Gelb, Michael J. and Sarah Miller Caldicott. Innovate Like Edison: the Success System of America's Greatest Inventor. New York: Penquin Group (USA), 2007. Pp. xv +300. $25.95.
Two books are here: a brief, laudatory biography of Edison and a guide to becoming a better innovator. The biography is readable, with appealing anecdotes. It is long on Edison’s successes and short on the DC/AC controversy. The biography appears to be mostly a framework for the book the authors really wanted to write, which begins with five competencies of innovation. (It was not clear to me if these derive directly from Edison’s writings or from the authors’ analysis.) The competencies are: 1) Solution-Centered Mindset, 2) Kaleidoscopic Thinking, 3) Full-Spectrum Engagement, 4) Master-Mind Collaboration, and 5) Super-Value Creation. The last of these deals with delivering value to one’s customer or, from another point-of-view, advises the reader not to work on an invention if no customer exists. Each of these competencies is expanded to five elements—the first element for the first competency, Solution-Centered Mindset, is “Align your goals with your passions.” The book culminates in five assessments—full page “tests”—that the reader can use to make an individual innovation development plan. Justification for the particular elements, or even the competencies, is not given, although they appear reasonable. Readers interested in how people innovate or in improving their own innovation skills should find the discussion worthwhile and the Edison story engaging. The value of the book depends, of course, on one’s trust in the authors’ approach and appreciation of their style.