Innovate like Thomas Edison

Think Again: Understanding Thomas Edison’s patterns of thinking can help us be more like the guy who has 1,093 U.S. patents to his name, says co-author of the book, “Innovate Like Edison: The Success System of America’s Greatest Inventor.” Sarah Miller Caldicott, also Edison’s great grandniece, helped a packed room of engineers at the SME Annual Meeting gain insights on innovation.

07/01/2008


Help with innovation

Here's more help about how to innovated like Thomas Edison.

Understanding Thomas Edison’s patterns of thinking can help us be more like the guy who has 1,093 U.S. patents to his name, says co-author of the book, “Innovate Like Edison: The Success System of America’s Greatest Inventor.” Sarah Miller Caldicott, also Edison’s great grandniece, helped a packed room of engineers at the SME Annual Meeting gain insights into Edison’s thought patterns, with a goal of helping to improve U.S. competitiveness.

Bearing a family resemblance to her great great Aunt Mina Miller—who married Edison in 1886—and telling stories of growing up with Edison phonographs in her bedroom, Caldicott offered exercises which seemed to win over SME attendees... along with a promise of an autographed book.

Caldicott, also founder of The Power Patterns of Innovation, noted five best practices based on her three-year study of Edison: a solution-centered mindset; kaleidoscopic thinking; full-spectrum engagement; master-mind collaboration; and super value creation. Her specific advice included the following:

  • Cultivate a solution-centered mindset . Do not seize an answer at the beginning of an initiative. A framework of options and pathways can lead to solutions. Look outward and scan the environment. Lean ahead and hunt for a solution. Combine factual information with what-if or if-then thinking.

  • Choose to be positive . Edison showed optimism through some extraordinarily tough times. Don’t take things personally and choose to see any setback as a temporary glitch, as isolated rather than pervasive. “I never failed once,” he said. “It just happened to be a 2,000-step process.”

  • Discern patterns . Edison saw perfection in the interconnectedness of nature; seeking patterns in the world led to multiple successes. Multi-disciplinary teams helped Edison outpace his competitors again and again.

  • Seek simplicity amid complexity . Are you at an impasse? Break things into smaller processes. What can be easily improved? Look through fresh eyes. Edison said, “In trying to perfect a thing, I sometimes run straight up against a granite wall a hundred feet high. If, after trying and trying, I can’t get over it, I turn to something else.”

  • Tune in to your target audience , and consider data without prejudice.

  • Make time to think . Edison worked part of his day in solitude and encouraged employees to do so as well. He and his employees kept notebooks to measure and see the progression of their experiments, observing patterns, especially when they got stuck. Spend 10 minutes in thought, Caldicott says; it may quickly expand to an hour after observing the value.

We need to continue the U.S. heritage of innovation; it’s what we excel at doing, she says. Edison’s innovation legacy belongs to all of us.

MHoske@cfemedia.com



ONLINE extra See Thomas Edison photos, factoids, why the book, customer experience, and Edison research .





No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
Detecting security breaches: Forensic invenstigations depend on knowing your networks inside and out; Wireless workers; Opening robotic control; Product exclusive: Robust encoders
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide
 

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.