Edison and Innovation Blog

Learning Innovation from Thomas A. Edison
December 14, 2017

Christmas with Thomas Edison 2017

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

Every year at this time I spend time thinking about writing a new blog about Edison’s impact on Christmas, but I never have come up with a better one than the original. We first posted the original on December 14, 2010. We re-post it every year and it is always one of the most popular for that year. Why has it been so popular? It shows how Edison’s innovations impacted simple parts our lives and made them better. We hope you enjoy this blog that has become part of our holiday tradition.

Merry Christmas,

Norwell Consulting

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You probably did not realize this, but in addition to all of his other inventions, Thomas Edison also innovated the way we celebrate Christmas. Three particular Edison innovations enhanced the holiday.

During the Christmas season of 1880, a year after he invented the light bulb, Edison hung the first Christmas lights. Visitors to the laboratory that year were treated to the light display. Two years later Edison’s colleague, Edward H. Johnson, put the first red and green lights on a Christmas tree. It would be another forty years until outside lighting would become popular.

This time of year you cannot go anywhere without hearing Christmas music. We hear the familiar sounds of Christmas music in stores, in our cars, when we’re on hold for a phone call, and in our homes and churches. Not only did Edison invent the phonograph but he recorded and sold Christmas music. (To listen to some of these original Edison recordings clickhere)

Christmas movies have become a staple of the holiday and Edison created some of the earliest. Some of Edison’s early silent movies were made for the holidays including “The Night Before Christmas” and “A Christmas Carol.”

Below is Edison’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” It has been restored this year with sound to be just as it would have been if viewed in 1908. The special effects are really quite amazing for its time. Enjoy and have a Happy Holidays from Norwell Consulting.


Added in 2014

Silent Night – This gives you a feel of what is was like to experience music in the time of Edison. You not only hear the music, but you can see a phonograph in action.

 

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October 24, 2017

Go over, around, or through obstacles to get to your innovation

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

I came across an interesting video about a potential innovation that would be a solution to traffic congestion. A picture is worth a thousand words.  Take a look and you will see that this technology creates a train or tram that goes over the top of traffic movement in a modern city.

I’m not sure about the practical or engineering issues that may be associated with this approach, but I really liked what they did to find a possible solution. Someone looked up in traffic and thought, “There is space above my car why don’t we do something with that space.” Then, they designed a system that used that unrealized resource, the area above your vehicle.  Because it is fairly simple in approach, it could be potentially cheaper and less disruptive than other approaches.

Where will you find your innovation or solution to a problem to improve your innovation? Pause, take a breath, and look around. The answer may be just a few feet over your head.

This Blog was originally posted November 6, 2015.

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September 15, 2017

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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July 29, 2017

Are you on the Value Wave of Innovation?

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

Wave of InnovationWhen developing an innovation a key question is, what value does this new product or process bring to the user? The next question then becomes what is value?  Often when we talk about value, we talk about monetary value.  How much does this cost or how much is this worth?  For an innovation, value can be measured by asking will it be used or does it have utility?  Edison described it this way, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

Edison learned early on that to create something that would sell you had to bring enough value to customers that they would be willing to purchase the product.  While this may seem like a simple concept, it is sometimes over looked.  Many seemingly great ideas do not make it to market because they do not reach a good balance between cost and value.   Often to make it work you either have to find a way to lower the cost or raise the value.  Being able to do this effectively is what often separates a good invention from an innovation.

The short video below illustrates this principle.  An Australian company is developing a product that can capture the energy from ocean waves and convert it into electricity.  Unlike other approaches to this, their system is underwater and does not interfere with the view of the ocean or ships.  The video talks about some of the advantages of the product but then at the end it makes the most important observation.  It says that the company believes that it can be cost effective if deployed in a large enough scale.  While we would all like to see clean energy such as this, at the end of the day it will only be adopted when the cost is competitive with other sources of energy.

When you work on your innovation keep the concepts of cost and value in mind every step of the way.  This mindset will keep you on the wave of innovation and may be the key to your success.

This blog was originally posted May 18, 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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April 28, 2017

The Innovation of Time

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

Time is a gift. Each of us gets 24 hours a day of our gift that we can use any way we wish. Sometimes we make good use of this gift, other times we waste it. But what if I told you that you could get more of it, a little more time each day.

GPS Phones and TimeI have spent time this week thinking about an innovation, really the combination of three other innovations, that has given me more time. That innovation is the directions in real time on my phone. Each day, as I leave the office on the way to my car, I check my phone for directions home. It gives me one of at least five different routes based on the traffic at that time. On a rare occasion it takes me through a residential neighborhood that I did not even know existed until a few months ago. I decided to try and measure this benefit. I learned that I save on average at least 6 minutes a day going home . That makes 30 minutes a week, which is at least a day a year. Hard to believe that my phone company has given me at least a day a year to use however I want.

This innovation is really the combination of three innovations, GPS, smartphones and real time traffic data. Real time traffic data has been around for a long time. At least 15 years ago I would sometimes check a website that would show red, yellow and green on the local freeways letting me know which were running well and which had a slowdown. It is helpful, but today combining that with the directions of GPS and then putting it on an app on my phone results in an innovation that gives me time.

There are two things to take away from today’s blog. First, look around you and see if there are any other innovations that can save you time. What a gift in your life if you find a day or more a year that you can use anyway you want. Second, some of life’s great innovations came from combining two different innovations. What pieces do you have that can help you create something amazing? Use your time wisely and it make all the difference.

The blog was originally posted May 1, 2014

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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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