Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
May 26, 2016

Innovation in the Stone Age

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

There are many barriers to creative ideas and innovations. Often, we may not see that the process we are using may be the cause of our own failure. In a world with almost limitless data and opinions, we may not be getting information that is helpful. We may actually be getting information that is incomplete or just plain wrong.

The important task is to find the barriers to the best information and remove them. These barriers may be in places you don’t expect, but they stand in the way of moving your idea forward. Such obstacles are not new. The video below shows that such obstacles may have been around since the stone age. Take a look. With a little imagination, you may find ways to remove significant barriers to your innovation.

This blog was originally posted May 13, 2015

May 18, 2016

Are you on the Value Wave of Innovation?

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

Wave of InnovationWhen developing an innovation a key question is, what value does this new product or process bring to the user? The next question then becomes what is value?  Often when we talk about value, we talk about monetary value.  How much does this cost or how much is this worth?  For an innovation, value can be measured by asking will it be used or does it have utility?  Edison described it this way, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

Edison learned early on that to create something that would sell you had to bring enough value to customers that they would be willing to purchase the product.  While this may seem like a simple concept, it is sometimes over looked.  Many seemingly great ideas do not make it to market because they do not reach a good balance between cost and value.   Often to make it work you either have to find a way to lower the cost or raise the value.  Being able to do this effectively is what often separates a good invention from an innovation.

The short video below illustrates this principle.  An Australian company is developing a product that can capture the energy from ocean waves and convert it into electricity.  Unlike other approaches to this, their system is underwater and does not interfere with the view of the ocean or ships.  The video talks about some of the advantages of the product but then at the end it makes the most important observation.  It says that the company believes that it can be cost effective if deployed in a large enough scale.  While we would all like to see clean energy such as this, at the end of the day it will only be adopted when the cost is competitive with other sources of energy.

When you work on your innovation keep the concepts of cost and value in mind every step of the way.  This mindset will keep you on the wave of innovation and may be the key to your success.


May 12, 2016

Why can’t politicians be innovative?

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

Trump and InnovationThe world of politics and government dominate the news.  Elected officials make decisions that affect the economy and many of the things that we do in our daily lives.  I recently asked myself, “Are politicians truly innovative?”  After spending a little time trying to research into this question I came to the conclusion, for the most part, while they often use the word, their actions are rarely innovative.  This conclusion was not a surprise, but it did beg the question why are they not able to be innovative.  Here are some reasons why they are not innovative, and a way they can help others:

  1. Their focus is not on innovation. – People in public office seem to have motives in two areas, one is helping people and making the world a better place, the other is in getting reelected.  Although increasing funding for education, creating safety regulations, building bridges and fixing the roads may be helpful and may help provide ways for others to be innovative, none of these are new activities.  Governments have been doing these things in largely the same ways for thousands of years.  Also, talking about being innovative may help get you elected, but following through on that promise is difficult, if not impossible.
  2. They are not given the chance to fail. – Innovation by its very nature is risky.  It can only flourish in environments that allow for failure.  Elected officials do not have a lot of margin for error.  One failed program or approach may be enough to end a political career.  The electorate does not tolerate bad results.  A sentiment stated by Edison is common with many innovators.  He said, “Negative results are just what I’m after.  They are just as valuable to me as positive results.”  If a politician said they were looking for negative results in a campaign speech, they may not be giving many more speeches.  This inability to fail makes innovation incredibly difficult.
  3. They may struggle to be innovative, but they can promote innovation. – Governments can craft policies that benefit or stifle innovation.  These policies can deal with regulation, infrastructure, taxes or other areas.  Also, government funds can be directed into innovative projects.  Politicians can work with businesses to help develop new technologies, such as with a recent project related to new water technologies in Southern Ontario (Click Here). Relating to this project, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “This project is a great example of government, post-secondary institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and businesses working together to drive innovation and create new jobs and opportunities for Canadians.”   Being able to get different groups working together is often the key to driving innovation.
May 6, 2016

Is Change stopping Innovation?

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

People don’t like change.  We like to say we do, and there are some exceptions, but in general we stick to the status quo.  It is called a “comfort zone” for a reason.  If you don’t have a strong motivation, why would you ever leave an area with the word “comfort” in it for a journey through or to the “uncomfortable zone?”

Innovation by definition is change and sometimes a radical change from the past way of doing things.  Often when innovating the principles of Change Management can apply.   An entire department or organization may have to adapt to the new reality or product.

When trying to promote innovation as an idea or promate an actual innovation, recognizing and preparing for the potential pitfalls  can help move you forward to success.  Here are some principles and quotes that can help you in dealing with change and innovation.

  1. Recognize that resistance to change is inevitable.  Don’t be surprised when you face resistance, expect it and embrace it.  If your idea does not face resistance it may not be very innovative.
  2. Validate that change is difficult.  Be aware that change can be hard on people emotionally.  Just letting people know that you understand, and then helping them understand the potential benefits, can help others accept the change.
  3. Be Patient and persistent. Don’t give up.  Change takes time, but the benefits are worth it.

John F. KennedyChange is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. – John F. Kennedy

Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster. – Elon Musk

You can’t build an adaptable organization without adaptable people, and individuals change only when they have to, or when they want to. Gary Hamel