Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
July 24, 2015

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.

This blog was originally posted July 11, 2014

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July 16, 2015

Breaking the Rules of Innovation

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

It has been said that in order to break the rules you have to know the rules. One of the things that holds back innovation is not understanding the related laws that exist. Understanding the legal, economic and physical laws is often necessary to create a tangible advancement. Here are three examples where understanding the realities of the world makes the innovation process more effective.

Laws of InnovationA few years ago I was in a discussion with an inventor about a cool new approach to dealing with data. He had spent a lot of time and money developing the related software. There was one problem; there were several related copyright issues. The issues essentially made the product useless. Not spending time to understand the legalities destroyed this opportunity for innovation.

Successful innovators also understand basic laws of economics. One law is almost universally understood. A business, or innovation has to eventually make money or it will not survive. Edison showed that he understood this principle when he stated, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”  A creative idea that you can’t sell is not an innovation, it is just a creative idea.

Possibly the most famous innovation that does not yet exist is the hover board from the movie “Back to the Future II”. By 2015 skateboards were to be replaced with hover boards and we would be floating across the ground. People have been working on this innovation for a long time.  While progress has been made, we still cannot float across the parking lot. Who will be able to develop this innovation:  It will be he person who clearly understands the law that his product is working against–the Law of Gravity. You are not going to be able to break this law, but the solution may come in working around it, or maybe bending it. Success may even come from using the law that appears to be stacked against you to your advantage.

Spend some time learning the principles and laws that govern your area of innovation. Understand the laws or parameters that you have to work in, but look out for rules that are just conventional wisdom. These are the rules that are broken by innovators.  Understanding the difference between the two may be a key to your successful innovation.

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July 11, 2015

Do you have the education for your innovation?

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

Education and InnovationI recently read an article about very successful people that did not have college degrees. These were leaders in business and innovation that may have started to go to college but for some reason, often related to following their dream or passion, they never finished. As I looked a little deeper at some of these people and at some of the innovators we have studied, I came to the conclusion that while they did not have degrees, they definitely were educated.

Dictionary.com defines education as “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.” Many of the innovators that we have studied lived prior to the time when universities were easily accessible, but thye still did what was necessary to develop their thinking and reasoning powers.

Learning to think is the key of a successful education. Some people spend years in school, but focus on learning facts, but not on learning how to learn or how to think. Successful innovators have used their education to develop the ability to think and learn,  and use this approach to whatever problem may occur. This is an important skill and not as common as one may think. Edison put it this way, “The man who doesn’t make up his mind to cultivate the habit of thinking misses the greatest pleasure in life.” So, spend some time developing your reasoning skills, it will be enjoyable and may be the key to your innovation.

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