This article was originally published a few years ago at the RockStar Success Library.
I read my first book about Thomas Alva Edison when I was in the third grade. I remember being just as fascinated by his middle name as by the long list of his discoveries. Even though I still think he has a very cool middle name, I’ve moved past that to appreciate the unique impact he still has on our daily lives almost a century after his inventive peak.
Innovate like Edison takes a unique approach to looking at the inventor’s life. It’s not so much concerned with the list of inventions that he was responsible for, or even his individual genius, but rather how he applied his genius and how it manifested in his daily work and in his team’s work. Not only does it examine the specific habits and outlooks that enabled Edison to create paradigm-shifting inventions, but it also outlines ways to incorporate those outlooks into our personal and professional lives.
Michael and Sarah organize the book around five main ideas that allowed Edison to be one of the most prolific innovators in American history:
- Solution-Oriented Mindset
- Kaleidoscopic Thinking
- Full-Spectrum Engagement
- Master-mind Collaboration
- Super-value Creation
Ideas, Implications, and Questions
- Edison, like me, was a big proponent of napping. I think this is becoming increasingly relevant as people take less and less time for the physical rest they need (hence the explosion of caffeinated products on the market). Take naps, get enough sleep, and your productivity will increase. (pg 120)
- The idea of a solution-oriented mindset is huge. The idea that there is a solution out there, that we just have to find it, is both very motivating, and actually leads to higher performance. Not to paint too broad a stroke, but I think that this is one of the most positive American cultural traits – the assumption that a solution to a challenge exists and our job is to find it.
- For business people who are bringing new products to the market, Edison’s insistence on market research and making sure that the market wants and needs the products first is a great guidepost. That Edison didn’t innovate just for innovations sake, but rather to improve people’s lives, is key. I think that’s a great test for any new product or service that will be brought to market. Does this product or service make things better?
- I often talk to my coaching clients about interviewing for intangible skills, and then training the right people on the specific skill sets necessary for the job. This is reflected in the systems that Edison used, and I think the three step process that Michael and Sarah outline is really effective (pg 148):
- Go beyond standard job interviews and recreate the real working environment
- Include the existing team in the process
- Emphasize hard and soft skills
- Edison’s far-reaching problem solving also encourages another question: How can I use what I know in one area of my life to answer questions I have in another part of my life?
Should you read this book?
Besides being a fun story to read, this is a great book for any entrepreneur, inventor, or leader to use as a source of inspiration. If you are in a position where you are striving to create something new – a product, a company, or even a cultural or productive shift in a company – it’s worth using this book to generate new possibilities.