Posts belonging to Category All About Tom



Edison Style, Diversity and Invention

Edison Could Work at Google!Project managers know that a good mix of ideas from people with differing backgrounds and cultures goes a long way toward developing exciting and new inventions. It’s the soft side of team-based inventing, and it works. That, and a low flat organizational structure, promotes people interacting both horizontally and vertically-freely gaining new insights from the work of others, and using those insights in unique, sometimes disruptive ways.

The political world talks a great deal about diversity, but for as long as Edison created his project team concept and implemented his invention factory model for R&D [back in the 1870s/80s], diversity has been a staple of life for he and the many other inventors and entrepreneurs that followed—a kind of built-in humanitarian aspect of the inventive life.

Unfortunately, we don’t often think about inventors as humanitarians and champions of diversity. We callously spin them off as boring geeks and narrow-minded people, mocking them in movies [often forgetting that Edison created the movie industry]. These inventive men and women tend to see the world of ideas as totally neutral.

Just go to any technical conference or gathering of entrepreneurs and witness the huge diversity of men and women sharing ideas, technology, and partnering on new ventures. That, dear readers, is diversity in action; and that is what Edison was all about.

Thomas Edison said, “My desire is to do everything within my power to free people from drudgery and create the largest measure of happiness and prosperity.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Happy Birthday Thomas Edison: February 11th

Have you noticed how big this STEM educational movement sweeping our nation’s schools has become? We hear talk about students using heads and hands to solve practical problems, working in teams, keeping invention notebooks, learning from failure, thinking in multi-dimensional ways and integrating their subject matter. Students also often participate in numerous Maker Faires held in many countries all year long. Here students showcase their creative and entrepreneurial skills, doing exactly what Thomas Edison did when he coalesced interest [and investment potential] in his new technologies and inventions. Some organizations sponsor “Pitch Contests” to allow participants to pitch their projects to a panel of judges with the hope that a venture capital group ultimately will fund the commercialization of the project.

A recent Maker Faire held in New York City with a popular symbol embodying robotic technology.

A recent Maker Faire held in New York City with a popular symbol embodying robotic technology.

The STEM movement derives directly from Edison’s greatest accomplishment— the invention factory/R&D labs. It was the economic disruptive force of its time, remaining vitally important today. He gave us the keys to the industrial revolution of the late 1880s-the code book, the process, for continuous innovation. STEM and Maker Faires are the first step for tomorrow’s innovators to cut their teeth on the transition from new idea to working prototype.

Students engaged in team-based problem solving and the making of prototypes.

Students engaged in team-based problem solving and the making of prototypes.

All you teachers out there who lead teams of students through STEM activities and projects, you are acting just like Edison did as he managed 30-40 project teams at a time at his famous West Orange Labs. There his teams developed new products like phonographs, electrical equipment and the entire electric utility system, movie production, electric vehicle storage batteries, major advances in the making and use of concrete and many other technological advances and improvements. Think of your leadership of student teams as managing in-school Maker Faires!

Consider what people in the know have said about TAE’s life’s work:

  • The technology, inventions and industries that he created still account for $1.6 trillion [about 10%] of annual U.S. economy, and about $8 trillion of the world economy;
  • Life Magazine [1996] proclaimed him the “Man of the Millennium” i.e. the man of the millennium-1,000 years!;
  • TIME Magazine featured him on the cover of a special July 2010 history issue-proclaiming him so “relevant” to our world today;
  • Edison is the human icon for invention and creativity; and he is an inspiration to generations of inventors and entrepreneurs.

This deserves a big Happy Birthday Thomas Edison on February 11, don’t you think!

Check out these sites for plenty of additional information about Edison:

“Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison Smiles Down on His Son Charles

Charles Edison was the son of Thomas Edison, the famous inventor and entrepreneur. In 1948 Charles established the Charles Edison Fund, created to maintain the legacy of his father, Thomas Edison, and to meet his own philanthropic goals, including being a patron of the arts in New York City. The fund promotes education, specifically careers in science and technology, medical research and historic preservation. Check out our newly renovated website at CharlesEdisonFund.org.

A young man at work in his father’s labs.

A young man at work in his father’s labs.

The Fund also engages in licensing the Edison Intellectual property, including the name, image, quotes and artifacts of Thomas Edison ( “Edison IP”). The extra revenues generated support educational programs run by its sister foundation, Edison Innovation Foundation.

President Roosevelt appointed Charles Edison as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1937, then as Secretary in early 1940. During his time in the Navy, he advocated construction of the large Iowa-class battleships, PT boats and a streamlined system for implementing shipbuilding contracts–of great help during WWII.

Charles-Secretary of the Navy / Gov. of New Jersey

Charles-Secretary of the Navy / Gov. of New Jersey

America’s greatest battleship, an Iowa-class beauty, the USS New Jersey, was launched on December 7, 1942 by Charles’s wife, Carolyn, and in honor of Charles’ work in the Navy. Resigning from the Navy, Charles campaigned and won election as Governor of New Jersey, serving from 1941-1944.
Charles was president of his father’s company Thomas A. Edison, Inc. in 1927, and ran it until it was sold in 1957, when it merged with the McGraw Electric Company to form the McGraw-Edison Electric Company.

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said, “I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”

Time® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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