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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Innovation: Not just for R&D Anymore
The first thing you'll realize is that this is not your ordinary business book. You will not find self-serving case-studies of previous consulting assignments. You will not read broad generalizations thinly supported by a limited number of examples. You won't learn best practices designed for R&D managers.

What you will find is an extraordinarily researched...
Published on October 30, 2007 by Stephen J. Susina

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25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars For a book about innovation, this is distinctly unoriginal
Edison was America's most prolific inventor whose creations were not just novel and commercially successful but created entire new industries including electric light and power, sound recording, motion pictures and industrial cement and concrete manufacture. He left an enormous legacy in the form of detailed laboratory notebooks, correspondence and legal testimony that...
Published on October 29, 2008 by Ian


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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Innovation: Not just for R&D Anymore, October 30, 2007
By 
The first thing you'll realize is that this is not your ordinary business book. You will not find self-serving case-studies of previous consulting assignments. You will not read broad generalizations thinly supported by a limited number of examples. You won't learn best practices designed for R&D managers.

What you will find is an extraordinarily researched book that provides a rich narrative of the life and times of Thomas Edison. At the same time Innovate LIke Edison crafts a framework that describes how Edison managed his business ventures to achieve his remarkable record of innovation. The payoff is that you will be able to learn how to apply Edison's thinking to today's life and work.

The book is filled with some very interesting anecdotes that show both the complexity and elegance of Edison's work. For example, within the first half-dozen pages you'll learn, that the light bulb is not a single invention, but rather a combination of five separate inventions: an improved vacuum process; a thin, high-resistances filament, platinum lead-in wires; a method for holding the filament in place; and connecting these elements in a glass-blown bulb.

At the heart of Innovate Like Edison is an approach to categorize the innovation process into five broad competencies: solution-centered mindset, kaleidoscopic thinking, full-spectrum engagement, master-mind collaboration, and super-value creation. Each competency is characterized by five individual elements, making it easy for the reader to understand and grasp the building blocks of innovation. Much as electric light is based on multiple individual inventions, Edison's innovation is the culmination of multiple best practices.

As I consider my own background in technology-centric organizations, many ideas would be right at home in any R&D organization. Edison's ideas on experimenting persistently or keeping a notebook are good, common-sense approaches that are used by virtually all R&D organizations.

Where Innovate Like Edison really shines is to clearly establish that R&D is not the sole owner of the "innovation" or "invention" mantle. We learn that Edison himself recruited cross-functional teams, rewarded collaboration and encouraged an open exchange of ideas. He truly valued the opinions of customers for ideas on new products and improvements. Perhaps most surprising is that Thomas Edison--the world's greatest inventor--believed that creating an unforgettable and market-moving brand was important as well. He was the inventor of the master-brand marketing approach used by some of the top marketers in the world to this day.

There is a serious call-to-action as well. The authors point out that China has surpassed the US as a destination for investment. Only six of the 25 most innovative information technology companies are based in the US. The US is a laggard in terms of R&D as a percentage of GDP. For the US to maintain it's position as a leader in innovation, the concepts of innovation need to be well understood throughout the organization, just as companies place a priority on concepts of finance, marketing or human resources.

The book closes with a series of self-assessment tools useful in developing a personal blueprint for innovation literacy.

I highly recommend Innovate Like Edison--a wonderful book that provides the framework to drive innovation throughout the organization.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A winner from the first page!, November 22, 2007
Michael J. Gelb has become one of my favorite non-fiction
authors . . . his bestseller, HOW TO THINK LIKE LEONARDO
DA VINCI, impressed me so much that I now use it the Creativity
course that I teach . . . several other books followed, and
while they were all good, I do believe that he has topped himself
with his latest effort: INNOVATE LIKE EDISON, co-authored with Sarah Miller Caldicott--Edison's great-grandniece.

Subtitled THE SUCCESS SYSTEM OF AMERICA'S GREATEST
INVENTOR, it is a winner from the very first page . . . there's
a short but fascinating biography of Edison, followed by
an easy-to-apply system of five success secrets--known as
the Five Competencies of Innovation.

These are as follows:
1. Solution-Centered Mindset: how to keep unwavering focus
on finding solutions;

2. Kaleidoscopic Thinking: how to juggle multiple projects, generate
many ideas and the make creative connections or discern patterns;

3. Full-Spectrum Engagement: how to manage and balance a
massive workload with social life, family and other obligations;

4. Master Mind Collaboration: how to multiply individual brain power
by bringing the right people together; and

5. Super-Value Creation: how to target all creations to an existing
market and provide value to potential customers.

Gelb and Caldicott describe these secrets, then show how they
can be utilized in many different situations . . . I liked how
they gave real examples, using both large and small companies . . . in
addition, they effectively "updated" Edison's work by viewing it
through the eyes of such contemporary thinkers as Edward
de Bono, Martin Seligman, Daniel Goleman and others.

