Mindworks’ Weblog

Thinking Matters

1% inspiration

Posted by Andrew Cooper on December 1, 2008

edisonOnly one brief mention of Thomas Alva Edison on the blog so far, so it’s time for a little more.  A true innovator, in the sense that I defined the word way back here.  If you are interested in the process by which ideas are turned into changes in the real world, read one of the many excellent biographies of the man.

Edison was, of course, able to do much more than have good ideas – he was, par excellance, able to turn his ideas into money making products.  In fact many of the innovations with which his name is most closely associated started out as other people’s inventions.  I’ve mentioned Kirton’s distinction between adaptors and innovators before – Edison was, like many engineers, an adaptor.  Some 22 inventors came up with the idea of the incandescent light bulb before Edison perfected the technology.  But Edison was a systems thinker and he realised that once the electricity distribution systems required for ubiquitous electric lighting were in place, the power they made available could be used in many different ways.

LIke many – perhaps all – innovators, Edison was a visual thinker.  He first met Henry Ford, they were to become life long friends, over dinner and spent most of the meal sketching ideas on napkins before Edison looked at Ford and said ‘We think the same way!’.

It was, of course, Edison who said that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  While very few of us can claim to be be geniuses, we all know that the effort required to turn an idea from a vague notion flikering around our 100 billion neurons into something that has actually made a difference in the real world is huge.  The main reason for my infrequent posting here recently is that I’m working hard to turn a clutch of ideas that emerged in early July into tangible, implemented (and, I hope, money earning) reality.

When I’ve made some more progress I’ll return here to reflect on the experience.  Meanwhile I have some bridges I need to exploit and barriers that must be removed.

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One Response to “1% inspiration”

  1. Alison Robertson said

    I went to his workshop, in, I think, New Jersey. It was very interesting to see all the apparatus – particularly the materials that he had experimented with as filaments for electric light bulbs.

    Alison

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