How we can bring Edison’s world-changing collaboration process into the digital age.
When we call Thomas Edison to mind, our first thought is of a brilliant inventor and innovator whose creations transformed modern life. We often think of him toiling away in a laboratory all by himself, long into the wee hours of the morning.
And yet, we rarely consider the role that collaboration played in Edison’s world-changing success. Tangled in the lore of the lone American inventor, our mind’s eye conjures Edison’s spray of white hair, his signature bow tie, and we quickly ascribe his 1,093 US patents to innate genius.
Tempting as it is to sustain this image of Edison, it is inaccurate. In an age when we speak of Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs in the same breath, it’s important to refresh our understanding of the pivotal role collaboration played in Edison’s innovation prowess. He viewed collaboration as the beating heart of his laboratories, a sustaining resource which fuelled the knowledge assets of his sprawling innovation empire.
Thomas A Edison
Rising from humble beginnings, Edison was largely self-educated, pursuing his relentless passion for learning well into his 70s, when he taught himself botany. Deeply skilled in chemistry, telegraphy, acoustics, materials science, and electro-mechanics, Edison’s thirst for discovery began in his early teens and never ceased. Like a magnetic force all its own, Edison’s brainy leanings drew others to his quests, attracting bright colleagues with a huge diversity of skills.
From his earliest years renting space in workshops and small laboratories, Edison collaborated with others. Realizing the value of sharing his inspirations with people who held different skills than he did, Edison felt a unique bond with those who labored with him. In establishing his famed Menlo Park Laboratory at the age of 29, Edison journeyed from the failure of his first patented invention at age 22 to becoming a world-renowned inventor in just 7 years, establishing collaboration practices which came to be a signature of his campus-style operations.
Midnight Lunch – Published by Wiley – is a book from his descendant Sarah Miller Caldicott. It challenges each reader to examine the ambitions they’ve set for themselves, re-imagining what one person is capable of producing when they work in true collaboration.
The linkage between innovation and collaboration underscores why Edison’s collaborative approach becomes such a relevant subject for us now. Given the increased scrutiny placed on the role of innovation as a driver of growth for every economy – whether emerging or developed – we must ask whether collaboration is also engaged. Like a symbiotic organism which can only thrive when its host is present, innovation can only gain sustainable traction when true collaboration also exists.
I had the privilege of a pre-publication read of Midnight Lunch (Edisonian employee ritual) and can’t recommend it highly enough for any that see innovation and collaboration as the way to future business success and a higher purpose.
© Wiley Publishing and Author Sarah Miller Caldicott
Twitter: @WileyBiz and @SarahCaldicote
Curated by Trevor Lee
If you are working on launching or accelerating a push for more gender balance in your company, you need to focus on the opportunity – not the problem – to engage others. Approach the conversation by first laying out a set of future objectives, targets, and milestones. Then describe how gender balance is a key lever to help you reach those goals.
It helps to consider a two key questions:
1) Are you using language that accuses or language that invites people to build skills and enhance leadership impact?
2) Are you engaging with managers on things they understand are central to both their individual success and the company’s goals? Or are your efforts being perceived as politically correct, tick-the-box exercises?
Remember: the final goal isn’t just about balance. It’s having more engaged employees and more connected customers.
by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox
Curated by Trevor Lee
You got the job. Now for the hard part: deciding whether to take it.
Start by doing due diligence on the organization and its people to learn whether you would enjoy working there.
Ask yourself, “Is this a place where I will be happy? Where I will be challenged? Where I will thrive?”
Reaching out to your contacts and LinkedIn network and ask questions such as “What is the organization like?” and “How long do people stay?”
Find out what happened to the last person who had the job you’ve been offered.
If you can, do a trial run at the company. You can say, “I really want to learn more about this organization. Can I spend a few hours with the team?”
You will not be able to negotiate or change the organization’s culture, of course, but it’s helpful to know beforehand what you’re getting into.
Curated by Trevor Lee
We all want to know that our jobs matter.
When an employee’s work seems lacklustre, or office morale is low, remind them of who their work helps.
Giving someone a concrete picture of their work’s impact can be self-affirming as well as motivational.
