Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
March 8, 2017

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 went 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 it  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.

The blog was originally posted March 4, 2016

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February 17, 2017

Why is there a Star Wars character in my Shower?

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

Star Wars in my ShowerRecently while I was taking a shower, I turned around and there was Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens standing there in my shower. He was had his light saber drawn and looked ready to fight. Fortunately for me, it was not actually him, but rather a picture of him on a new bottle of shampoo. I looked down and thought, I need to try this, will it clean by hair better than other shampoos? Will it give me the force? Will it help me complete my training and become a Jedi Knight? To my disappointment, when I was done it only provided me with clean hair. No special force powers or other enhanced abilities.

When we have discussion with people about innovation, marketing often comes up. Many people see the process of marketing as creative, but not necessarily innovative. But often getting people to use a new or innovative product is as important as the product itself. So even if marketing is not innovative it is part of the innovative process.

George Lucas understood this intellectually or intuitively. When he made the original Star Wars he retained the rights to merchandising and the soundtrack. At the time movie merchandise and soundtracks were more of a promotion tool, and the studios hoped to break even rather than another source of revenue. Lucas was more innovative in his approach and was able to make millions, and then billions by using the movie to promote the merchandise and the merchandise to promote the movie. Both areas became highly profitable.

So, was putting a popular movie character on a bottle of shampoo innovative? Is this even the correct question? Is the more important question, does putting a popular movie character on a bottle of shampoo increase sales? As I thought about these things, I came to a different conclusion. I looked at the process from the my point of view, the consumer. We purchased this product to encourage a seven-year-old boy to actually use shampoo instead of just standing in the shower for a while and then yell, “I’M DONE.” Nobody wants to go through the discussion with a wet child on whether or not they really used soap. The next thing you know you are smelling wet hair, and then sending them back in to finish the job. If any product or package can help with this, even if it is not necessarily innovative, it is definitely appreciated. So, when you work with a product or process, spend some time thinking about the marketing and packaging. This may be what you need to have to get others to use your innovation.

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February 3, 2017

What separates innovators from everyone else?

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

I can remember watching Muhammad 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 of 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 later. 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 their 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 Utkarsh Tandon Click Here and Here

This Blog was originally posted February 12. 2016.

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January 13, 2017

Think Big in Innovation

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

Innovation can come in all shapes and sizes. Often innovations that start small can grow into something large, but we must have a vision to turn our simple concept into something more. If you have followed this blog for very long you have read some of our posts on 3D printing. It is a very exciting area. People use this innovation in many areas such as, medical devices, metal parts manufacturing, ceramics and even food.

But as it turns out, even these ideas were from thinking small. Several different companies have started thinking much bigger. They have started printing homes and other buildings. In China they printed ten homes in one day using concrete and other building materials. Other companies have printed buildings and ten started marketing the printers. The central technology is to “print” the basic concrete structure. The idea of concrete homes is not new. Edison built concrete homes using intricate frames and molds, but the printing of the structure will make it much faster and easier than anything Edison could have done. The concept will not just work for homes but also for large buildings and bridges as well.

So, the next time you are working on a project and you believe you know what to do, think BIG. It may be what you need for success in your innovation.

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August 29, 2016

Innovation Changes History

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

Recently, I came across a list of 11 Innovations that Changed History on History.com. It listed innovations that were catalysts for major changes in society and civilization. It included inventions such as the light bulb, compass, steel, and the steam engine. Each of these opened up opportunities for additional changes and inventions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe one innovation that really opened up the world to knowledge was the printing press. Knowledge is one of the vital ingredients of innovation. Edison possessed a large library of books of all types in order to access pages and pages of information that could be used for inspiration or to deduce the answers to the issues in front of him.

Today we not only have access to books, but also, thanks to the internet, we have a seemingly limitless supply of information. The internet is a descendant of the printing press. We even call what we look at pages or webpages. So ask yourself, am I using the benefits of the printing press? Am I using the information that I have access to? The information is out there to change the history of your innovation.

This blog was originally posted September 4, 2015

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August 11, 2016

Olympics and Innovation

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

The Olympics are in full swing and there are a number of amazing stories as some athletes go for the gold medal and others are just happy to participate. You may not have realized it, but there has been a lot of innovation at the Olympics over the years. For example, equipment has been improved and training methods have changed in ways that give athletes greater opportunities for victory.