I also liked the pictures of Edison, as well as the use of drawings
he actually did for his many inventions.

There were many useful tidbits that I gained from reading
this book; among them:

* Edison's idea of aligning with those unchangeable "infinite laws" and
following "the teachings of his own conscience" meant living by a
moral code grounded in honesty, respect, fairness, and integrity. He
felt that the highest standards of personal and business ethics were
congruent with the precise design of the infinite intelligence. Moreover,
Edison hoped that his innovations would help humanity evolve to a
higher moral plane. He proclaimed, "The machine has been human
being's most effective escape from bondage." Like Gandhi, he believed
that "Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of
all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still
savages." When he was asked to serve on the Naval Consulting Board
during World War I, he made it clear that he would only work on
defensive weaponry. As he noted, "I am proud of the fact that I never
invented weapons to kill."

Edison's religious and ethical philosophy is probably best summarized
by his observation that, "If we all try to carry out the Golden Rule in
this life we have little to fear from the hereafter no matter what our
belief may be."

* Thomas Edison's love of nature and his passion for efficiency translated
into a practical concern for energy conservation and environmental
protection. By 1910, Edison had developed a storage battery that could
power automobiles, trucks, and machines. He hoped this development
would lead to the use of batteries as a self-sufficient source of energy
in homes and buildings. In 1912, he constructed and helped to create a
model home in West Orange, New Jersey, that was "off the grid," and
powered solely by his storage batteries. He also began thinking about
ways to harness the power of the wind and sun. Shortly before his
death in 1913, Edison told his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone,
"I'd put money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I
hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."

* In his teenage years as well as at Menlo Park and beyond, Edison
recorded his thoughts, observations, and visualizations in notebooks.
like other great minds, Edison jotted down his thoughts freely. His
notebooks contain fragments of ideas and plenty of pictures. This
daily practice helped him sharpen his observations, develop new
ideas and make creative connections between diverse aspects of
his research.

If you're looking for an ideal holiday gift for a student or anybody
interested in lifelong learning, you certainly won't go wrong
with getting them a copy of INNOVATE LIKE EDISON.
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25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars For a book about innovation, this is distinctly unoriginal, October 29, 2008
By 
Ian (Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Innovate Like Edison: The Five-Step System for Breakthrough Business Success (Paperback)
Edison was America's most prolific inventor whose creations were not just novel and commercially successful but created entire new industries including electric light and power, sound recording, motion pictures and industrial cement and concrete manufacture. He left an enormous legacy in the form of detailed laboratory notebooks, correspondence and legal testimony that documented the way he created these inventions and the commercial enterprises that grew out of them. Gelb is described in the book as "the world's leading authority on the application of genius thinking to personal and organizational development" and Caldicott, a great-grandniece of Thomas Edison. Together these are the ingredients for an innovative, even ground breaking work that merges historical insights with contemporary needs.

Alas this book is not it.

Despite writing that, "The competencies and elements for Innovate Like Edison that we describe in the following pages guided us through our entire creative process" (page xi), the book itself is far from innovative and instead patches together an assortment of other self help books with cursory historical anecdotes. It is a cook book of grandma's recipes sprinkled with a few of her memories.

I had the impression that perhaps Gelb had written the book for another purpose and employed Caldicott to garnish it with bits of family history.

Moreover, it fails to address potentially significant insights that flow from Edison's work particularly by comparing his many successes with his numerous failures. Why, for example, were there so many instances of Edison failing to recognise and exploit things he sketched and observed such as the disk phonograph (sketched in 1878 but patented by Berliner in 1887), a decade alter), wireless phenomena observed in 1875 and patented by Edison in 1885 (US Pat 465,971) and the Edison effect. Likewise, Edison spectacularly failed in his magnetic ore extraction venture and as head of the Naval Consulting Board. Examining these, rather than idolising him could have produced valuable insights to guide would be innovators. In fact, it is in the history, where I would have thought the book should excel that it is weakest, making use of only one recent (but good) biography, that of Paul Israel.

The authors note that it is "clear that global innovation leadership has begun shifting away from the United States." Thinking that the answer lies in mediocre books like this can only accelerate the process.

