Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
August 27, 2014

Reading is Fundamental

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

We all know that reading is important.  The book Cradles of Eminence (Little, Brown and Company 1962), studied the childhood of over 700 famous men and women.  One of the conclusions of this book is that almost without exception the parents of these children had a love for learning.  This was not just learning at school , but self learning and understanding.  Our own research shows that this is also true with individuals that are innovators.

At the laboratory and in his home Edison created learning environments.  He had large libraries in both places.  He also believed that learning came from observation.  He said, “In regard to things I have never seen before, I would rather examine something myself for even a brief moment rather than listen to somebody tell me about it for two hours.”

His quest for learning extended to his children, even when examining a work project.  Edison’s son Theodore remembered, “…when Father was looking for something, why he would want us to look through all the references to some particular chemical.  So we’d get these books and we’d work maybe until two o’clock in the morning, putting little slips of paper in the books and stacking them up on the table and then he would read through all these references to whatever he was looking up.  The whole family sometimes was involved in that.”

Edison created a learning environment in his home and workplace.  If we want to innovate like Edison we need to create these environments as well.

This Blog was originally posted November 15, 2010.

August 21, 2014

Do you work and play well with others?

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

School is starting in the next few weeks. Kids all around the world will start going to classes for the first time. One of the first things they will learn is how to work and play well with others. This is a vital skill that some people master and others struggle with all their lives.

Being able to work with others is not just important in school, it is also vital to innovation. We all  know that Thomas Edison was a great innovator.  He was also able to create very successful teams to help him in his innovations. To do so, he created an environment where people could join in, help create revolutionary new products and also become part of something bigger than they were individually.  The video below illustrates this principle.

So, if you are struggling with innovation, ask yourself if are you working and playing well with others. It might be the ingredient you are missing for successful innovation.

August 13, 2014

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.

This Blog was originally posted June 25, 2013