Today, we have a video presentation by Peter Vidmar, winner of two gold medals and a silver medal in gymnastics in 984. In this video Mr. Vidmar talks about change and innovation in his sport. The principle he addresses can apply to many different types of innovations. Examples of innovation are everywhere. So, the next time you watch the Olympics or any other event, look for inspiration. You may not win a gold medal, but you may find a key to success in your innovation.

The blog was originally posted August 8, 2012

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August 4, 2016

Breaking the Rules of Innovation

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

It has been said that in order to break the rules you have to know the rules. One of the things that holds back innovation is not understanding the related laws that exist. Understanding the legal, economic and physical laws is often necessary to create a tangible advancement. Here are three examples where understanding the realities of the world makes the innovation process more effective.

Laws of InnovationA few years ago I was in a discussion with an inventor about a cool new approach to dealing with data. He had spent a lot of time and money developing the related software. There was one problem; there were several related copyright issues. The issues essentially made the product useless. Not spending time to understand the legalities destroyed this opportunity for innovation.

Successful innovators also understand basic laws of economics. One law is almost universally understood. A business, or innovation has to eventually make money or it will not survive. Edison showed that he understood this principle when he stated, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.” A creative idea that you can’t sell is not an innovation, it is just a creative idea.

Possibly the most famous innovation that does not yet exist is the hover board from the movie “Back to the Future II”. By 2015 skateboards were to be replaced with hover boards and we would be floating across the ground. People have been working on this innovation for a long time. While progress has been made, we still cannot float across the parking lot. Who will be able to develop this innovation: It will be he person who clearly understands the law that his product is working against–the Law of Gravity. You are not going to be able to break this law, but the solution may come in working around it, or maybe bending it. Success may even come from using the law that appears to be stacked against you to your advantage.

Spend some time learning the principles and laws that govern your area of innovation. Understand the laws or parameters that you have to work in, but look out for rules that are just conventional wisdom. These are the rules that are broken by innovators. Understanding the difference between the two may be a key to your successful innovation.

This blog was originally posted July 16, 2015

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July 21, 2016

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

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July 13, 2016

Is Your Innovation Cool Enough?

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

It is the middle of summer and it is hot outside. In some places really hot. It brings to mind one of my favorite innovations, air conditioning. Air conditioning was innovated by Willis Haviland Carrier around 1902 in upstate New York. I say innovated rather than invented because the basic idea already existed, but Carrier was able to perfect it and take it to market.

Edison once said referring to the creation of some of his inventions, “I start where the last man left off.” Carrier did exactly that, he took what had already been created and took it a few steps further. The basic idea of moving around cool air had been around for thousands of years. The one important component, the compressor, had been around for nearly a hundred years, but they had trouble finding an effective coolant. Water did not work well and some of the other chemicals they tried were poisonous. Circulating deadly air was not going to work no matter how cool it was. Carrier came up with a non toxic coolant and was able to make a system that worked very well.

As important as the system itself, was Carrier’s ability to sell the system. Air conditioning really took off, first in movie theaters, then in office buildings and eventually in homes. All of this because Carrier was able to build on what other people had begun, make it better and then sell it to the hot consumers. So the next time you come in from the heat, think about Carrier and take time to build on others’ ideas. You never know what cool innovation you may come up with.

To learn more about how air conditioners work please see the video below:

This blog was originally posted July 25, 2012

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June 3, 2016

Innovating Fast or Slow

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

I can remember when I was a child seeing the home of the future. It had a number of cool electronic and other advances that seemed exciting and straight out of science fiction. In 1957 Disneyland had a home of the future in Tomorrowland that was unlike anything anyone was living in at the time (To see the home click here). We have been fascinated for a long time with how technology and innovation would change how we live at home.

So where are the homes of the future? Did the projected home of the future from six decades ago ever come to pass? Looking back it was easy to think that one day we would purchase a home that looked like a UFO and had all of these wonderful advances. In reality the changes happened slowly. Ideas that were very exciting, were not necessarily practical. Products that seemed innovative, sometimes are just different or are not accepted by consumers.

But looking back, the current home that I live in is starting to have a lot in common with that home of the future. The home environment is changing slowly. Patience is not a word often associated with innovation, but sometimes innovations cause immediate change, other times it can take much longer. Learning to understand the timing of our innovation may be what we need to find success.

Take a look at the following video to see some of the new technologies for a home or apartment, some of which were not even imagined in 1957. Sometimes the reality of the future can be better than the dream of the future.

This blog was originally posted June 19, 2015

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