If you want to get more of the flavour of Edison and his times I suggest Conot, Robert E. 1979. A streak of luck. New York: Seaview Books.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Competency Model for Innovators Showcases Thomas Edison, May 12, 2010
I am not convinced that Thomas Edison would endorse all the ideas in Michael Gelb and Sarah Caldicott's book. But maybe that isn't so important. The authors present a five-competency, twenty-five element model of innovation, interwoven with stories about Edison's life, research, and business practices. While not an Edison biography, it is also something more than just another coffee-table business book.

The first chapter introduces the authors' five innovation competencies and the concept of "innovation literacy" that can be learned and measured. The second chapter is a well-written short biography of Thomas Edison, including a chronology of major life events, outline of family relationships, and exploration of special topics such as "Edison and Women" and "Edison's Follies and Foibles." A side-bar candidly covers Edison's stormy relationship with fellow inventor Nikola Tesla.

The next five chapters address the book's central question--what are the core competencies of innovation? Innovators who possess Competency #1, a Solution-Centered Mindset, align their goals with their passions, cultivate charismatic optimism, seek knowledge relentlessly, experiment persistently, and pursue rigorous objectivity. These qualities are illustrated with anecdotes from Edison's career and supported by developmental exercises.

The remaining four competencies are similarly treated. Competency #2, Kaleidoscopic Thinking, consists of maintaining a notebook, experiencing "ideaphoria"--the "delightful well-being that accompanies the effortless flow of insights and ideas"--discerning patterns, expressing ideas visually, and exploring roads not taken. Competency #3, Full-Spectrum Engagement, requires finding balance between intensity and relaxation; seriousness and playfulness; sharing and protecting; complexity and simplicity; and solitude and teamwork. Master-Mind Collaboration, Competency #4, has a social focus. It includes recruiting for both interpersonal chemistry and achieving results, designing multidisciplinary collaborative teams, inspiring an environment of open exchange, rewarding collaboration, and becoming a master networker.

The fifth Competency, Super-Value Creation, feels more boardroom than workbench and seems heavily influenced by post-Edison business school thinking. It consists of linking market trends with core strengths, tuning in to your target audience, applying the right business model, understanding scale-up effects, and creating an unforgettable, market-moving brand. (Please forgive me as I imagine Edison generating a weak magnetic field as he rotates in his grave after hearing about that last one.)

The books final section presents comprehensive self-assessment instruments that measure all twenty-five facets of the five innovation competencies. While these instruments have the usual weaknesses of self-rating tools, they offer a summary assessment experience that helps readers identify their greatest innovation weaknesses and plan for improvement.

I recommend this book to managers and marketeers who would add substance to their enthusiasm about innovation. It is also recommended to scientists and technical specialists who need to understand how their scientific innovations can become useful products outside the laboratory. It's not the best book for serious Edison scholars, but it is an enjoyable read for anyone with a general interest in Thomas Edison's ability to innovate.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Edison as Mashup Artist: Combining Discipline, Process and Intuition, December 20, 2007
Innovate Like Edison is a must-read for anyone who wants to thrive in the "flat world." Had it been written in the 20th century, the book would have been applicable to R&D leaders, and it would have been a nice-to-have for business and government leaders. Innovation was the place kicker on the team during the Industrial Economy because companies created value through efficiency (refining continuous processes), and innovation is about discontinuous processes.

In the 21st century Knowledge Economy, however, innovation is the linebacker. Customers merely expect world-class efficiency, but it rarely differentiates. Innovation is now a core competency at most levels of every organization.

The problem is, the authors explain, is that very few people are innovation literate, and they don't know how to practice it practically. As I've written extensively, business innovation failures are over 95%, and most new products fail at high rates. We must reposition innovation as a linebacker, and that means understanding it differently and treating it differently. It's a group effort, no longer a specialist activity. Therefore, this book is one of the key guidebooks of government and business leaders, and it's also a fascinating read. Here's why:

The book simultaneously tells a fascinating story about Edison *and* uses it to illustrate Edison's best practices as an innovator.

It presents the "Edison Innovation Literacy Blueprint," which you can use to start increasing innovation literacy, whether your context is commercial, volunteer work or government. It is well thought out and practical.

It is a call to action for people in mature, rich economies. In the U.S., people are used to being the disruptors, the challengers. However, the U.S. is in full middle age, and it must reinvent itself if it wants to remain competitive.

For me, where the book breaks into exceptional territory is on the philosophical level. The book reveals that Edison, while a hard-nosed, practical person, also trusted his intuition and encouraged others to do the same. For example, he saw nature as perfect and that it was comprised of mathematical patterns, all we have to do is to recognize them. Think about that a minute. We find what we seek, and if we believe that patterns exist, we have a greater chance of finding them.

