Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
July 30, 2014

The Tree of Innovation

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

3-D printers fascinate me. The thought of being able to create or duplicate things seemingly out of thin air is intriguing and exciting. It is an innovation idea that we have discussed in this blog several times and will probably discuss again. (See More Innovation in 3D and Innovation and How to Save a Life ) The reason this is such a fascinating area is that this type of printing is part of a tree of innovation.

The Tree of InnovationWhat is a tree of innovation? There are some innovations  so unique that they spawn other innovations. In the tree of 3-D Printing Innovation you have all the ideas and process necessary to get to the point where this new idea could become a reality. These are the roots of the innovation. These would include all the improvements and discoveries in regular printing and the advances in materials development that allow objects to be created.

The concept and the printer itself are the trunk of the innovation. While the trunk is important, it is the branches where the action happens. In 3-D printing you have many uses.  For example, there are applications in manufacturing, medicine and the home. Each of these are branches of the innovations that will bear different fruit.

In a recent article (UConn makes 3-D copies of antique instrument parts), we read about combining CT scanning and 3-D printing to create parts for musical instruments. From the trunk of 3-D pinting, innovators were able to branch off and create the fruit of being able to fix and play antique instruments.   This is a very exciting application of 3-D printing.

So, look at your innovation. What are its roots? What is its trunk? What are the potential branches? If you do this you may be able to reap the wonderful fruits of new innovations.

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July 24, 2014

The Simplicity of Innovation

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

Innovation does not have to be complicated, it just has to improve and be something new. Often innovative ideas that are heading in a good direction get derailed under the weight of complications.

In the video below, Walter Isaacson, author of the book “Steve Jobs”, provides some insights into how Jobs looked for simplicity in his innovations. Steve Jobs wanted to make the user experience as simple as possible. He looked at the interface, how the device felt, and how he could make it easier to use.

Look at your innovation. Is it too complicated? Can you make it simpler in design and easier for the end user? Follow Steve Jobs example and you may find that simplicity is the answer you need for your innovation.

This blog was originally posted July 10, 2013

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July 11, 2014

Imagination is Everything

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

I saw a saying recently and thought, how does this apply to innovation? It was, “Imagination is Everything.” I asked myself, “is this true in innovation?” Obviously imagination is important, but how important is it?

Edison Working on InnovationEdison stated that, “Inventors must be poets so that they may have imagination.” So while he did not say that imagination was everything, he did say it was a “must.” A must is a requirement. It is more than a key ingredient; it is an essential ingredient.

The next question is, if it is an essential ingredient, how much of innovation is imagination?   Edison answered this question with, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” So while imagination is essential, it is only a small part of having a successful innovation. What people often miss is that most of the time innovation is work. A dream is required, but without the perspiration, it is just a dream.

So, keep imagining and dreaming and looking for inspiration for innovation. In many ways, it will be everything for your innovation. And if you work your dream, you never know what you will find.

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July 1, 2014

Is Your Innovation Cool Enough?

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

It is the middle of summer and it is hot outside. In some places really hot. It brings to mind one of my favorite innovations, air conditioning. Air conditioning was innovated by Willis Haviland Carrier around 1902 in upstate New York. I say innovated rather than invented because the basic idea already existed, but Carrier was able to perfect it and take it to market.

Edison once said referring to the creation of some of his inventions, “I start where the last man left off.” Carrier did exactly that, he took what had already been created and took it a few steps further. The basic idea of moving around cool air had been around for thousands of years. The one important component, the compressor, had been around for nearly a hundred years, but they had trouble finding an effective coolant. Water did not work well and some of the other chemicals they tried were poisonous. Circulating deadly air was not going to work no matter how cool it was. Carrier came up with a non toxic coolant and was able to make a system that worked very well.

As important as the system itself, was Carrier’s ability to sell the system. Air conditioning really took off, first in movie theaters, then in office buildings and eventually in homes. All of this because Carrier was able to build on what other people had begun, make it better and then sell it to the hot consumers. So the next time you come in from the heat, think about Carrier and take time to build on others’ ideas. You never know what cool innovation you may come up with.

To learn more about how air conditioners work please see the video below:

This blog was originally posted July 25, 2012

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