Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
June 27, 2012

Creativity and Innovation

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

Edison said, “Inventors must be poets; otherwise they will not have imagination.” This imagination is creativity and is a key building block of innovation. Creativity is the spark or burst that often gets the whole innovation process started. Most important, it’s a skill we can all develop or improve.

Unfortunately for many of us, we are our most creative when we are in elementary school. That’s a time when we are willing to draw, paint, work with clay, write stories or even write poetry. Then we get distracted. We set aside our creativity and often we never pick it up again. Little do we know, that it’s still there waiting to be reawakened with sometimes surprisingly little effort. So, if you are looking to become more innovative, spend some personal time becoming more creative. Pick a creative activity you haven’t done in a while and spend some time working on it. It will get parts of your creative mind flowing and help ignite the burst that starts innovation.

One activity I’ve found to be helpful is reading through inspirational ideas of highly creative people. Here are some of my favorites:

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Pablo Picasso

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
Scott Adams

“Well, when you’re trying to create things that are new, you have to be prepared to be on the edge of risk.”
Michael Eisner

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
Maya Angelou

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”
Theodore Levitt


This blog was originally posted May, 31, 2011

June 20, 2012

Can your desk make you more innovative?

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

In today’s post I would like to introduce you to an article that has insight into innovation.  The article discusses how our desk, our working environment, can enhance or detract from our creativity.  This is not necessarily a new idea.  In designing his laboratory Edison attempted to create a space that was conducive to innovation.  So whether you are at work or at home, take a look around your work space and see if it is a place where you can be creative and innovate.  Do you have a place where small ideas can grow into big ideas?  If you do not, it may be time to move things around.  You will be glad that you did.

To view the article click here

June 14, 2012

Innovation is not Comfortable

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

For some reason we as individuals, as companies and often as a culture place barriers between ourselves and innovation. Often when looking for people to create a work team we say that this person is too old, or too young, or they do not have enough education, or they do not have enough experience. Frequently we create a group that we hope is innovative, but we look around the room and everyone looks the same with similar background and experiences.

There is a natural tendency to reach a level of comfort and stay there. There is nothing wrong with being comfortable, but being innovative is not comfortable. Innovation by definition is moving into areas that are new and exciting, but they also carry risk. I really enjoy this video as it illustrates that to innovate we should break down fences and maybe invite people on our journey to innovation who we might not think about at first. Having someone different in your group may make all the difference.

This blog was originally posted August 9, 2011

June 6, 2012

The Context of Innovation

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

The context or environment you are in is critical for innovation.  Many of these factors are beyond our control.  For example, Edison lived at a time when the world was moving from mechanical to electrical.  Edison took advantage of this context and his abilities with electricity to come up with a lot of exciting new inventions.

Some circumstances are beyond our control, but others we can change.  Creating the right context for our innovation can be the difference between success and failure.  Here are two examples.

1. Organizational Capability

To take an innovation from idea all the way to market is a process that most often takes more than one individual.  It takes a team or organization.  Does your group have what it takes to grow an idea into a product or service that can be used by others?  Take some time to examine this concept.  If your group can not look at the process, find people who can.  Many good ideas don’t become innovations because organizations do not have the capability to take the idea all the way to market. 

2. Market Preparedness

I was involved with the development of a new innovative approach to a product.  Significant time and effort was spent talking with customers about what they wanted and incorporating their ideas into the product.  Also excellent engineers made improvements to the product and everyone was very excited about its release.  Unfortunately, once the product was released, sales were very lackluster.  While not a complete failure, it was not a rousing success.  In examining the process, we discovered we had created an expensive product that did a lot of great things, but the consumer was not willing to pay a premium for it.  The market was not ready for our product, but was content with a more basic, but cheaper product.  The lesson is to spend some time thinking about how your product will fit into the market. 

As you innovate you need to carefully examine whether or not you have the right organization and also if the market is ready for your product.  These two simple ideas can separate a good idea from a successful product.