Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
February 24, 2018

Relaxing to Innovate

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

Relax for Innovation.Some times of our lives are busier than others. Last week was a very busy week. Fortunately, every week is not like that one. Multiple projects with multiple clients in multiple locations, with multiple deadlines all competing for time as well as physical and mental energy. Add into that other personal and family obligations and the week was filled with long days and very short nights. When Saturday finally came, I ended up working from early in the morning to mid-afternoon. When I finally made it home I took a quick power nap and then had some down time with dinner and the family. As I felt my mind relax and lose focus, I relaxed and realized that I had made a mistake this week. I had allowed work to get in the way of being able to be creative.

It is so easy to fall into this trap. Most of our days are filled with tasks of various importance, leading to deadlines. There is pressure to get to the work that has to get done, but we lose benefits by not allowing ourselves to have downtime and creative time. Often this is self-defeating. We lose the ability to be creative and do our jobs better, because we are too busy doing our jobs.

Here are several ideas that may help you to keep up your creativity and doing things that are more innovative:

  1. Schedule Down Time – Yes, put it on the calendar if you need to. You can even call it meeting with client or research.
  2. Get up from your Desk and go for a Walk – It is important to clear your head every once in a while. Once it is clear, a new idea or approach may be able to come in.
  3. Find time to take a Power Nap – While not something we may be able to do every day, it can be a good boost when necessary. I worked with someone who every once in a while would disappear. He confided in me later that he would go out to his car turn off his phone and take a quick nap. It helped to give him the energy and clarity to get through the rest of the day.
  4. Engage in a Creative Activity – Read, write, draw, listen to or play music, take time to dream and get your creative juices flowing.

These are four things that can work for me, but you need to find what works for you. What can you do to relax? What can you do to spark your own creativity? Answer these questions for yourself and then apply what you learn. It may be that what you need to do is relax.

This Blog was originally posted March 3, 2017

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October 31, 2017

Teaching Innovation

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

Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant ManagementA few weeks ago we were asked to do a presentation at the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. The college is consistently ranked among the top hospitality programs in the world, with an actual functioning hotel located in the center of a large college campus run by students. We discussed innovation with a group a senior level and graduate students in a course titled, ‘Innovation and “Unconventional Marketing.” As a presenter I learned from the experience and I hope that the students in attendance were also able to gain from the discussion.

First, I loved the title of the course. Think how much we would all benefit if we attended a class with the concepts, “innovation” and “unconventional.” This would include ideas on creativity and being able to do new things in new and different ways. So much of what we learn in school, is by necessity, more of an exercise in memorizing, getting information in your head and then being able to get it back out in a coherent and timely matter. This is an important skill, but we also need to work on the skills of creating, dreaming and stretching ourselves.

Teaching Innovation

Second, it was great to see a school that was also a working laboratory in hospitality. There you don’t just learn a concept, but you then have to apply it and see how it works in the real world. When we work with individuals about innovation, or anything else, we try to teach in the same approach. Edison put it this way, “I would rather examine something myself for even a brief moment  than listen to somebody tell me about it for two hours.” We need to take the time to do, feel, and touch if we really want to understand and improve.

Lastly, students still have a sense of wonder and an expectation that they can make a difference. For various reasons we often lose that as we progress in our careers. In order to be successful at innovation, we must rekindle these feelings and then act upon them. As we do this, we may find what we need to successfully complete our innovations.

This blog was originally posted April 14, 2016

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September 29, 2017

Edison and the Secrets of Sleep

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

Recently I read a National Geographic article titled, “The Secrets of Sleep.”  The authors discussed many ideas related to sleep, including why we sleep and why we don’t or can’t sleep.  It also laid out the stages of sleep and even put them on a graph showing the sleeping stages of a typical adult sleeper by following their brain waves throughout the night.  The writers suggested that there are three stages of sleep.  Stage 1 is light sleep when we may drift in and out of wakefulness.  Stage 2 is deeper sleep when brainwaves slow, but there are also occasional bursts of brain activity.  Stage 3 is deep sleep with very slow brain waves.  In the midst of these stages is a condition or period called REM or Rapid Eye Movement.  During REM sleep our brain is very active and almost all dreams take place during REM sleep.

After I read the article I became more conscious of my own sleeping habits and also periods of high creative thought during my sleeping.  For example, the article described one of the possible purposes of sleep saying, “…memory consolidation may be one of the functions of sleep….the sleeping brain may weed out redundant or unnecessary synapses or connections.  So the purpose of sleep may be to help us remember what’s important, by letting us forget what is not.”

In the nights that have followed since studying this article, I have found that while sleeping I go through periods of cycling through memories of the day.  I think this happens during my periods of Stage 1 sleep.  While this is happening, I sleep for a period, then in a state of semi-wakefulness I process some of the issues of the previous day and then fall back to sleep.  This may happen several times over a period of an hour or two until things seem to be resolved, and then I finally go into a deeper sleep, probably Stage 3 sleep.

