Innovating Through Artistry

Learn How to Innovate like Thomas Edison

In BOOKS: Learn and Grow, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, WEBSITES & BLOGS on October 7, 2008 at 8:56 am

How did Edison innovate and what can we, as artists, learn from his best practices?
Sarah Miller Caldicott, the great grandniece of Thomas Edison, in this past year has written a wonderful book titled Innovate like Edison, that can teach us his most important principles of innovation.


The term “core competence” was coined in 1995 by global business strategist Gary Hamel. A competence refers to a bundle of skills and technologies which, when mastered, yields competitive advantage. “Innovation competence” is a variation on Hamel’s term, describing the bundle of skills Edison used to generate competitive advantage through his innovation system.

Edison’s Five Competencies of Innovation™ propelled him to a record 1,093 U.S. patents as well as 1,293 international patents. Edison’s approach to innovation not only encompassed the development and launch of extraordinary products and services, it encompassed deep mental preparations as well. The Five Competencies of Innovation are:

#1 A Solution-centered Mindset

* Align your goals with passions to drive better short- and long-term results.
* Visualize outcomes in a positive frame, then cognitively imprinting them for lasting results.
* Develop a thirst for learning.
* Create systems for developing inexpensive, fast-turnaround experiments that keep you close to the market and close to your customers.
* View results with neutrality rather than an agenda, driving deeper, bigger insights.

#2 Develop Kaleidoscopic Thinking
*Maintain a notebook of insights, creating uncensored flows of high-level thinking more frequently, and in more contexts.
*Go beyond “brainstorming” to analogical thinking, fantastical thinking, and visual metaphors, driving whole-brain approaches to problem solving.
*See patterns that link unrelated subjects, creating deeper, more powerful insights.
*Map ideas visually, facilitating communication across organizational boundaries and skill levels.
*Build comfort with contrarian thinking, allowing you to develop breakthrough practices with a new lens.

#3 Full-spectrum Engagement
*Create situations in which you can engage in constructive, playful activity.
*Determine guidelines for what kinds of information are considered proprietary, and what kinds can be shared.
*Learn to “zoom up” to see the big picture and “zoom down” to see the small picture – with equal ease.
*Develop strategies to deal with complexity.
*Consciously build an environment that allows for – and includes – creative solitude.

#4 Master-mind Collaboration
*Create small teams with deep chemistry.
*Design teams with individuals representing diverse thinking and learning styles.
*Build an environment where innovation can thrive.
*Reward collaboration and innovation in meaningful ways, including monetary and non-monetary incentives.
*Match innovation objectives with team objectives.
*Step out of the ivory tower to network with others.

#5 Super-value Creation
*Identify trends and market gaps crucial to driving breakthrough customer value platforms.
*Amplify your company’s ability to offer super-value to new and existing customers by finding competitive “white space.”
*Detect nuances in consumer needs through ethnographic research.
*Apply the right business model when market conditions change, or when new initiatives take you in a new direction.
*Apply the right business model when market conditions change, or when competitive initiatives force you to take a new direction.
*Strengthen your existing competencies, or developing new competencies as needed.
*Create powerful customer experiences that generate market-moving momentum for your brand.

To learn more about Sarah or her book Innovate like Edison go to her website Power Patterns.

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