Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
September 1, 2017

The Language of Innovation: Are Innovators Leaders? Part 5

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

Innovators and leaders have to communicate their ideas to everyone around them. Leaders promote innovation by what they say, how they say it and then doing what they say. Just using the words related to creativity and innovation is not enough. If they are not careful the message can be diminished to simply Buzzwords and Catchphrases. So what type of language do we need to use when as a leader we want to promote innovation? Here are three areas that we can focus on that will help us lead more effectively.

language-of-innovationLanguage of Action: Leaders of innovation must communicate not just theory, but action. Talking about innovation, but not doing anything about innovation is an idea killer. People want to present new ideas in an environment where the ideas may be accomplished. So don’t just focus on creating a vision and brainstorming, but also on planning and doing.

Language of Inspiration: New ideas create a lot of energy and excitement. As time passes this energy dies down. Days become weeks, then months and even years. Sometime slow progress can sap the energy and drive of individuals. The leader of innovation must work to continually re-energize and inspire the group. This will help get though the difficult times and stay on the path to success.

Language of Attempts: Often people don’t take necessary risks because of the fear of failure. Fail is a four letter word that nobody really wants to be a part of. Leaders need to help others focus on attempts. Promote the Edison idea that it is the results that matter. He stated, “I’ve gotten lots of results! If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward.”

So focus your communication on the language of, Attempts, Inspiration and Action. As you lead and focus in these areas, you will be able to guide others in leading everyone to success in innovation.

This blog was originally posted October 28, 2016

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August 25, 2017

The Trust of Innovation: Are innovators leaders? Part 4

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

What does it take to lead innovation?   It takes many of the same qualities that you would expect in a leader, but there some additional traits that help in becoming an innovative leader.  An article in the Harvard Business Review, 10 Traits of Innovative Leaders, spells out some of these traits.  The research in this article aligns with our experience in working with individuals and organizations that are trying to be more innovative.  We have talked about the value of Vision with innovation, but another topic in the article we believe may be the most important is Trust.

Trust can be defined as confidence, as an ability to depend on a person, a process or an organization.   Innovation is risky and in environments that have low trust people come to the conclusion that being innovative is simply not worth the risk.  This lack of trust creates situations where the status quo is unintentionally valued more than change and improvement. The high trust environment can foster calculated risk that leads to positive change and innovation. Here are several areas of trust that a leader or organization must create in their group or company to foster innovation:

  • Trust in being allowed to fail
  • Trust in getting the necessary support
  • Trust in receiving appropriate credit and benefits
  • Trust in the rest of the team or group
  • Trust in the future of the organization

Finally, as the leader you must show trust in the individual.  As Booker T. Washington said, “Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.”  So, if you are struggling to create innovation take a look at trust.  As you create trust and then trust the people and processes that you work with, you will find what you need to be successful with innovation.

This Blog was originally posted October 6, 2016.

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August 17, 2017

The Need of Innovation: Are innovators leaders? Part 3

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

Steve Jobs with ipadIn today’s world we face economic, political and social uncertainty and change. It is imperative that individuals, companies, governments and other organizations find new, creative and innovative solutions to new and difficult problems. This is why innovation is such a critical part of leadership. Steve Jobs stated, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” If leaders are not willing to look for innovative solutions, they may simply be left behind.

Not all leadership situations may require innovation, but leaders must at least be able to decide if innovation is necessary. Timing is an important part of leadership. The leader must assess the needs in a given situation and then act at the appropriate moment. There are several needs that must be met by a leader in regards to innovation.

1. The need for the leader who can innovate and foster innovation. Innovators often become leaders out of necessity. To take an innovation to fruition, the creator must often be the one who coordinates and leads the entire innovation process. Also, many leaders can only succeed if they can build an environment where people will create new and better ways for the company to function and produce better products. To succeed they must adopt the statement by Walt Disney, “I believe in being an innovator.”

2. The need for the organization that leads by innovation. Breaking into a new market requires innovation. Companies that can innovate become the market leaders and often can only stay at the top as long as they continue to innovate. Peter Drucker stated that, “Business has only two basic functions – marketing and innovation.” To be successful you must excel at both.

3. The need for the leader who knows when to innovate and when not to innovate. Not every situation requires a new and exciting solution. The leader must be able to recognize when a tried and true approach is appropriate, and when to introduce a new innovative idea or product.

