Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
March 4, 2016

Catch the Wave of Innovation

Author: Don Mangum, Jr. - Categories: Thomas Edison, Wright Brothers - Tags: ,

Sometimes it is the little innovations that make the big innovations possible. In the video below is a demonstration of a power station that creates electricity by harnessing wave energy and turning it into electricity. What I found interesting about the station was not the station in itself, but the little innovation that made it possible. They had to develop a system so the blades would spin in the same direction when the waves came in and also when the waves when out in the opposite direction. This smaller minor innovation made the bigger one possible.

The Wright Brothers had to do something similar. They did not anticipate that they would have to do much to develop their propeller. They could just borrow from the propellers used in ships. But unfortunately this did not work that way. The designs from ships gave them a start, but they had to create a propeller that was driven by the air, but was stable. It was this more minor innovation that made the major innovation of flight possible.

Edison had a goal at his invention factory that his teams create a minor invention every ten days and a major one every six months. We often talk about the big innovations because they have more pizazz, but the minor innovations that we may not even think about can make all the difference. So, if you are struggling with catching the wave of innovation perhaps it is not time to focus on the big innovation, success may be in thinking small.

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February 26, 2016

What can we learn from failure and critics?

Author: Don Mangum, Jr. - Categories: Innovators - Tags: , ,

If you have a new idea a couple things will almost always happen. First, there are going to be setback and failures. No matter how good the idea is, concepts need to be refined and improved once a thought goes into action. Second, there are always going to be critics. Some will simply dismiss an idea because it is new and they prefer the status quo. Or they may try to give constructive criticism, which can sometimes be helpful, but is often discouraging.

How do we deal with these issues? Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, has a few thoughts on the idea. He was often told he was not going to be successful.  His ideas were not accepted in the beginning, but perseverance has kept him going. Following his advice may be what you need to be successful in innovation.

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February 12, 2016

What separates innovators from everyone else?

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

I can remember watching Muhamad Ali light the Olympic torch at the 1996 Atlanta games. He was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and shaking as he held the touch in his hand. I have known a few people with Parkinson’s and recognize the difficulty in having the symptoms of shaking as the disease takes its toll on the body. I felt bad for what Ali and his family were going through and then moved on and watched the games.

Fast forward to a few years ago. A ten-year old, Utkarsh Tandon, was watching a video of the same opening games. His thought process was a little different than many or most others. He started thinking and imagining how he could help those with Parkinson’s. Eventually he came up with an idea. It is a ring that one can wear that will measure the various types of shaking associated with the disease. By being able to get this information to the doctor, it will be easier to regulate the medications and treatments that help those with the disease cope with their symptoms.

This young man, while still a teenager, is working to make this a reality. He already has a prototype printed on a 3D Printer.  He is now seeking funding to take his innovation to the next step. What separates innovators from everyone else? One thing is the ability to see an obstacle as a problem to be solved. They are not willing to stay with the status quo.  Rather, they are seeking to make the world a better place, sometimes better for just a small group of people, but better none the less. Opportunities for innovation are all around us,  So, just look for the difficulties and be open to finding a better way. This may be what you can do to help change the world for the better.

To learn more about Utkarash Tandon Click Here and Here

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February 5, 2016

The Wright Motivation

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

Innovators Orville and Wilbur WrightRecently we posted about the Wright Brothers.  We received such a good response that I thought I would go back and see if there were any inspirational quotations from them.  I found some, but I found something else that I thought was interesting.  Just like the rest of us they thought about giving up.  In some of their letters they stated that they thought it might take a thousand years to be able to fly and that they may not even be able to do it.

Even though they had doubts, they kept on going.  It reminds me of the Edison quote, “Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.”  These brothers were able to get past the discouragement and keep moving.  Sometimes it takes just a little inspiration to get us to success.  Here are a few of their thoughts to help us keep going towards our innovation.

