to explore and give us the possibility to innovate.  Edison recognized this in those who helped him, especially his own mother.  After you read this quote, take the time to think about those who taught you to innovate.  It would probably be a good idea to take the time to thank them for what they have done as well.

Young Thomas Edison

“I did not have my mother very long, but in that length of time she cast over me an influence which has lasted all my life. . .I was always a careless boy, and with a mother of different mental caliber I should have probably turned out badly.  But her firmness, her sweetness, her goodness, were potent powers to keep me in the right path.  My mother was the making of me.  She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had someone to live for, someone I must not disappoint.”  (From Edison Inventing the Century by Neil Baldwin, 1995)

May 8, 2012

Wikipedia Defines Innovation

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

In our study of innovation, I came across Wikipedia’s definition of innovation that is very insightful.  It states, “Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a new idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself.” (to see the entire article click here)

This is a very broad definition that may include ideas that one might not consider innovative, but it captures the idea that innovation is more than creativity or a new and exciting idea or concept.   Innovation requires acceptance by the user.  It may be a small group, or even a group inside your organization, but it is the acceptance of the invention that is the final link in innovation.

Edison's Vote Recorder

Edison recognized this when he attempted to make an electronic vote tabulator.  It was a new product that he thought would be well accepted, but he could not get a legislature to accept it.  What politician wanted a record of how they voted?  After this experience Edison recorded, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

So as you work on your invention, make sure you keep in mind the last step required for innovation. “Will my end user accept this product or idea?”  Considering the end utility of the idea early on may make all the difference.

May 1, 2012

Can a Taxi Ride be Innovative?

Author: Don Mangum, Jr. - Categories: Uncategorized - Tags:

New York City is getting a new taxi. It is obvious that many different people discussed problems and issues that one could have in a cab ride and came up with many ideas for improvement. The new design has a number of enhancements from more leg room, to even smelling better. But when I first saw the vehicle I asked myself the question, “Is it innovative?

Change is not necessarily innovation, even when it is change for the better. So take a look at the attached video and let us know what you think; is this innovation, or just a better cab ride?