Learning to lead innovation may be as important as the innovation itself. Without recognizing the need for proper leadership many an idea or product has simply died on the road to success. So, as you look to innovate, look to see who is going to lead the process. Finding the proper leader may just be the key to success in your innovation.

This blog was originally posted September 18, 2016

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August 4, 2017

Are innovators leaders?

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

A question that has come up often in our discussing and helping others improve innovation is, “What is the relationship between leadership and innovation?” This always leads to an interesting discussion. People come to discussions with different backgrounds and experiences.  The group always gains from the insights of everyone.  And, when we are done we are on the path to being more effective leaders and innovators.  The discussion itself is often more important than the answers.    We may ask questions such as:

Is innovation an essential part of Leadership?
Can you be an effective leader and not be innovative?
Is effective leadership key to innovation?
Which leadership traits and skills are necessary for innovation?

The University of Sydney asked some questions about leadership. The answers provide some interesting insights into perceptions of leadership. As you watch, ask yourself, “Which of these qualities are similar to those that are needed for innovation?” Connecting leadership with your innovation may be what you need to find the success you’re looking for.

This blog was originally posted September 7, 2016.

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July 20, 2017

The Perspiration of Innovation

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

When Edison said “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” he was not just talking about the 10,000 attempts on the filament of the light bulb.  He was talking about all of the other work to get the idea from the mind of the inventor to actual use by the user. A lot of people have new and interesting ideas, but to be innovative you have to do a lot more. Often the creating, improving and refining of the product or process is just the beginning.

Being able to focus on gathering the necessary resources, collaborating with the right people and focusing on the end user can be more critical than the product itself. The goal is not just to come up with something new, but rather something new that will be used.

The video below shows how Edison worked and promoted himself and his ideas to be successful. Follow some of his example, and you just may be able to have a great innovation.

This blog was originally posted June 15, 2016.

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July 14, 2017

Can your organization be as creative as Pixar?

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

Pixar and InnovationPixar is an amazing, creative company. They have had a remarkable run of successful animated movies, from the “Toy Story” series to the recently released “Finding Dory.” One could make a good argument that they could be the most creative company in the world. Creativity and innovation are not synonymous, but creativity is a critical part of innovation. In addition to being creative, Pixar has been very innovative in their development of computer generated animation.

Recently, I read a book written by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, titled “Creativity Inc.” In this book he talks about his experiences in the development of Pixar and overcoming obstacles to creativity. He shares a wealth of information.  I gained many useful lessons from his book. Here are three of the lessons I learned:

Three things:

  1. Even creative companies such as Pixar have to work to be creative. – One might think that if you have the right people and put them together, good things would happen. That is just the start. Creating and maintaining a creative environment is a constant struggle. Taking the time to look at simple things such as how people are seated at meetings can make a difference. The time invested in creating creativity is well worth it.
  2. As your organization gets larger, natural barriers get in the way of creativity. – What works when you have a handful of employees does not necessarily work when you have fifty or one hundred. Some of the processes you put in place when small, may actually be barriers as you grow larger. But it is possible to be a large creative organization, you just have to keep working at it.
  3. You can take steps to help your company become more creative and innovative. – This applies to all organizations. The world we live in today needs creative solutions to difficult problems. As Pixar grew, there were several moments when creativity could have been stifled. They were willing to make changes to continue being creative and innovative. If they can do it so can you in your organization.

Not every company is filled with artists that create stories and movies, but every organization needs some of that same creative spark to be successful. Keep working to be more creative as an individual and as  a group and you never know where it will take you. You may not find a blue fish, but you may find the success you need to pull off an innovation.

This Blog was originally June 23, 2016

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June 29, 2017

Innovation GO

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

It is amazing how somethings can catch on quickly and other ideas can be slow to be adopted. The game Pokémon GO has become a phenomenon that is suddenly part of our collective consciousness. In less than a week from its release, I was able to use it as an example of an innovation and everyone in the room, ages ranging from 20s to 70s, knew what it was.

Pokemon GOThe game is a remarkable combination of technologies that gets people that play electronic games off the couch and out into the real world, or at least a world with Augmented Reality. With Augmented Reality you combine the actual world with the electronic world. So instead of playing by just staring at a screen, you look at the world in which you live in but it also includes electronic creatures that you can capture and train. You may find a Pokémon in your house, but to successfully play the game you need to get out, take a walk and maybe even go to the park.

