Edison’s Tips to Thinking Creatively

April 3rd, 2014

Creativity isn’t just a talent; it’s a habit you can – and should – cultivate and grow. Learn how to develop your creative muscles from the genius of invention, Thomas Edison:

1. Question all assumptions. Don’t accept the conventional wisdom without first examining and challenging it. It’s said that Edison, when hiring a new employee, would invite the person to have some soup with him. If the candidate salted the soup before tasting it, he didn’t get the job—because he assumed it would require salt without testing the theory first.

2. Generate as many ideas as possible. The more ideas you have to test, the more likely you’ll find one that works, as long as you keep at it. Edison is reported to have conducted more than 50,000 experiments before perfecting the alkaline storage cell battery.

3. Analyze your failures. When an experiment fails, take some time to consider what you can learn. Keep detailed notes so that when an idea works, you can go back and reexamine your efforts in light of your success.

4. Adapt other ideas. Edison often used the inventions and ideas of other people as a mental springboard. Keep up with what’s going on in your organization and industry—what people are doing, where others have failed. Look for ways to take policies, systems, or ideas that are already working somewhere else, and turn them into something you can use in your own department.

5. Record all your ideas. Keep a notebook for writing down ideas whenever they occur to you. Go back over the notebook regularly, looking for connections between ideas or new ways of thinking about the same problem.

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