Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
October 30, 2012

Is Innovation Crazy?

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

New ideas are often met with skepticism and ridicule. People don’t like change and are often comfortable with the way things are. This can be true even if circumstances are not good and things are not going well. The lack of support of others or their resistance can be a significant barrier to innovation.

Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, put it this way, “When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts.” What some people call crazy, I would call a willingness to go into the unknown, recognizing the risk but willing to take the risk to get to the reward.

I recently came across a cnn.com article about the iPad and airplanes that reminded me of this idea. When iPads came out some people just focused on what it could not do. They mocked the name. Who would want one of these devices? The answer now is everyone.

In the article an airline announced that they are replacing the paper pilot manuals on their planes with iPads. There was some resistance to the announcement. What would they do if the iPad failed? I focused on what the iPad was going to replace. The manuals and other materials a pilot was required to carry weighed 38 pounds and was more than 12,000 pages long.

I asked myself what is crazy – the new iPad or a pilot in a plane with 12K pages worth of materials and no search capability. Often the real crazy or dangerous behavior is staying with the status quo.

So the next time someone says your idea is nuts it may just be a sign you’re on the right track. The best thing we can do is go out and get a little crazy.

To read the airline article click here.

This blog was originally posted September 7, 2011

October 23, 2012

Overcome Your Fear

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

You have probably heard of or read about Felix Baumgartner, the skydiver who jumped from a balloon 24 miles above the earth.  This is three times higher the cruising altitude of a commercial jetliner.  It is an amazing feet and sparked some innovation.  For example, NASA is looking at the new suit that was developed for this jump.  To jump from this height required protection from the extreme cold and extreme speed.  Baumgartner was successful and the jump was an internet sensation.

The part of this story I found most amazing is that Baumgartner had to overcome a new fear in order to achieve this accomplishment.  He has been a daredevil for a long time.  He has skydived from planes, buildings, balloons, and even off cliffs.  But this high altitude dive was new and he had to confront a new and unexpected fear.  His anxiety was extremely high when he put on the helmet.  His anxiety was so high that at one time he was not sure he would ever be able to complete the jump.  Even though he had already done many, many dives most of us would be too scared to do, adding a confining helmet was a dramatic change for him, and change is often scary.  Eventually, he was able to overcome his fear and the rest is history.

For us, in our attempts at innovation, change can often be a scary thing, even if we are very experienced.  A new aspect of an old idea can often create fear and doubt.  When this happens, we need to recognize our fear, face the fear and then overcome it.  Once we do this, there is no limit to our success.  You may be able to go higher than you ever imagined.


October 16, 2012

Don’t Waste Innovation

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

If I just had more time, more people, or more money I would have what I need to succeed.   Just a few more resources then I would be more innovative, or I would be able to complete my innovation.  Sometimes this may be true, but companies and individuals with abundant resources are not necessarily innovative.  In our study of innovators, we have found that innovation is often discovered though the trials of adversity.   Often it is the adversity we are struggling with that provides us the strength to succeed.

Most innovators do not have all of the resources that they wish, but they learn to make the most of what they have. Edison said, “Waste is worse than loss. The time is coming when every person who lays claim to ability will keep the question of waste before him constantly. The scope of thrift is limitless.”  So, instead of wishing for greater resources, try to make use of them and don’t waste what you have.  You may already have all the tools around you to succeed.

October 10, 2012

Keep Looking for Innovation

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

I recently came across Good Housekeeping’s VIP (Very Innovative products) for 2012. They listed a number of products including an oven, a thermostat, cleaning supplies and even a hall of fame product scotch tape.  All of these products appear to have something in common.  They resulted from someone observing a product or a problem, looking for a creative solution or improvement.   They are innovations that are not necessarily revolutionary, but improvements to existing products.

The key to such innovations seems to be to look at a product people use every day, accept it as good and find a way to make it better.  Sometimes we need to get up from our desk or get out of our lab and observe what it is we are trying to improve and see how our customers use it.  Keep this thought from Edison in mind, “I would rather examine something myself for even a brief moment rather than listen to somebody tell me about it for two hours.”

October 3, 2012

Team Innovation

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

Team InnovationUp until the last few weeks, I thought that the National Football League (NFL) was made up of various football teams such as the New England Patriots, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Chicago Bears. But it is clear now that there are a number of other teams that are important. These teams include the league office, the owners, the media and of course, the officials. When the officials went on strike people knew it would have an impact, but by the end of the strike the impact of replacement officials was all that there was to talk about.

In the case of the NFL, just one team not performing was enough to throw the entire system out of whack. It did not matter how good the play was on the field, poor officiating damaged the integrity of the entire system. The same can be true with your innovation system. If one of your teams is not performing, then the entire system can fail. This week we introduce you to several important teams that Edison used for innovation. If you use these teams well, you will dramatically increase your opportunity for success.

  1. Idea Team – Edison was the main person on his idea team, though he often relied on others. This is the creative team, the dreamers and creators. This group provided the critical 1% of inspiration that gets the process of innovation moving.
  2. Production Team – Edison had a team that turned his dreams into reality, he called them Muckers. It included specialists, such as glass blowers to make a light bulb, helping build a prototype. It also made up of those who created and produced the product for the mass market.
  3. Financial Team – Edison courted this team from New York. He would invite them to New Jersey when he had something that he thought they would be interested in. Innovation often requires capital and without this team you may never be able to get your product to market.
  4. Protection Team – This was not Edison’s favorite team but he recognized it as a necessary evil. This team may provide legal protection, but it also keeps others from stealing your work and makes sure the innovation is used in the proper way.

So look at your innovation, do you have the teams in place? Do you have quality people on your teams, or are they like the replacement refs? Keep the teams working well and working together and your ability to innovate may be unstoppable.