While this innovation may just seem like a toy, it has other applications that can enhance many areas of our lives. Imagine being in a foreign county and being able to look through your phone, or some type of electronic glasses, and all the signs are translated into your native language.  Or looking and seeing the historical background of the place you are visiting.  It could show the ratings and prices on the front door of a restaurant you are considering.

Some of the applications could be industrial. Imagine looking at a piece of machinery through your device and being able to see the parts list, repair manual and maintenance records. It might even guide you step by step through problem diagnosis and repair process. For now, it may just be a game, but in the future the benefits of Augmented Reality will be very real.

So when you see the kids, and many adults, walking around outside they are not just playing a game, they are using an innovation. If you think about all the options for innovation that we have before us, it may be following in the footsteps of a game that helps make your innovation GO.

This blog was originally posted July 21, 2016.

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June 3, 2017

Vacation from Innovation

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

As summer begins, people are planning their vacations.  “What are you going to do?” or “Where are you going to go?” are common questions around the water cooler.  We have a suggestion. The next time you are asked, “what you are going to do this summer?”  reply, “Take a vacation from innovation.”

Edison enjoyed his work.  In some ways his work was play.  He once said, “Most of the exercise I get is from standing and walking all day from one laboratory table to another.  I derive more benefit and entertainment from this than some of my friends and competitors get from playing games like golf.”  While this was true he also took breaks.

(Ford, Edison and Firestone on a camping trip)

Edison had a winter home in Florida, a long way from his laboratory.  He would also take trips with other titans of his day such as Ford or Firestone.  He would come back from these trips refreshed, often with new ideas and approaches to his experiments and problems.  So the next time you need to improve your innovation, the best thing you can do may be to take a vacation.

This blog was originally posted May 30, 2012.

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May 27, 2017

Concentrate on Your Innovation

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

ConcentrateThe modern world is full of distractions and it has become more difficult to find time to concentrate on important tasks. The phone rings, we get an email or text, someone just has a quick question, and we are distracted for only a few moments. Studies have shown that just a brief, 2-3 second interruption can substantially impair concentration and increase errors. (See WSJ Article, The Biggest Office Interruptions)

Distractions can even be dangerous. Hospitals have even found that patients can receive the wrong medications or other incorrect treatments when nurses and others are distracted while preparing medications or during other critical medical activities. These distractions can cause serious harm and even death. Being distracted while working on an innovation might not have such serious consequences, but this discussion does suggest that possible problems can be created by a lack of concentration, even with an innovation.

What can be done do avoid distractions? Kaiser Hospitals  set up special processes relating to medication administration including putting on a vest that lets people know that you should not be disturbed; they also identified specially marked areas where you can go and nobody will disturb you. Think about that for a minute, a signal to let others know not to disturb you and a place to go where you won’t be disturbed. This may be what you need to help you with your innovation. Find a time and a place where you can really concentrate on your innovation.

This blog was originally posted December 3, 2015

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May 19, 2017

Quiet Innovation

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

The world is full of background noise. It can be the constant hum of our lives that we hardly notice, but it does affect us. Do we notice that this noise disrupts us? I had a couple of experiences recently that caused me to think about it.

I live near a road that takes people out of my neighborhood and to the major street. A bus goes down that road about every 15 minutes. Recently, some major work is being done on a sewer line and the road is completely closed.  All traffic and the bus route has been diverted. This will continue for several months. The day after the road was shut down, as I was getting into my car I noticed something did not feel right.  I paused for a moment and then realized the noise was gone. My peaceful neighborhood had become even more peaceful.

Quiet life leads to InnovationThe second experience happened when my wife and I went to an appointment in the evening a few weeks ago. Our appointment was about an hour out of the city. We visited as we listened to quiet music during the trip.  When we got to our destination we walked a short distance to the entrance.  As we walked, my wife observed, “It is really peaceful here.” She was right.  There was no noise from the city, no noise from animals or from anything else. Just a peaceful quiet.

Noise is often a distraction and distractions can keep us from our innovations, and other goals we have in our lives.  Albert Einstein commented that, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

Creativity is so important, and yet we allow distractions to keep us from it. What is worse, we get so used to the distractions that we stop realizing they are often causing us to lose focus. So, take some time and look at the distractions in your life. You may not be able to remove them, but if you see them and limit them, you may find time for some of the quiet life that often leads to innovation.

This blog was originally posted on September 25, 2017

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