Studies have shown that cooks feel more motivated and work harder when they see people eating their food, for example.
Even if the results of your employees’ work aren’t so tangible, giving them specific names and stories of those who’ve benefited from their efforts can offer a window into the good that their work does.
So take time to talk about the customer who is able to make more sales (and therefore a better living) thanks to your company’s software, or the parent who’s driving a safe car thanks to diligence on the assembly line.
The key is to make a direct connection from the employee to those who benefit from their work.
Curated by Trevor Lee
It’s not always easy to get the most from your employees.
If you’re struggling to inspire the people on your team, look to your past.
Think about your own experience and what motivated you when you were in the lower levels of a company.
Who was the best boss you ever had?
What did that person do to make you want to perform at your best?
Reflect on what made your boss’s motivational strategies so effective for you.
What specifically did they do to earn your trust and admiration?
Now think about how you can apply those lessons to your own team. Which motivational tools will work for them?
Be fearless in examining your own behavior and curious about how your employees respond to you. Re-purpose your favorite boss’s techniques and make them your own.
Curated by Trevor Lee
When you manage a team, your strategies and goals must align with the priorities of those above you. If you don’t fully understand how your group’s work fits into the bigger picture, consider going on a “listening tour” — a series of conversations with people who can clarify the company’s strategic objectives.
Of course, start with your boss, but also talk with other leaders in the organization, including peers and people lower in the hierarchy. Ask yourself: Who’s been at the company for a long time? Who’s worked closely with the current leadership? Who recently transferred from a company that went through a similar change process?
When you reach out, demonstrate that you have a basic grasp of the strategy and ask for their input. For example, you might say: “I hear you saying that innovation is a priority for my team. Where would you like to see us focus?”
We all know leaders need to do a lot of things. Have a clear vision is just one of many things being discussed. I couldn’t agree more, but the key is to keep it simple and focus on what we can do as leaders, to make it about the people and be the best example we can be.
It all starts with losing the ego. When we eliminate ego, we can become “a part of” instead of “apart from”. This is crucial in developing trust with your employees. Most people want someone who treats them like they matter and makes them feel “a part of” the team. The following LEADERSHIP acronym has some suggestions and principles to practice, that can help eliminate ego or at least reduce it some.
This is our best assessment tool. Listen to your employees or people in general. Everyone has a voice and deserves to be heard. Ask questions and really listen. Look at yourself first. If you are asking others to do something or act a certain way, make sure you are doing it as well. Learn from others. Everyone is capable of teaching us something.
Employee engagement has been a popular topic recently. Leaders need to engage with their employees. Be interested. Take a minute when you can and let them know you care. Be an Example. Always.
Asses every situation, all issues, obstacles and opportunities. Take appropriate Action based on your assessments.
Develop new leaders. This is a must. We need more quality leaders. Be a mentor and show others how it is done. Make good and timely Decisions. Above all else, make a Difference.
Encourage others. It means a lot to be encouraged by a leader. This also sets a good example for other employees to encourage each other. Have Enthusiasm. Show your followers (employees) you are excited about your job as a leader.
Show respect for all your employees and staff. They all deserve it, from the CEO to the maintenance person. Recognize and Reward others for their efforts. Be Responsible. Always.
Leaders must Serve others. It is not about you. It is about them. Put them first and they will follow you. Always try and Smile and keep a positive attitude. Share your knowledge with everyone.
Help out when you can. A Hands-on leader will be more liked and respected. Be Honest and practice Humility.
Inspire and Influence others.
As a leader, you can make a huge difference in the lives of others. Believe in them. Give them Hope.
Lead with Passion and a Purpose.
People can tell when you have it and when you don’t. Plan. You have all heard it. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Be Prepared for anything. You just never know. Put others first. Always.
These two don’t fit with the acronym, but they are very crucial for leaders. Practice Gratitude and be Optimistic. If we continue to practice the basics, we will not have to “get back to them.”
If we as leaders practice these basic and simple principles, the rest will come a lot easier, your employees will be more likely to “follow the Leader” and the future of leadership will continue to shine brightly
Remember, with ego you are “apart from.” Lose the ego and be “a part of”. It’s a beautiful thing.
What do you think ?
Curated by Trevor Lee