Customer Review

26 of 35 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars For a book about innovation, this is distinctly unoriginal, October 29, 2008
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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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Location: Australia

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