What happens when you combine the talents of a British textile merchant, a Swiss watchmaker, an American mathematician with a master’s degree in physics, an Irish electrician, a German glassblower, and African-American electrical engineer, and a partially deaf telegrapher?
For Thomas Edison, the result was a world-beating team of collaborators who churned out hundreds of commercially viable patents and products.
Although Edison was an incomparably brilliant independent innovator, he understood and valued the importance of working with others. He knew he needed a trustworthy team of collaborative employees who cold illuminate his blind spots and complement his talents.
The word “collaboration” comes from the Latin root collaborare, meaning “to labor together, especially intellectually.” The term “master-mind” was introduced by success expert Napoleon Hill to refer to a very high level of collaboration. He defined it as a “coordination of knowledge and effort in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” Hill emphasized that when people come together with their passions aligned with common goals, they can multiply their individual intelligence in an expanding framework of positive, creative energy. Hill witnessed the living expression of this idea in the laboratories of Thomas Edison.
Contemporary sociological and psychological studies demonstrate consistently that the collaborative, open model developed by Edison optimizes the confluence of creativity, strategy, and action.
Edison’s approach to master-mind collaboration allowed his teams to be exceptionally productive in generating, developing, and testing his innovations. Edison always understood, however, that the ultimate purpose of all their efforts was to crate exceptional value for their customers.
Next: Super-Value Creation
Read on overview of Edison’s Five Competencies for Innovation here.
This material adapted from Innovate Like Edison, by Michael J. Gelb and Sarah Miller Caldicott