There is nothing flakey about intuition because it is a means to access a far greater part of our brains. We have to suspend judgement on things and hold them in our concentration (our internal "desktops"). This allows us to mash them up with other things that might reveal patterns. One of my favorites: pick two things that do not seemingly go together and explore how they might. Challenge prevailing assumptions, which are the highest barriers to innovating. Edison was a master of this, and the book includes several practical techniques to build your capability.

Another pearl refines the prevailing wisdom of "kill your losers fast." Edison recognized that innovation, ideas or products were packages of patterns. If something didn't appear to be working, he did not "kill" it. He was more mentally flexible because he recognized that the package was not working; there was undoubtedly much gold in some of the pieces, and the book gives several examples. Most corporations' innovation vaults of full of failed innovations, which never again see the light of day.

The Knowledge Economy is transforming the world into a pervasive network of people, and knowledge will be free. In the Industrial Economy, physical power became essentially free. This means that people will add value by mashing things up, by finding patterns. This book is an excellent guidebook for nurturing your own internal mashup artist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book worth buying, March 31, 2009
By 
Writer "Midwest" (Northern Illinois) - See all my reviews
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I purchased this book for my son in college who is studying to be a mechanical engineer. He found this book at the library and read it cover to cover. He now has his own copy which he is enjoying again....making notes and highlighting to his heart's content. If you are curious about an inventor's mind and Edison's background then this book is for you.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars How to fawn over Edison, June 18, 2009
I'll briefly paraphrase Innovate Like Edison here. --- Edison was incredibly brilliant. Here's something Stephen Covey wrote about. Edison wasn't just incredibly brilliant, he was sooooo coooool. Here's a quote from Malcolm Gladwell's latest book. Edison was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! That's from Mary Poppins.

Innovate Like Edison is a sycophantic, superficial history of Edison mixed with cursory highlights from the business and self-help literature. The fawning descriptions of Edison were outright painful to listen to by the end of the book. The added barrage of worthless jargon, e.g. "super-value", brought me close to chucking my mp3 player out the car window many times.

I bump my rating up to two stars, "it was ok", because I did learn a few things from the book and Rick Adamson's reading for the audiobook was very good. But I stop at two stars because when I was done, I wish I had spent those 5 & 1/2 hours on any of the books quoted by Innovate Like Edison rather than on the book itself.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new interpretation of Edison for the modern age, November 2, 2009
I read this book after it was given out by one of the authors at a seminar that I attended. Far from a typical business book, this is a novel and searching treatment of a great American icon. The authors' Thomas Edison is no "wizard" and no "boy genius." He's a remarkably modern thinker, one who used tools such as networking, the careful cultivation of key reporters, and out-of-the-box thinking and who invented the concept of the R&D laboratory. The Edison of this book is not the one you read about in your survey course of American history.

We have a lot to learn from Edison, and the book only wanted to make me learn more. Only four stars, not five, because it is repetitious in places.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much to Learn from Edison, December 14, 2007
By 
Sam (New Jersey) - See all my reviews
Most people believe they have little to learn from Edison. This is wrong. Many of the practices that Edison used during his long career apply to the person running the corner shop as well as to the Fortune 500 CEO. The reason for this conclusion is that the practices Edison used are fundamental to being successful at inovation -- and business. This book does a superb job of describing these practices while using Edison's life to make them real and entertaining. Read this book and see if you are doing what Edison did. Then ask how these ideas apply to your situation. I am sure that you will find a host of new ideas to help you to become more productive and successful.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Informative and Engaging Exploration of The Innovation Process, August 9, 2008
I have used "Innovate Like Edison" as one of several texts in a graduate course on Creativity & Innovation for new product developers. This book is exceptional, in that it explores the innovation process at several levels. We get to know Edison's personal style from his creativity practices, his notebooks and sketches, and photos of him with contemporaries. We also learn about his leadership style and sometimes quirky management practices, along with the unique culture he created at Menlo Park. And lastly, we see Edison as the systems thinker, not only creating "breakthrough" inventions, but also designing in parallel with an invention the entire market framework and supply chain network that would make the invention truly transformational. In this sense, it might be said that Steve Jobs took a page from the Edison playbook in creating the iPod.

I have used Innovate Like Edison as a natural companion to handbooks on creativity methods, as well as other textbooks that cover critiques and current research relative to the innovation process. Gelb's book "How to think like Leonardo da Vinci" is also an excellent companion for this book, and I have included it in my course readings, although the Engineering work and inventions described in the Edison book are probably more familiar to most students.
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Innovate Like Edison: The Five-Step System for Breakthrough Business Success
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