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Book Review: Innovate like Edison

Sometimes, the best nuggets are found hidden in the bargain rack of your local Borders bookstore. That was exactly where I found this book, that for some reason, seems to have slipped the bestseller radar.

From the bestselling author Michael Gelb who produced 'How To Innovate like Leonardo Da Vinci' comes this hidden jewel. While one cannot become an Edison by reading a book, one can certainly learn from his mental framework that helped him create  his ingenious innovations. The book presents a coherent set of ideas that the reader can apply in  our times.

The authors Michael Gelb and Sarah Miller Caldicott have not got carried away in their hero worship of Edison. In the early chapters, they discuss Edison's follies, including his close association with Henry Ford, a racist and Edison's mistreatment of his first wife.

Nevertheless, there is much to learn from Edison's thought process. Edison epitomized the quintessential American dream as an entrepreneur, inventor, capitalist, employer and leader.

Edison's modus operandi is broken down into five core competencies. The first of them which the authors call Solution Centered Mindset, involves keeping one's goals in line with one's desires, being optimistic, constant learning and experimentation and cultivating objectivity. As is often said, 'Find a job you love, and you'll never have to work a single day in your life.'

The next competency is called Kaleidoscope thinking. The suggestions here are simple. Keep a notebook, generate unbiased ideas, observe patterns, draw your ideas on paper or on some other visual medium and exploring offbeat solutions.

Full spectrum Engagement, the next competency is all about living with seeming paradoxes. These include focus and relaxation, work and fun, sharing and protecting knowledge, complexity and simplicity, single and team activities.

Master mind collaboration, the forth competency is about strength in numbers, also called the wisdom of groups. Edison was a genius in his own right, but breaking the myth of the isolated genius, Edison collaborated extensively with others. He built teams with diverse individuals in them. His companies promoted open knowledge sharing and rewarded teamwork. Edison went out of the way to network and built extensive relationships. There realtionships  helped promote himself and his Edison brand.

The final competency is about creating 'Super Value'.  The authors suggest the following: 

  • Link market trends with the competencies of your firm. 
  • Tune into your customers. 

Edison's companies were known for their excellent service. The authors suggest applying the right business model and offer these choices
  • Licensing technolgy to others and from others, 
  • Franchising
  • Licencing products to others internationally in order to customize your product in different markets and providing training for product use.
The authors discuss scaling products to service more customers and finally building one's brand using both quality and showmanship. 

This book is a valuable part of my library and belongs with the bestseller lists. Maybe, the authors did not follow their own advice in promoting their work.

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