Wilbur

“What one man can do himself directly is but little.  If however he can stir up ten others to take up the task he has accomplished much.”

“I am an enthusiast, but not a crank in the sense that I have some pet theories as to the proper construction of a flying machine. I wish to avail myself of all that is already known and then if possible add my mite to help the future worker who will attain final success.”

“It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.”

Orville Wright

“If they had been interested in invention with the idea of making money, they most assuredly would have tried something in which the chances for success were higher.”

“If we all worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true is really true, there would be little hope of advance.”

“The airplane stays up because it doesn’t have the time to fall.”

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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.

 

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April 1, 2015

Are You Going to Lead Innovation?

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

Innovators are out in front of everyone else. They can’t help it. By looking toward the future, they lead industries, companies, organizations and teams. I have always liked the phrase, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” This is the way it is in innovation, you must lead, follow an innovative leader, or get run over by someone who will.

Here are some thoughts on leadership and innovation. You may find a thought that, if you take it to heart, will help you lead your innovation to success.

I have always been driven to buck the system, to innovate, to take things beyond where they’ve been. – Sam Walton

Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. – Peter Drucker

The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious. – Marcus Aurelius

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams

Steve JobsInnovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it. – Steve Jobs

 

This blog was originally posted February 26, 2014.

 

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January 21, 2015

Three Titans of Innovation

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

Have you ever wondered what advice Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone would give to people today that want to be innovative and make a difference? Today, we are going to watch and listen to their advice to us. Are you willing to do what they suggest? It might make all the difference in your innovation.

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December 10, 2014

What is a Hero?

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

A hero is defined as a “person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.” It does not mean that the hero is perfect, but rather they have admirable qualities and or have performed admirably. A hero creates patterns or models for us to follow.

What type of heroes do we have in our lives? Who are the heroes of the children around us? Are they sports stars or celebrities? Are they politicians or other historical figures? On the list of heroes in our lives we should make sure that we have innovators. After studying the lives of well over one hundred innovators, we have seen patterns and models we can follow to become more innovative and more successful.

The three short videos below were created for children and clearly show attributes of successful innovators. Thomas Edison and his ability to keep trying different approaches until he found success. George Washington Carver and his ability to stay focused on his tasks despite incredible distractions and obstacles. Guglielmo Marconi and his ability to continue even when others around him told him he would not succeed. Maybe we should consider having some innovators as personal heroes and making sure that the next generation do this as well. You might just help create a better and more innovative place.


Thomas Edison

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George Washington Carver

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Guglielmo Marconi

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July 24, 2014

The Simplicity of Innovation

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

Innovation does not have to be complicated, it just has to improve and be something new. Often innovative ideas that are heading in a good direction get derailed under the weight of complications.

In the video below, Walter Isaacson, author of the book “Steve Jobs”, provides some insights into how Jobs looked for simplicity in his innovations. Steve Jobs wanted to make the user experience as simple as possible. He looked at the interface, how the device felt, and how he could make it easier to use.

Look at your innovation. Is it too complicated? Can you make it simpler in design and easier for the end user? Follow Steve Jobs example and you may find that simplicity is the answer you need for your innovation.

This blog was originally posted July 10, 2013

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June 27, 2014

Is your innovation a flop?

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

Sometimes just a different approach can be innovative.  Dick Fosbury changed his approach to high jumping as a high school athlete when he struggled with the old approach to clear the bar.  His new approach was the opposite of what everyone else did.  Instead of going over the bar face first, he went over head first and with his back to the bar.  At first he was made fun of, but his scores kept improving.   In 1968 he won the gold medal in the Mexico Olympics.  By 1980 nearly every high jumper had adopted his approach which became known as the “Fosbury Flop.”

So take a look at your approach to the task at hand.  Do you need to do something radically different or even the opposite of what everyone else does?  You might find a new approach to be successful, or if you are real lucky your innovation may be a “flop.”

 

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