Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
January 29, 2013

Do we Fear Innovation?

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

(This Blog was originally posted January 17, 2012)

January 22, 2013

There has to be a better way

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

Many innovations are caused by someone dealing with a product or process, getting a little frustrated and saying, there has to be a better way.  One great example of this is Reed Hastings and the founding of Netflix.

Reed had misplaced a VHS copy of Apollo 13 that he had rented more than a month before.  When he took it back he had amassed over $40 in late fees.  After he thought that there must be a better way, he came up with the business model of paying a monthly fee and getting as many movies as you want by mail.  Eventually this plan, along with the introduction of streaming videos, changed the industry and has eliminated most local video stores.

We are going to have to deal with issues that do not go our way.  The question is, what do we do?  Are we satisfied with the status quo or do we look to make it better, not just for ourselves, but for others?  Edison wanted to find a better way and stated, “My desire is to do everything within my power to free people from drudgery and create the largest measure of happiness and prosperity.”  The message for today is to become the solution.  When you see a problem, you can be the one who finds the better way.

January 15, 2013

Is it a Gadget or an Innovation?

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

The yearly Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is a hotbed of new ideas in the area of technology.  One area getting a lot of attention right now is sensors in products and also having products connected.  Eventually many of the products in your home may be connected and will tell you if a light bulb is out or if you are low on milk or eggs.  Looking at these types of products can inspire innovation in other areas.

For example, there is even a fork that will let you know how much you eat and to slow you down, if necessary (For a blog entry that discusses the difficulty of innovating a fork click here).  It is a neat gadget, but is it really innovative?  Is it a new idea or new application?  Will consumers be willing to purchase and use this product?

Now, there is nothing wrong with a gadget.  The fun of a product can be part of what makes it exciting for consumers, but an innovation is not a gimmick, it is something that makes a process or product better.  So, look at your project and see if you cannot make it just new or different but see if you can make a lasting innovation. If you do it right, your new gadget can be really innovative.

(For an overview of some creative gadgets click here)

January 9, 2013

Innovation on Thin Ice

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

Right now it still looks like the National Hockey League may not play this season.  One commentator stated that the season is skating “on thin ice.” Owners and players have not yet come to an agreement which could mean no games, no season, no playoffs and no players taking shots.  It reminded me of a quote from the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

In innovation, just like hockey, you have to take a lot of shots before you get one to go in.  Edison, just like almost all of innovators we have studied, took lots of shots and was able to make a few as well.  Edison believed that, “Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”   So don’t stop taking shots with your innovation, and eventually you will be able to score.

January 2, 2013

Edison: Goals and Resolutions

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

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