Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
January 29, 2016

The Wright Stuff for Innovation

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

Wright Brothers First FlightThe innovation of manned flight is truly remarkable.  So much can be learned as we watch the progress  from a few feet of flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to a trip to the moon less than 70 years later.  One of the best ways to learn about this progress is to start with the Wright brothers and the beginning of the airplane.  I have studied these two brother’s history in the past, but recently a remarkable biography, The Wright Brothers by David McCullough was released.  It provides a compelling story to help us understand how Orville and Wilbur Wright changed history.

Often the stories about the struggle to invent and innovate provide lessons that are helpful for other innovator’s success. Here are three lessons that I learned from my recent reading of The Wright Brothers.

  1. It takes more than one person to innovate – The brothers were a remarkable team.  They built each other up and relied on each other’s strengths.  They also relied on many other people to help them be successful, not only in the beginning, but also as they formed a company and traveled the world promoting their airplane.  For example, Katharine, their sister, gave up her teaching position so that she could help them full time.  Her assistance was vital as they moved forward and moved from being inventors to having a fully organized company.
  2. Others will resist innovation and change – As the Wright’s were testing various approaches to flight they published some of their findings.  Some of the top people in the field thought the approach would not work, but if it did, there was no real way to commercialize flight.
  3. You don’t have to have the most resources to be the one that innovates – Shortly before the first flight the U.S. government had given a grant of over $50,000 to a group that was trying to create the first airplane.  They had a well publicized test flight that failed miserably.  The Wright brothers were able to fund their plane for about $1,000 from the profits they made building bicycles.

The other take away from the Wrights is that they just kept going.  They had major setbacks, but they just kept trying, learning and improving.  They were willing to take enough time to do it right, and also they had the drive to push to a successful finish.  So, take the time to learn from these flyers and you may develop the right stuff to complete your innovation.


January 22, 2016

A Little Innovation Every Day

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

Innovation is like taking a BathRecently I came across a quote that applies to some of the problems organizations have with trying to stay innovative. Zig Ziglar stated that, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” In working with companies that are trying to be more innovative, we see the same problem. There will be a big push to be innovative, but as time goes on people go back to their old ways, practices and habits.

It is not that individuals and groups don’t want to be innovative, but we are all really busy with the daily grind. There is work to be done, deadlines to be met and, while innovation will help us reach our long term goals, it can get in the way of what we feel is needed today.

This is one of the reasons we started blogging about innovation. We don’t just want to give people a shot in the arm about innovation, we want to help people make innovation part of their culture. People need to be continually reminded about what they have learned and focus on applying it. There are a number of things we can do regularly that can help us become more innovative. Here are three to think about and apply:

  1. Regularly spend time being creative. If not every day, then often. This is one you can work on individually. Disconnect from what you have to do and spend time doing what you need to do. Read, paint, play an instrument, sing, create, dream, write, go for a walk–what ever you need to do so you will have a more creative mindset.
  2. Make innovation part of the conversation. A good motivational innovation speech, class or presentation is just where you get started. Learn the language of innovation and then use it your discussions. Reward those on your team who are creative, even if you don’t use their idea. The next creative idea might be right around the corner and you want to make sure they are willing to share.
  3. Don’t just talk about being innovative, be innovative. This is where is gets harder, but where you can make a difference. The change has to begin with you. Demonstrate what want done by being creative and innovative. Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. As you do this, you will be surprised how much this will change your group for the better.

So spend time every day taking a bath in creativity and innovation. This habit may not make you clean, but it will help you be refreshed and with a little luck find the innovation success you are looking for.

This blog was originally posted January 15, 2015.

January 15, 2016

The Work and Play of Innovation

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

Most people believe they work hard, or at least they say they work hard. But there is a secret to working hard, and working harder than everyone else.

I have long admired Kobe Bryant’s work ethic. He is a gifted athlete who works harder than most other athletes. How hard does he work? The video below gives some of the details. He started back in high school and has continued on the path of hard work to this day.

What causes some people to be willing to work this hard? How do you develop this passion?  Steve Jobs explains in the video below that you have to love what you are doing.  Then you will have the passion and drive to work hard when others might quit. This drive will get you through the difficult times that will surely come.

Edison loved to invent. That was his passion. He described the work in his laboratory this way, “I derive more benefit and entertainment from this than some of my friends and competitors get from playing games like golf.” His work was his play and his passion.

So, do you want to know the secret to hard work? Find what you like to do and are passionate about.  Then the work will feel like play, and this will be how you find success in your innovation.

January 8, 2016

Do or do not . . . there is no fail

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

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has set box office records. The director, JJ Abrams, did something that has application to innovation. To make something new he went back to the basics. He went back and drew inspiration and the look from the original trilogy. To be innovative he did not just look forward, but he also drew on the past to create something new and exciting.

Edison might have said, "Do or do not, there is no fail."This is not the only lesson we can learn from Star Wars. We can also learn from one of the sayings of Master Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Edison would have liked that quote. It captures the spirit that he applied in his work, but he might have said it differently. He might have said, “Do or do not, there is no fail.”

Edison had a different perspective on failure than most people, and that is one of the reasons that he was successful. What some people call failure, he sometimes called negative results. “I never quit until I get what I’m after. Negative results are just what I’m after. They are just as valuable to me as positive results,” Edison explained. By learning from negative experiences, he made every attempt valuable. The only true failure would be not to try and then to have no result to examine.

So do what you need to do to move forward your innovation. As long and you learn from your result there will not be failure and you will progress towards success in your innovation.