One of my favorite Silicon Valley tech journalists is Chris O’Brien. His columns are refreshing and optimistic in an otherwise sauerkraut-gone-bad business climate.
His latest article is all about the lessons Edison left us about innovation and building a solid business.
I love the first line of the article:
Thomas Edison, the spiritual godfather of Silicon Valley, still has a lot to teach us about innovation and entrepreneurship.
I think that’s especially true in the HR marketplace. Most things workforce management have taken a significant hit over the past year, particularly recruitment and hiring, but as I mentioned before in my podcasts and previous posts there are definitely ice age hot spots in our space.
This is a perfect opportunity for vendors to reinvest in their products and services and their current customers. Besides immediate cost cutting that includes layoffs, salary reductions, furloughs, organizations are doing everything they can to improve workflow processes, decrease administrative waste and increase revenue per employee.
What a better time for vendors to develop innovative new products and services. Whether it’s adapting to mobile technology like Workday and mjob, or incorporating social networking platforms for better employee communication and collaboration like SilkRoad Technology, or launching a new SEO Center that will help HR vendors improve their company's SEO and track their keyword rankings on Google, Yahoo, and MSN like HRmarketer.com – get busy kids!
(And don’t forget the marketing; you have to be found online. Or your competitors will.)
According to O’Brien’s article, Edison developed a clear, repeatable system that he applied to a range of problems, through every stage of his work, from the lab to the marketing of a new product.
Based on a 2007 book by Sarah Miller Caldicott, Edison's great-grandniece, and Michael J. Gelb titled Innovate Like Edison: The Success System of America's Greatest Inventor, here are five basic lessons we can learn from Edison:
And lastly according to O’Brien, it's worth remembering that Edison's life spanned several periods of financial panic and economic upheaval. Yet he never let them stop him.
- Be passionate and optimistic. Edison pictured solutions to problems, and then figured out how to build them. More importantly, he took great joy in the process of discovery, with all its ups and down.
- Always question your assumptions. Edison kept volumes of notebooks detailing even the smallest of his ideas to keep his brain engaged, and then reread them to see if he could view the ideas in a different way. Caldicott calls this "kaleidoscopic thinking."
- Change things up to recharge your batteries. Edison placed heavy demands on his employees, something he balanced by organizing group outings, singing or other playful distractions (particularly important with thinned out, overworked teams).
- Learn to collaborate. Far from being the isolated tinkerer in a solitary lab, Edison took great care in surrounding himself with other people from different disciplines. He also thought about how these people would work with each other and sought to establish a place where the free flow of ideas was encouraged.
- Don't forget the customer (hug them!). Edison wasn't some mad scientist inventing things in isolation. He was constantly trying to understand demographics and the behavior of the public so he could identify their needs and try to focus his innovation on those needs. It was this method that made Edison a successful inventor and entrepreneur.
Organizations will always have to tend to their talent, so opportunity abounds for HR vendors to innovate and partner with their client organizations – not just sell them the same old software or services.
Post by Kevin Grossman (join me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn)
Labels: HR products and services, HR suppliers, marketing and PR, SEO Center, workforce management