Thomas Edison Didn’t Invent the Light Bulb

If you asked who invented incandescent electric light, and you answered Thomas Edison, you’d be right – and you’d be wrong.

The revolution that Edison wrought was the product of a team.

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.

Tempting as it is to sustain this image of Edison, it is inaccurate.

We love the idea of a lone genius, the mastermind, the hero. From an early age, we’re indoctrinated with the single-achiever idea in school. Our textbooks boil things down to their simplest form, and for a fifth-grader, it’s easy to say that Edison created the light bulb.

The reality is very different. Here’s what geniuses do:

They build great teams.

Thomas Edison, one of the most brilliant minds in the world, accepted that he alone did not possess all the answers, but together, his team usually did.

Never intimidated by other great minds, Edison actively sought out men with a broad base of knowledge, a passion for learning, impeccable character, and a commitment to excellence.

Thomas Edison viewed collaboration as the beating heart of his laboratories, a sustaining resource that fueled the knowledge assets of his sprawling innovation empire.

Maybe it’s time our organizations rediscovered the truths of teamwork and collaboration that Edison used so powerfully.

An ongoing series exploring the power of teamwork

Inspired by:

Midnight Lunch, written by Sarah Miller Caldicott

The Orange Revolution, written by Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton

Creating We, written by Judith Glaser