Kidding Around: Humour, playfulness and the joy of the task!
Thomas Alva Edison's 7th Secret
Invention Strategy For Million Dollar Ideas
Thomas Edison's Top Ten Invention
8. Kidding Around: Humour, playfulness and the joy of the
If you think Thomas Edison a grave figure, you'll be delighted to learn that he was a kid at heart. All inventors and creative people seem to
retain a childlike sense of curiosity, and Edison was curious about everything. He was also a very playful man who loved to have fun and goof off
with his colleagues, even when deadlines were looming.
On one occasion, for example, Thomas Edison and his muckers had been working for ages on a certain project
searching for a liquid with particular properties for an electrochemical device. They put in endless hours of hard effort. They tested peppermint
oil, caraway oil, nitrogen chromate, oregano oil, and clove oil but as the night wore on to the wee hours, they started to get silly and having
raided their offices, they started testing things like coffee, sugar, eggs and milk!
This ability to have fun with a task is so essential to good creativity. Intensity is essential but needs to
be counter-balanced at times with fun and playing around. When you feel good, your mind moves easier and will deliver more. Sometimes intensity
becomes blinkered and these relaxed times allow the blinkers to fall so that you can see things you might otherwise have missed.
Thomas Edison didn't want to miss anything. He loved stimulation and was fascinated by the properties of all kinds of things. He
was kooky too! He kept bizarre collections of materials from all over the world - whale baleen, hair from a native Amazonian, tortoise
shell, elephant hide, different types of wood, nuts, animal bones. His muckers liked to joke that his vast collection even included "the
eyeballs of a US senator"!
These weren't useless collections though, nor the play things of an eccentric man, each served a purpose and
were tested in all kinds of experiments. Rain-forest nuts were used to make phonograph needles. Bamboo was used as filaments in his light bulbs.
And the Amazonian hair was used for the world's first talking doll, that Edison invented.
But Edison didn’t just play with materials, he also toyed with ideas, mixing and matching concepts in the
search for new solutions. Long before there were photocopying machines, Edison invented an electric “pen” that punched holes on sheets of waxed
paper, which then could be used as a stencil for making more copies. In order to make the point of the pen vibrate up and down, the project
manager, Robert Rosenberg, reported that Edison generated ideas that “ranged from the practical to the absurd”! There was a whole series of
drawings that Thomas Edison made showing all the possible ways the point might be set in motion. These included using treadles from an early
Singer sewing machine, by the use of air pumps, by an electric motor attached to the operators wrist, and get this, by using tiny waterwheels
attached to the end of the shaft! Don’t be afraid to think crazy, stupid, bizarre or off the wall!
NEXT: Edison Secret 9: Develop the power to recognise and then educate others to
the value of an idea.
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