Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
February 27, 2013

More Innovation in 3D

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

We have talked before about 3D printers and the exciting advances that have been made in that arena.  This technology continues to improve.  Now let me introduce you to a new advance:  a 3D pen that lets you write in the air.

This product called the 3Doodler is amazing.  (You can learn more about it here)  Basically, if you want to draw a bird, a cat, or a building, you draw it and it looks like a sculpture.  The company that created it has been able to easily raise the money to keep the idea going and refine it.  Clearly, this is a new and exciting innovative product with great potential.

The key for success for this product is expressed in the Edison quote we often use.  Edison said, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”  So ask yourself questions like the following when you think about this product or the innovation you may be working on.  The right answers could be the keys to your success.

  1. What is the commercial use of the product?
  2. Is there an industrial use of the product?
  3. Are there potential users of this product that we have not thought of yet?
  4. Once you get beyond who will use this product, you need to ask another most important question, who will buy this product?
February 19, 2013

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)

This blog was originally posted February 21, 2012

February 13, 2013

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

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

Plato is credited with the statement that “necessity is the mother of invention.”  If it is the mother of invention, then it is also the parent of innovation.  A reasonable question follows, what is a necessity?

Edison put it this way, “I find out what the world needs.  Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”  We may come up with what someone wants, but is that enough?  Sometimes focusing on wants is enough, but often to have innovation success we need to reach the end user and determine their needs.

Needs in this sense does not mean the basic needs of life, but rather the things that we need to make our lives better.  This can be in our work or personal life.  Needs is getting past  superficial wants and wishes and finding out what needs to happen to make improve lives.  For example, I may want my smart phone to be purple, but I need the GPS directions to work.  If the GPS doesn’t work I could be late for an important meeting, or get lost and find myself in a difficult situation.

So as you look to your innovation, focus on needs.   If your innovation eliminates someone’s need, you are on the road to a successful innovation.

February 5, 2013

It is time to use your imagination

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

Creativity and imagination are keys to innovation.  Imagination is often an untapped resource in most organizations.  The question is, “How do we use our imaginations to foster innovation?”

Sometimes in innovation we forget that things are created twice.  First, they are created in the mind or imagination.  Second, they are created in the real world.   The following video demonstrates the power of the first creation.