Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
February 5, 2014

Disruptive Innovation

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

Language is important. Knowing how to convey new ideas is critical in innovation. Concepts of how to take an idea and transform it into a product or process must be communicated and understood. Today we are going to talk a little about part of the language of innovation and the term Disruptive Innovation. This is a concept that if you and your team understand you can greatly increase your probability of success.

What is Disruptive Innovation? It is a term that is often used, but often not understood. We know what the individual words mean, but do we understand the concept. The following video explains the basic idea and can get you on your way to your own disruptive innovation.

January 21, 2014

Innovation = Jobs

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

This blog will take you to visit two different articles.  The first article is from The Economist, titled, “The Onrushing Wave.”  It explores the idea that innovation, while eliminating some jobs, has always led to long term job growth.  Innovation is not just good for you, not just good for your company or organization, but is also good for the economy and society as a whole.

The second article is from the USA Today titled, “The Most Innovative Companies in the World.”   It takes a look at companies that have been granted the most patents.  While this may not be the perfect way to identify innovative companies, it is an interesting list.  Some of the companies surprised me. 

So, please take a few minutes and read these articles, they may provide just the insights you need to improve your innovations.

June 11, 2013

To Innovate, Set Insane Goals

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

Thomas Edison set high goals for achievement in innovation.  When he was at his peak at his invention factory, he set remarkable goals; a minor invention every ten days and a major invention every six months.  The results were amazing.  He ended up with over one thousand patents.

Now, let me tell you about a modern day innovator who set remarkable goals and achieved them.  His name is Geoffery Ling, M.D., Ph. D., and a Retired Army Cornel.  Dr. Ling, is a neurologist and a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  He works on a number of projects, one of which is the Revolutionizing Prosthesis program.

Dr Ling recognized the needs of returning soldiers that were either amputees or, though brain or spinal injuries, had lost use of their limbs.   He set remarkable goals to do something to help these individuals return to fully functioning lives.  He wanted to come up with a revolutionary way to help these individuals within five years.  He was told that this goal was insane.  Looking back, his goal was within the range of “insanity” that we can make happen.

Did Dr. Ling achieve his goal?  You can be the judge, but clearly what he has done is remarkable.  In the excerpt below from 60-Minutes, you can see a quadriplegic woman moving a robotic arm with only her brain.  She uses only thinking to move the prosthetic arm in the same way she did her real arm.  Also you can see a man who lost his arm use his artificial hand as if it were real.

What can we learn from this?  Sometimes the setting of insane goals is the beginning of achieving remarkable and revolutionary results.  So, set your goals and work toward them.   You may start your own revolution.

For additional insights from Dr. Ling, please review this video titled “Development of Mechanical Arm DARPA: Giving Back Life and Movement with the Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program”

April 16, 2013

Three Years of Blogging about Edison and Innovation

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

Three years ago this week Norwell Consulting began blogging with Thomas Edison and Innovation in mind.  In our first post we stated that, “Our articles will contain practical suggestions that are applicable to what our readers do every day.  We hope you find it useful and interesting.”  From our point of view we have been very successful.  The first week the blog was read by only a few clients and family members.  Now, more people read the blog each day than did in the first month, and each post is read by people from all over the world. 

We thought this week we would look back at some of our favorite posts from the last three years.  If you have not read them before, or even if you have, go take a look.  You will be glad that you did.

Edison and other innovators have a lot to teach us.  Here Time Magazine tells us why.

Why Is Edison Relevant Today?

Steve Jobs may be the closest example we have to a modern day Edison.

Steve Jobs:  Looking Into Your Future

Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison–World Class Innovators

Learning about and becoming more innovative can be fun.  Here is an example.

Getting into the Habit of Innovation

March 12, 2013

Is Telecommuting Innovative?

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

Recently Yahoo and Best Buy announced that they would end telecommuting and require their employees to come back and work in the office.  Both companies have been on a downward trend and are in need of a turn around.  The justification for the change was the need for collaboration and innovation.  So the question is, can you telecommute and be innovative?

I went back and looked at our research to see where innovation happens.  It happens everywhere, in offices, in laboratories, in fields, and at home in garages and even in kitchens.  Location, while important to innovation, is not a key factor.  Two factors to innovation do stand out in the debate about innovation and telecommuting.  They are communicating with others and being able to work without too many distractions.  Not being able to focus on your innovation can keep you from success.

Having worked from home and in the office, I have seen some advantages of both.  For example, there are some strong advantages in being able to collaborate with your team if they are all in one location.  Everyone can get together quickly and discuss opportunities and problems as they occur.  Also, while conference calls can be a wonderful tool, there is something about face to face communication that is very important.  Some great ideas have sprung from people scribbling on a napkin over lunch.

However, one of the most frustrating things about working at the office is the number of distractions that occur when people just stop by, or so called emergencies pop up.  I can’t count the number of times that I have had to work late or on weekends so I could get a few hours of uninterrupted time.  Uninterrupted time is often a catalyst to innovation.