In the early hours of the morning as I am becoming more and more awake my mind seems clearer and some of my most creative thinking takes place .  Frequently, I have found that there are enough good ideas that I try to write down the thoughts that have punctuated that period.   Some of them have proven to be very helpful on current projects.

Through all of this, I am reminded of the pictures of Thomas Edison sleeping in the laboratory.  Although his sleeping habits were unusual, his sleeping likely served a similar function of clearing out the weeds and setting up a more productive environment for creativity.

This Blog was originally posted September 21, 2010

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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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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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April 21, 2017

Can Creativity and Innovation be defined?

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

When we talk and teach about innovation, we often start with a discussion on the definition of innovation. We bring up several different definitions to help spur the discussion. The value is in the back and forth discussion. When people discuss creativity and innovation good things happen to the individual and the organization. The final definition is not nearly as important as the journey.

Below is a short animated discussion on creativity and innovation that is worth thinking about. What do you think about these definitions? Are they too simple? Do they convey all of the meaning of the words? What would you add or subtract to the definition? As you watch all the way to the end, you will notice in the final few seconds, in smaller print, something that may be the most important part of the message. So, spend some time today thinking about creativity and innovation and see what good things can happen.

This Blog was originally posted May 1, 2015

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March 3, 2017

Relaxing to Innovate

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

Relax for Innovation.Some times of our lives are busier than others. Last week was a very busy week. Fortunately, every week is not like that one. Multiple projects with multiple clients in multiple locations, with multiple deadlines all competing for time as well as physical and mental energy. Add into that other personal and family obligations and the week was filled with long days and very short nights. When Saturday finally came, I ended up working from early in the morning to mid-afternoon. When I finally made it home I took a quick power nap and then had some down time with dinner and the family. As I felt my mind relax and lose focus, I relaxed and realized that I had made a mistake this week. I had allowed work to get in the way of being able to be creative.

It is so easy to fall into this trap. Most of our days are filled with tasks of various importance, leading to deadlines. There is pressure to get to the work that has to get done, but we lose benefits by not allowing ourselves to have downtime and creative time. Often this is self-defeating. We lose the ability to be creative and do our jobs better, because we are too busy doing our jobs.

Here are several ideas that may help you to keep up your creativity and doing things that are more innovative:

  1. Schedule Down Time – Yes, put it on the calendar if you need to.  You can even call it meeting with client or research.
  2. Get up from your Desk and go for a Walk – It is important to clear your head every once in a while. Once it is clear, a new idea or approach may be able to come in.
  3. Find time to take a Power Nap – While not something we may be able to do every day, it can be a good boost when necessary. I worked with someone who every once in a while would disappear. He confided in me later that he would go out to his car turn off his phone and take a quick nap. It helped to give him the energy and clarity to get through the rest of the day.
  4. Engage in a Creative Activity – Read, write, draw, listen to or play music, take time to dream and get your creative juices flowing.

These are four things that can work for me, but you need to find what works for you. What can you do to relax? What can you do to spark your own creativity? Answer these questions for yourself and then apply what you learn. It may be that what you need to do is relax to keep your innovation moving.

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June 23, 2016

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.

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April 14, 2016

Teaching Innovation

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

Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant ManagementA few weeks ago we were asked to do a presentation at the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. The college is consistently ranked among the top hospitality programs in the world, with an actual functioning hotel located in the center of a large college campus run by students. We discussed innovation with a group a senior level and graduate students in a course titled, ‘Innovation and “Unconventional Marketing.” As a presenter I learned from the experience and I hope that the students in attendance were also able to gain from the discussion.

First, I loved the title of the course. Think how much we would all benefit if we attended a class with the concepts, “innovation” and “unconventional.” This would include ideas on creativity and being able to do new things in new and different ways. So much of what we learn in school, is by necessity, more of an exercise in memorizing, getting information in your head and then being able to get it back out in a coherent and timely matter. This is an important skill, but we also need to work on the skills of creating, dreaming and stretching ourselves.

Teaching Innovation

Second, it was great to see a school that was also a working laboratory in hospitality. Where you don’t just learn a concept, but you then have to apply it and see how it works in the real world. When we work with individuals about innovation, or anything else, we try to teach in the same approach. Edison put it this way, “I would rather examine something myself for even a brief moment  than listen to somebody tell me about it for two hours.” We need to take the time to do, feel, and touch if we really want to understand and improve.

Lastly, students still have a sense of wonder and an expectation that they can make a difference. For various reasons we often lose that as we progress in our careers. In order to be successful at innovation, we must rekindle these feelings and then act upon them. As we do this, we may find what we need to successfully complete our innovations.

Share