Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
June 25, 2013

Innovating your Summer

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

There are a lot of innovators out there that have impacted our lives, and we probably do not even know their names.  I want to introduce you to one that has impacted the fun many of us had growing up and the fun we continue to have as adults.  His name is John Miller and he innovated the roller coaster.

Miller has been referred to as the “Edison of roller coasters.”  He held over 100 roller coaster related patents.  He wanted the coasters to be more fun, go higher, drop faster and turn sharper.  But he also wanted them to be safe.

Two of his innovations will be familiar to anyone who has ever ridden on a roller coaster.  First, was a special type of chain for wooden coaters that could pull them to higher heights without the danger of their falling backwards.  Anyone who hears the “clickety-clack” of the cars going up the hill preparing for the drop can hear his invention working, taking you up for a thrill.  Second, was the wheels on both sides of the track.  This allows cars to make sharper turns without flying off the track, increasing the trill and also increasing the safety.

So, when you go to the amusement park this summer remember that someone innovated your thrill ride to make it safer and fun.  Like many other innovations, it could not just focus on one aspect.  If you increased the fun, but made it less safe, you would not have an innovation, you would have a lawsuit.  So look at your innovation, what areas can be improved to give the end user a better experience, but also protect them from change and risk.  It may be the key to a successful innovation, and a fun summer.

June 18, 2013

Innovation, Leadership and your Career

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

In this blog and in our innovation programs we don’t emphasize leadership. But leadership and innovation are tied closely together. Steve Jobs stated that “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” In fact, all successful innovators are leaders. In addition, innovation is a key for a company to be a leader in the marketplace.

That innovation leads to market leadership is easy to see. The iPad is the best current example of how innovation can create a market leader. The iPad was able to get into the tablet market first and everyone else is still trying to catch up.

Innovation creates leaders. For the most part, the study of innovators is the study of leaders. To take your invention to market you will almost always need a team, and teams need leaders. Edison is thought of as an innovator, rather than a leader. But, he led everything from small research teams to multinational corporations.

So as you take time to improve your ability to innovate, look at yourself, your company or your team. Are you prepared to lead innovation? Improving your leadership may be the part of innovation that you are missing and the key to your success.

This blog was originally published March 19, 2012

June 11, 2013

To Innovate, Set Insane Goals

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

Thomas Edison set high goals for achievement in innovation.  When he was at his peak at his invention factory, he set remarkable goals; a minor invention every ten days and a major invention every six months.  The results were amazing.  He ended up with over one thousand patents.

Now, let me tell you about a modern day innovator who set remarkable goals and achieved them.  His name is Geoffery Ling, M.D., Ph. D., and a Retired Army Cornel.  Dr. Ling, is a neurologist and a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  He works on a number of projects, one of which is the Revolutionizing Prosthesis program.

Dr Ling recognized the needs of returning soldiers that were either amputees or, though brain or spinal injuries, had lost use of their limbs.   He set remarkable goals to do something to help these individuals return to fully functioning lives.  He wanted to come up with a revolutionary way to help these individuals within five years.  He was told that this goal was insane.  Looking back, his goal was within the range of “insanity” that we can make happen.

Did Dr. Ling achieve his goal?  You can be the judge, but clearly what he has done is remarkable.  In the excerpt below from 60-Minutes, you can see a quadriplegic woman moving a robotic arm with only her brain.  She uses only thinking to move the prosthetic arm in the same way she did her real arm.  Also you can see a man who lost his arm use his artificial hand as if it were real.

What can we learn from this?  Sometimes the setting of insane goals is the beginning of achieving remarkable and revolutionary results.  So, set your goals and work toward them.   You may start your own revolution.

For additional insights from Dr. Ling, please review this video titled “Development of Mechanical Arm DARPA: Giving Back Life and Movement with the Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program”

June 3, 2013

Innovation and How to Save a Life

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

There are a lot of great ideas out there that are incomplete.  Some inventors have given up.  Some do not realize what they have.  Others enjoy inventing, but do not know how or they do not want to take an idea all the way to market.  Edison stated that, “I start where the last man left off.”  This does not just mean completing an idea or innovation that someone else has started, but it also means taking a new product or process to a new place.

We have talked in previous blogs about the amazing advancements in 3D printing (Click here and here).  Eventually people will be able to create, or print, many different kinds of products or parts in plastics and metals.  It is an exciting time as we move from the theory to reality.  Innovators are taking the idea of 3D printing and, starting were others have left off, making new things.  They have even been able to save the life of a child.

Kaiba Gionfriddo was six weeks old when he developed severe breathing problems.  While in the hospital CPR was administered to him daily.  What was needed was a custom splint to keep his airway open.  Using the dimensions from a CAT scan of Kaiba’s throat, scientists printed a custom splint with a substance that will eventually degrade after the body heals.  This was gently inserted in the child’s throat.  Now, almost a year and half after surgery, Kaiba is doing well and breathing on his own. (Read more here)

So, look around and see if there is something already out there that can help in your innovation.  You might find the key to success, and who knows you might even be able to save a life