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