June 13, 2018

The Edison Method for Breakthrough Creativity

Thomas Edison began with a simple goal: To make a longer lasting light bulb.

It looks like the dawn of a new technological age in hindsight. But the process was very simple.

The light bulb wasn’t new. The idea was at least 70 years old.

Edison patented his first version of the light bulb in 1878. But it could only burn a few hours. He filed another patent in late 1879 for a bulb with a filament of carbonized thread. This new and improved bulb could burn for 13.5 hours.

Months later, Edison achieved revolutionary results with a carbonized bamboo filament. It burned more than 1200 hours. He improved the light bulb throughout his life. But this version was the first in mass production.

Now the light bulb and electricity distribution mark the gateway to the modern age. But it didn’t happen in a sudden flash. And only the improvements were Edison’s.

Edison had the vision to see that the light bulb would be useful. Then he went designed it for mass production. And searched for a filament that would last longer.

You can have this type of creativity. But not if you’re waiting for a sudden flash like the inspiration many people idolize.

What follows are the principles of Edison’s method. And there are action steps for applying it at the end of the article.

Commit to improve something.

Start by looking at the everyday things in your life.

Become an avid observer. Really notice what you see other people doing. And pay even more attention to what you do.

Making lists is a great way to clarify your thinking. Make lists of the things you do. List what you see other people do. List things you’re expert in even if you don’t do them yourself.

Pick the thing you want to change.

Desire has a lot to do this. If you aren’t drawn to something then it’s hard to make yourself do it.

Repeat that process. Keep picking the next most interesting thing and breaking it down. Don’t stop until you’ve done that five times.

When you’re new at this, it’s good to improve the quality of your thinking at each phase before you move on. And your creativity needs a workout like your muscles.

Focus on improving one thing.

The genius of Edison’s first patent was that it showed a light bulb composed of separate the parts. This made it possible for him to focus his attention on the filament.

The filament is what made the difference. Edison’s improvements made it into a tool that was useful for practically everything. That is where he focused his effort.

List things that might improve the aspect you selected. Proceed to do this with the top five things on this list.

Record your results. And keep improving.

The light bulb project wasn’t an overnight breakthrough. First it was a small advance in the right direction, but that wasn’t enough for mass production.

Edison registered the small improvement in the form of a new patent, and he continued. He was bent on his goal.

He recorded the results of hundreds of tests and trials. By recording the results, he insured each failure would bring him closer to success.

Breakthrough creativity means trying things that don’t work better. But these failures make progress if you learn from them.

Don’t stop improving.

A breakthrough doesn’t mean perfection. Edison improved his invention many times after reaching mass production.

The Edison Method Action Plan

This process might seem simple. You can tell yourself that you know something more and feel like you know more. But reading about a process won’t give you more creativity. It isn’t like knowledge. You have to … create.

Action plan for breakthrough activity

These steps will get you started applying breakthrough creativity in your life.

1. List everything that you do in your everyday life.
2. Choose the top five things you want to improve.
3. Breakdown the parts of each of these top five things.
4. Choose the top five from the list of opportunities.
5. List some of the ways you could improve the top one.
6. List 10 more ways.

At this point, you should have an improvement idea that inspires you. Start testing it as soon as possible. And keep on testing it in bigger and bigger things. Then get your friends to test it.

Decide what you must improve. Try to improve. And keep on improving.