Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
November 22, 2016

Thankful for those who Risk

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

It is the time of year in the United States when we take time to reflect on what we are thankful for.   Spending time thinking about what you should be thankful for and expressing gratitude is a good exercise as you consider those who have helped us get where we are today. This year I have thought about what we should be grateful for in regards to innovation, and I came to a simple conclusion. We should be grateful for those who are willing to take the risks necessary to provide the innovations that we enjoy today.

Michael Eisner expressed it this way, “Well, when you’re trying to create things that are new, you have to be prepared to be on the edge of risk.” Risk is dangerous. Any time someone takes a risk they have to accept that there may be a negative or possible devastating outcome. Many, if not most of us, are not willing or able to take the risks necessary to bring a new idea all the way to a marketed innovation.

Edison stated, “I have more respect for the fellow with a single idea who gets there than for the fellow with a thousand ideas who does nothing.” So thank you to all those who are willing to take a risk. You are the ones who are able to innovate and create the amazing world that we live in.


November 16, 2016

Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way: Are Innovators Leaders? Part 6

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

lead-follow-get-out-of-the-wayAs we move through life we have different roles at different times. This is true whether we are entrepreneurial or trying to climb the corporate ladder. A very underrated skill is being able to know where you are in the big picture and being able to fulfill your role. In athletics we say do your job. This means be very good at your own responsibility, and let other people handle their responsibility. In leading innovation, we must be able to recognize our role, and then do it very well. The saying, “Lead, Follow, or Get out of the way,” shows some of the roles that you must be able to accept in the innovation process.

Lead – Innovation is often a complicated process. We have discovered that as we teach principles related to innovation, we can’t help but also teach some principles related to project management and leadership. These areas are related and intertwined. The person who has the idea and refines the product or process does not necessarily have to lead, but someone has to control and direct the process. It is often the key to developing a successful innovation.

Follow – Being able to follow is a skill that is not discussed enough. Following effectively is not just listening to orders, but being an active participant. It is making sure that the leaders or people in other areas of the project have the information necessary to make quality decisions. But it also includes listening and recognizing that you are part of a greater whole. And when the time comes buckling down, and doing your part to the best of your ability. CS Lewis stated the spirit of being able to follow when he said, “Be found at one’s post, living each day as though it were our last, but planning as though our world might last 100 years.”

Get out of the way! – Businesses create barriers to innovation. They don’t mean to, but many processes and procedures necessary to control and manage a business get in the way of creativity and new ideas. To successfully lead innovation, one must recognize this issue, and do what he can to eliminate it. Recognize that you have good people and get problems out of their way so they can be excellent at what they do.

So, recognize and accept your role in innovation. If you focus on doing your part and doing it very well, good things will happen. You might find that this will lead your way to innovation.

November 8, 2016

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 they 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 apply 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.

This Blog was originally posted July 11, 2015

November 3, 2016

Preparation Reduces Risk

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

Risk is inherent in innovation and in many other aspects of business and life. How do we deal with it? Some people avoid risk. If you don’t take many chances, then you won’t have many failures. Few people claim to take this approach, but in business it is easy to take the safe road and stay with the status quo.  Others take many risks and are over confident in their approach. Sometimes you see them succeed, but often they get even more confident, and then take unnecessary chances. For them failure is not an option, it is inevitable.

Where do we find the balance? An example occurred recently when two people with jet packs attempted to fly in formation with an Airbus A380. This appeared to be very risky with lots of moving parts that could go wrong. The flyers have wings strapped to their backs with small jet engines attached. The plane is one of the largest in existence. How many of us would jump out of a helicopter and try to fly around a plane at that speed?

At first I thought, “This is crazy, why would anyone take the risk?” Then as I watched the video, one of the solo pilots gave an interesting insight. Yves Rossy, known as Jetman, stated “to reduce these risks, there is a lot of preparation.”

We cannot eliminate risk, but there are things we can do to control, or mitigate it. Do we have the willingness to take the time to prepare and be ready, and reduce the risk to a manageable level? Here are several ideas to help to manage your risk with your innovation.

1. Recognize the Risk – You don’t have to dwell on the potential pitfalls, but you do need to know that they exist. If you look for them and acknowledge them, then you can take steps to avoid them.

2. Reduce the Risk – Once you see the potential risks, take the necessary steps to avoid them. If you just say, “Don’t worry that won’t happen to us,” you may find yourself in a lot of trouble when it does. Take steps to avoid potential problems, and be ready for them if they occur.

3. Prepare – If you are prepared, you do not have to fear risk. Have your innovation or project as ready as possible. Don’t take unnecessary shortcuts. If you have done all that you can to prepare, then the risk may just be worth it.

This Blog was originally posted November 13, 2015.