All of this being said, my conclusion is that while on the surface it may appear that ending telecommuting will help innovation, the real issue is creating an environment that fosters innovation regardless of the location.  If a company does not have an innovative culture, or has a failing business model, the employees location will not really effect innovation.  So, as you look to be more innovative individuals and organizations, don’t focus on where you innovate but work on rewarding and promoting innovation.  That is where you will make it happen.

November 6, 2012

You can’t do that

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

When I was in high school I remember a conversation about trying to get clouds inside the school.  We thought it would be great, especially if we could get it to rain in class.  But we came to the conclusion that you can’t do that.

As it turns out you can make clouds inside.  Time Magazine has listed indoor cloud creations as one of the Best inventions of the Year.  Also on the list are some amazing robots, an improvement on the catsup bottle and a suit that helps you fly.

So take a look at some of the new inventions from that past year.  I am sure that in almost every case somebody said you can’t do that.  These innovators pushed on anyway and were eventually successful.  So keep working on your innovation and eventually someone may say, “Wow I did not think it was possible, but you can do that!!!”

 To take a look at the Best Inventions of the Year Click Here

October 30, 2012

Is Innovation Crazy?

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

New ideas are often met with skepticism and ridicule. People don’t like change and are often comfortable with the way things are. This can be true even if circumstances are not good and things are not going well. The lack of support of others or their resistance can be a significant barrier to innovation.

Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, put it this way, “When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts.” What some people call crazy, I would call a willingness to go into the unknown, recognizing the risk but willing to take the risk to get to the reward.

I recently came across a cnn.com article about the iPad and airplanes that reminded me of this idea. When iPads came out some people just focused on what it could not do. They mocked the name. Who would want one of these devices? The answer now is everyone.

In the article an airline announced that they are replacing the paper pilot manuals on their planes with iPads. There was some resistance to the announcement. What would they do if the iPad failed? I focused on what the iPad was going to replace. The manuals and other materials a pilot was required to carry weighed 38 pounds and was more than 12,000 pages long.

I asked myself what is crazy – the new iPad or a pilot in a plane with 12K pages worth of materials and no search capability. Often the real crazy or dangerous behavior is staying with the status quo.

So the next time someone says your idea is nuts it may just be a sign you’re on the right track. The best thing we can do is go out and get a little crazy.

To read the airline article click here.

This blog was originally posted September 7, 2011

September 11, 2012

Innovation in 3-D

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

3-D is one of today’s big buzz words. 3-D products are at the cutting edge of innovation. In today’s blog we’ll show you a revolutionary product, the 3-D Printer, and you don’t need special glasses to use it. It is truly innovative in two important ways. First, it takes what was once science fiction and turns it into reality, as you will see. Second, using this product will enhance the work of many innovators. If you haven’t heard or thought about this product you will find it to be truly amazing. In many ways it works like an ink printer, but instead of laying down a single layer of ink, it lays down multiple layers of materials. Many different types of materials can be used with the 3-D printer, including plastics, metal, wood and ceramics. Here is a video example using the printer to create ceramic products.

Imagine, in the future, instead of children bringing home a handmade cup or paperweight from school , they will design it on the computer, print it and then bring it home. When I was first introduced to this product a few years ago I was astonished by the possibilities. Our company considered using it to make a miniature model of our product to show to a potential client. At that time the process was very expensive, so we finally decided not to order one. Now the technology has taken another step and you can buy a personal 3-D printer. It may still be expensive for home use, but the time is probably coming when you will print 3-D objects at home. Here is an example of a personal 3-D printer.

Our purpose for talking about this remarkable product is two-fold. First, if you aren’t familiar with this technology or haven’t looked at it for a while, you may decide it could be a tool that can help in your innovation. Second, we want to remind all of us to be on the lookout for new tools that can help us in our work. Technology changes rapidly, and while you may be on the cutting edge in your field, what’s going on in other fields? Take a look around you and I’ll bet you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.

More information on 3-D Printing

CNN Article Click here

Wired.com Video on building your own 3-D Printer for under $1000 Click Here

This blog was originally posted May 24, 2011

June 20, 2012

Can your desk make you more innovative?

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

In today’s post I would like to introduce you to an article that has insight into innovation.  The article discusses how our desk, our working environment, can enhance or detract from our creativity.  This is not necessarily a new idea.  In designing his laboratory Edison attempted to create a space that was conducive to innovation.  So whether you are at work or at home, take a look around your work space and see if it is a place where you can be creative and innovate.  Do you have a place where small ideas can grow into big ideas?  If you do not, it may be time to move things around.  You will be glad that you did.

To view the article click here

April 3, 2012

The Accidental Innovation

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

We have all heard stories about innovations that happened by accident.  Someone stumbles onto a solution to a problem they did not even know they had.  They turn this accident into a valuable innovation.  A question reasonably follows, “How can I have an accidental innovation?” 

As the video below shows, there seem to be two factors that usually contribute to an accidental innovation: 

  1. The innovator is working hard at something.
  2. The innovator looks at what he has found and is willing to be creative in application and open to a new idea. 

So how can you find your accidental innovation?  Keep working, you aren’t going to find your accident by just dreaming or sitting on the couch.  Then, once you find something new or unusual, be open to new possibilities.  You may have just found penicillin, Velcro or the next microwave.